Looking after a 1 year old is not as easy as I’ve been under the impression it is.
Well as you’ll know if you follow this blog, Ivan and I have spent the majority of the last 16 months chasing our families around the globe. We’ve been lucky enough to have lived with my mum and dad and close to many of our closest friends for the first 8 months of Mika’s life and then for the last 4 months we’ve been living minutes away from Ivan’s entire family in Mexico with Ivan’s mum coming to help care for Mika every single day. It has been amazing.
And now, all of a sudden it’s just me and Mika from 8 til late in a city where I know less than a handful of people and I can actually start to appreciate how much work it all is. It’s not bad work, it’s just a logistical thing rather – like I have to think strategically about when and how I’m going to take my shower, cook lunch, go toilet (?!), head out for a run, shower after our run (or not?), visit a coffee shop etc. It’s cool, we’re on like day 4 and we’ve totally got it down. But until the other day when I was busting to go toilet and Mika was all like ‘hey mum look i’m climbing the stairs!’ and I was all like ‘woah, can you hold on like two minutes?’ I had never really even considered it could be an issue. And the other day we went running together. Mika chilling out in our awesome extreme rental jogging stroller (long story) and me getting my sweat on and then we get home and she’s all buzzing and awake and I realise that there is no way I’m getting a shower in now until Ivan gets home. No big deal, but just…something I never thought about before as there has always been someone nearby who could watch her for me!
So now I can join the mums who actually care for their babies on their own club rather than the ‘I get so much support that I somehow still have time to go running on my own, cook gourmet lunches, shower and style my hair each day’ club. Does that make me more legit?
Working out and using our lonely self-timer on the camera makes us pretty much awesome.
Sometimes I feel like I haven’t been a legitimate mama until now. How can I compare with women who are alone with their babies from 7 til 7 each day from birth? They’re like the epitome of strong and amazing. I dunno – surely I would have adapted and managed just fine if I’d needed to – but I feel like we had the option to take the help and it’s honestly made things so enjoyable and easy for us, I can’t imagine it any other way. At first I was skeptical about it all. When I was pregnant, the last thing I wanted was to be around extended family and have them all up in our space. But now? There’s plenty of time for us to have our own space. We’ll end up settling down somewhere eventually and chances are it won’t be NZ or Mexico and we won’t have the support that we’ve had for the last year. So the time that Mika has had with both my parents and Ivan’s is really important to us and we’re so glad that it was possible.
I feel like I’m trying to justify my decisions here! I know I don’t need to justify anything to anyone and I know that everyone has different experiences and situations. I just want to share my positive experience of having our family and friends really close to us during the first year of Mika’s life incase there’s anyone out there who is wondering ‘do I want to be close to my family or my in-laws while I’m pregnant/our baby is little?’ because we could have easily decided the other way but I’m so glad we didn’t!
If anyone else has a positive experience of receiving great support (from family or friends) during their child’s first year I’d love to hear about it!!
Today is a new day. I’ve spent the last 30 hours with my eyes glued shut, in bed with an sore body and a terrible stomach ache. It’s such a brutal reminder that we are so fragile. From one day to the next we can become bedridden and completely reliant on other people. And thankfully I have someone who treats me like a queen when I’m sick.
This morning I felt like I hadn’t seen Mika in forever. Ivan had only brought her to me every 4-5 hours for breastfeeding. And this morning I thought about how that would feel if I was no longer breastfeeding and Ivan had given her a bottle – I wouldn’t have seen her at all for 30 hours and the thought made me sad. There are so many reasons that I am excited to stop breastfeeding (I get my body back!) but at the same time there are so many reasons that I am terrified to stop. It’s my time with just her. Our time where we sit in silence together for a short while 4 times a day. It’s peaceful and close and gentle and I don’t want to lose that. Of course I know that there will be other ways we can spend time together and it will be special. But I can’t help but be a little sad to lose this time.
No-one told me it would be like this. Or perhaps they did, but they just didn’t stress it enough. But now I understand: When someone tells me they’re pregnant the last thing I want to do is go all crazy eyed on them and say that they will not know what a good night’s sleep feels like for an incomprehensibly long time. That they should savor the long lazy morning sleep-in, because what they’re really giving birth to is an alarm clock without a snooze button that is permanently set to 5am, or 6am or maybe if you’re very lucky, 7am. I do not want to be the party-pooper who tells them this, and so instead I smile and congratulate them and assure them that it’s all worth it. I’m not lying, it is worth it, but dammit that doesn’t make it any easier.
Mika was a very easy newborn. She would fall asleep without fuss and would often do 5-6 hour stretches through the night. I can only remember a handful of very unsettled nights.
But now things are different. We put her down around 7 or 8. She’s usually asleep already because I give her the boob after her bath and she passes out. If she doesn’t fall asleep on my boob, we still try to put her down but instead we will endure deafening screams and breath-stealing sobs, and our little girl will throw herself around her little cot as though in a fighting cage.
If we sit with her long enough she’ll eventually fall asleep. We take turns with this, and neither of us can ever believe the other when we emerge from the bedroom only to be told ‘oh, it was only 20 minutes!’ Twenty minutes in that dark room can feel like hours.
At 11pm she wakes, I feed her the boob and she sleeps, in her own bed, until the wee hours of the morning.
At 2am she’s awake and Ivan brings her to our bed. What would happen if we didn’t bring her to our bed? We are yet to discover this as by this stage Ivan and I are actually still half asleep and have no desire to stand in her bedroom hovering over her until she calms down. So she’s plopped between us, she rolls towards me and frantically searches for my boob. I feed her lying down so I don’t need to wake up, and this repeats throughout the night. I have no idea how often she wakes up, I just lie there like an all-night boob buffet for her to snack on as she pleases. Usually it’s about 4 times a night. Yeah, four times.
At 6am she’s ready to face the day. Ivan and I are not. So we take turns, two mornings in a row each. That little sleep in every couple of days is bliss and is probably what is keeping us alive right now.
If someone had told me I would soon consider a 5 hour sleep to be luxurious, I would never have believed them. I really didn’t want to write a cliche post about being sleep deprived parents (because now that I AM a parent, I hear about this all the time. Why couldn’t I hear it before?) but if this blog is a document of our lives, then it would be wrong to not talk about this.
I often wonder why I’ve been struggling to find the right words. Why I think in cliches and why speaking Spanish has been a lot harder to pick up than I remembered. I’ve been wondering why it’s so easy to keep exercising but so hard to say no to unnecessary carbs. I’ve been wondering why every week I get an uncontrollable twitch in my right eye that lasts for a couple days. Why why why? The answer, my friends, is sleep deprivation.
Like a chronic disease, we are living with this deprivation daily and trying to manage it the best we can. We often think of our friends who have been here before us and suddenly their cranky moods, erratic behaviour, unhealthy diets and lack of humour and imagination all makes sense. Thankfully they’re all still alive, so suggestions that sleep deprivation leads to death aren’t entirely terrifying.
When we talk of ‘the day we’ll get some sleep’ we can’t imagine it. We have truly forgotten what it feels like. Similar to the person sitting on the couch, 20 kilos overweight and eating donuts who has forgotten what it feels like to be healthy, we, with twitching eyes and foggy heads have forgotten what it feels like to be awake.
We go about our day and we love and we enjoy and we remember little moments, but sometimes it feels like everything is just out of reach. Are we awake? Are we dreaming? We just don’t know. Maybe that’s why I write. The words won’t be imaginative, the plot might be lost, but at least it’s proof that we’ve been here, that we lived and that we weren’t just waiting for the storm to pass. We have learned how to laugh, how to cherish, how to smile and how to dance through it all. If this is how much we can achieve and how much we can enjoy life now, I can’t help but feel a teeny bit giddy at the thought of what we’ll achieve when we might finally get some sleep.
Despite having a little girl who won’t sleep, leaving us as two zombie-like-barely-functioning-when-will-this-madness-end adults, we totally enjoyed the sun this weekend. It was seriously sunny. And the lack of sleep/2 glasses of wine on Saturday night left me feeling completely hungover and awful as we lay like two basking (hungover) cats in the sun on Bethell’s Beach on Sunday.
We enjoyed a celebration dinner with friends & family on Saturday night for Ivan’s birthday (not til Tuesday). We hung out with 1-year-old Quinn in the park on Saturday morning (more birthday celebrations) and we spent the afternoon as I mentioned, almost-dead on the gorgeous Bethell’s beach.
I don’t want to complain, but then I also don’t want to trick you into thinking things are all happy dances around here right now when if I’m completely honest – they’re not. If there were to be any dances around here right now, they would be danced to the tune of ‘please go the fuck to sleep child‘ and they would probably involve less movement than the dances you’re used to.
Her tummy bug is just slowly coming to an end. We hope like crazy that her inability to sleep right now is somehow linked to this bug and once it has passed then sleeping will resume. We are starting to dread night time. This can’t be healthy.
Anyway – my friend Pete has curated a seriously delightful mixed tape today. It is the perfect weather for listening to it right now as I dream of our future train travel, our flights over oceans, our little cottage that we have booked by the sea, and our hopes for a peaceful night’s sleep.
I’m moving to a place called Scotland, London has pushed me away for a few months, so I’m going to explore a new place on my own for a wee while. I’m actually packing my bag right now, my train out of the capital leaves in a couple of hours, so I thought I’d share the playlist I made myself this morning. It’s full of songs that make me smile, and some that follow the theme of leaving somewhere. There is a lot more vocal stuff in here compared to last time, that’s because I like singing along when I’m occupied by something instead of just sitting down and listening ‘properly’. whatever.
The highlight of this mix is Maria Callas,WHAT A VOICE. Even though in French, there’s a line in the aria that translates “Far from a morose winter, let me slumber and breath in the rose before it dies”. My winter will be cold, but there’s room to chase Spring within the dark months and keep all faith in all things. I like that, yes I do. Her character wants to live in a dream that is eternal Spring, and I do too, yes I do.
any day now – elbow
our prayer/gee – brian wilson
heroes and villains – brian wilson
hit the road jack – ray charles
diferente – gotan project
la vie en rose – louis armstrong
je veux vivre dans ce reve – maria callas
creeque alley – the mamas and papas
look for the silver lining – chet baker
welcome – balam acab
On father’s day this year we gave Mika her first taste of something that wasn’t breast milk. Without hesitation she wolfed down spoonful after spoonful of organic baby rice. One week later we decided to try something different. I steamed some kumara, blended with some filtered water and froze most of it in an ice cube tray. Again, she wolfed it down. Meal time with this little girl barely warrants a bib! It’ll no doubt be a different story when she starts feeding herself though.