I feel ashamed to say, there are some moments I take for granted this world and boy that I had dreamed of. In the sleep fog I think I forget, or in my internal laments that we cant see my mum as I’d like to, or access London as I’d like to, all those Covid associated things…it means that even with the gratitude I try to practice, that I’m guilty, even momentarily, of overlooking how amazing he and all this is! Then those realisations hit me that I have right now everything I EVER wanted, and how amazing is that? Our Sonny. We have learned so much with him these 9 months.
Sonny, actually just under 9 months, is blissfully unaware of everything going on in the wider world around him. His world is mum and dad, watching cars from the bedroom window, preferring walks in the sling over the pram and not being afraid to tell you so, and a preference for the apple flavour puree from Ella’s Kitchen. Sonny reaches to hold your fingers when you rock him to sleep (and has done since a few months old) and cries with excitement when his dad gets in at 5.10pm to be held. If you say “you’re so FUNNY” in a silly voice to him, he laughs (calling him a cheeky monkey a few months ago was the old go-to to get a giggle), the Spanish children’s series “CantaJuegos” are his best mates when mum has to concentrate on something, and he loves a bit of facetime with his doting nan. We’d like to believe he’ll be musical, as the maracas are his current favourite toy, and if he’s complaining and you sing, he’ll study you in a trance like wonder!
Becoming a mum is a steep learning curve isn’t it, and there are reflections all the time. One that hit me particularly was when I felt poorly with a bad cold. I suddenly realised I couldn’t call in sick today. Ha! My partner had to work, it was a weekday, and on no sleep, a temperature and banging head, I just had to get on with it. I felt like crying! (Oh actually, I think I did cry!!). It made me realise so much about what it is to be a mum, and the virtues of having family support or a trusted someone nearby for those emergencies). This particular realisation made me realise the enormity of the task of raising a little one. It might seem odd that it took this to make me realise! But I suddenly realised then that he was truly, truly mine. I felt the pressure of that, but the joy of it too. Sonny is ours! We are adults, and he is ours (if I could add the laughing face emoji here I would, it’s funny to say I realised this, age almost 39). It takes a while perhaps to actually realise you are indeed a mother, “the” mother.
Not being close to family has had some advantages in the way that we are very autonomous over our decision making with Sonny, and I know there’s many in the same boat in London which is a migrant city. I have had friends discuss how granny, who has the children weekly, is doing things they don’t really like and the upset this causes. It must be a bit hard to manage when granny is essentially the third parent these days in many family set ups, which is the way of the world with the cost of things I appreciate, but I do understand granny too. Luckily, we haven’t had any of those issues, because we don’t have a regular set up with our families. Covid didn’t destroy an expectation of care, we weren’t expecting my mum to come weekly or even fortnightly, we were’t expecting any tasks to be done. However, in those formative weeks with Sonny I was relishing some older female guidance and I was sad that mum couldn’t be with us as she’d have liked to as well. I’ll say more on that below.
I wouldn’t totally say in the ways that you would expect, that we have been upset by Covid in our maternity days. In the very first lockdown, we had access to friends in the local park which was something and friends came to London to visit, and we had a great time scampering to central London. Not being able to attend mother and baby groups for most of the 3 lockdowns in the UK didn’t bother us, as with Sonny’s colic and being a more sensitive baby, we weren’t in a position to attend anyway. That was quite OK, as we had central London and oddly, It was far easier for me to get on a bus with Sonny than take a walk to the local park, so off we trundled! Trying to meet mother and baby friend outdoors during Lockdown 3 (Bojo allowed that for mums with babies under 1) has been far harder: 1 degree temperatures, breastfeeding on demand, a non existent nap schedule and a Sonny who likes to be rocked to sleep, therefore has made that all impossible and rather isolating! I feel this current Lockdown has had the greatest impact on Sonny with seeing the least amount of people. He’ll catch up, but he’s slightly wary of people now. I quite understand as it’s just us, us, and us!
The main difficulties for us as new parents during this global pandemic were that Sonny’s had colic and reflux issues, which he took until about 6 months to get over, and is a more sensitive baby, which has made our merge to parenthood more intense. Firstly, I had no significant knowledge of colic from friends or families babies. Secondly, I had no expectations of Sonny having it, and thirdly, why do we refer to babies as being “a bit colicky”, which sounds rather cute?! There is a spectrum of course, and not every child will experience colic the same, but bluntly put, colic is a shock and a chuffin nightmare. You know it’s going to come to an end, but it’s very distressing for both baby and the agitation and pain they are in, and the expectant new parents looking forward to connecting with their little bundle of joy, who simply can’t in the same way. It is in this way that direct family support would have been a god send. Health visitors were available over the phone only, due to the pandemic, and weren’t much support. Gripe water and infacol didn’t solve anything, but definitely helped, and we found out later that Chiropractors and Osteos can be super helpful for babies with colic, which we would try in the future. Thank goodness it isn’t a sustained condition: my hats go off to parents looking after babies with chronic illnesses.
We also realise that aspects we thought were solely relating to colic/reflux were in part also likely due to our Sonny being more sensitive than other babies, which kind of exacerbated everything in those early days. This has been a huge realisation for us, after much initial confusion that led us barking up a few wrong trees. He’s always wanted to be held, be active (one of his favourite things is dancing in his dads arm- Sonny is doing the dancing- I kid you not!), and never liked sleeping. His protests from very early on, have reminded me of a more assertive toddler and not a baby under 1 year old. He was on the breast constantly the first few weeks, which led me to anxiously pursue breastfeeding support, thinking initially I had a milk supply issue. Well-meaning family members would say “why don’t you give him a bottle”, but I also didn’t feel he was hungry, and his night time bottle didn’t bring any massive contentment either. He screamed when awake in his pram, which we assumed was colic, and I had to run out with him hurriedly and paranoidly when he was asleep instead (it’s still tricky at 9 months, but these days I distract him as much as I can with a little snack from Ella’s kitchen as much as I can!). In the early days he would only sleep on me and then nap just for 30 minutes and sleep just 3-4 hours overnight. He has to be rocked to sleep for all sleeps, has only nodded off independently 3 times that we can think of, and recently was waking every 15 minutes and then hourly, and we couldn’t fathom the reason why. Our expectations that a baby will like sleep, nod off in the pram, be fairly easy going, a baby will coo and tug their feet happily on a mat- were totally turned on their head. Suggestions of white noise, swaddling, taking him out in the pram to snooze: Sonny didn’t and doesn’t like any of that standard baby shizz! And your generic “Your baby week by week” books just brought further concern: we couldn’t relate, Sonny wasn’t like the “one size fits all” baby information provided.
In a nutshell, we have spent months thinking that we must have done something wrong, before after seeking further advice with a super understanding and empathic sleep consultant (thank you @uneliiva_livia) returning to my intuitive feelings that we are simply dealing with a more sensitive child. I feel especially as the mother that I have had to, and have to, push back against general societal rhetoric that still exists that says to be responsive to your child is to be manipulated. We aren’t all the same as adults, why should we be as babies? These children may be described as higher need or orchid babies, and this can be more demanding for parents, but it is what we are here for and I’m keen to nurture this beautiful side of Sonny, and not squash it. Being highly sensitive is something I totally relate to. Resilience and boundaries can be approached as he develops, and the advice is as parents to take extra rest when you can get it (this is the part that’s a bit tricky these lockdown days, though as things ease we have wonderful friends nearby and Sonny’s super supportive godfather touching in throughout). Dr Sears who you can google has been a minefield of info and I have recently been recommended a book called “The Orchid and The Dandelion”, and I can’t wait to read it. We manage between us the best we can, and it has been extra exhausting but I’m proud of the 3 of us. We laugh every day, my 2 men and me, and this little boy is a sheer and happy delight. As much as it might be tiring, I find it fascinating watching him express his personality so blooming young! Essentially, his birth and his very being, and Covid-19 have all taught me to manage expectations, lessen expectations, and have gratitude for the good! And stop taking oneself down a rabbit hole of blame!
Staying home and embracing that has been good for me I’ll be honest. I’m a race around type of girl normally, and nothing wrong with that, but being forced to go slow has been rather lovely too. We are all healthy and we are all well, and I get to spend my days living my dream, even with any high or low, you can’t say better than that can you really?
For now, settling into our new home and local park walks are the way forward. Sonny has got to meet both sets of grandparents for which we are very very grateful. He also has a mum with a penchant for dressing up, so is going to be dressed up for forthcoming occasions such as his parents joint birthday, so that we have those special photographs and don’t miss out on the opportunity to get glam. Come May (his 1 year birth month) he will be hitting City Farms and London Museums with me once more and then come June (we hope) all will be right in the world and we will be seeing family and friends properly once more! We’re watching Sonny hit developmental milestones with joy and awe, I’m very much seeing the world through his child’s eyes which is amazing, and I’m thinking about how to adapt the blog content with more of the little sunshine in mind. Mum life is my daily reality, so makes sense to embrace it more.
If you’re had the last few months in maternity as a first time mum, how has this lockdown time been for you? And what’s on the cards for you these next few months as lockdown eases?