Monday, 8 September 2014

The First Year of Parenthood

This past year has been hard! I would go as far to say that this has probably been the hardest thing I have ever done and I think Nick would concur. I'm no stranger to hard work - but the difference between say a PhD and being a parent is that you can take breaks with a PhD and you get to sleep!!!

All you parents out there had made it look easy! I had this naive vision of life with a new baby, where we went about our normal lives just with a baby in tow, drinking tea and doing our own thing while the baby peacefully sleeps in the corner. You think having a baby won't change anything. So I think I may have gone into shock when finding out that actually when you have a baby it changes EVERYTHING. Well, it did for us anyway.

Several times in those first few months I thought "what the hell have we done!!!" Usually at 3am being woken up for the umpteenth time that night. Thankfully those thoughts have faded over the months that followed, although some days I still think "I really can't be bothered to be a parent today".

Of course watching Devon grow and learn is a privilege. We don't regret becoming parents for a single second. He is the blond-haired, blue-eyed child of my dreams. Seeing his face light up as he takes his first steps makes my heart melt. But being a parent to Devon has been (and still is) extremely demanding!

The hardest thing, by far, is that Devon is not a good sleeper. I had no idea that babies don't just sleep when they are tired! Ever since he was born it has taken more and more effort to get him to sleep. I'm now the only one who can do it as it usually takes a combination of rocking, singing, and boobies. He still wakes many times during the night, and I'm the only one he wants when he wakes up. And he never has a lie in!

The resulting sleep deprivation has effected everything really and has meant that we haven't done half the things we wanted to this past year. Everything seems worse when you can't get enough sleep. I haven't had an unbroken nights sleep in over a year now and it does take its toll. I kept waiting for that magical night where Devon wouldn't wake until morning, and I'm still waiting.

If someone had told me during those first few months that Devon would still be waking multiple times during the night at one year old I may have had a nervous breakdown. But the truth is, to some extent you do get used to it. And it is what it is, there is nothing we can do except be patient and wait for him to grow out of it.

I can't bring myself to ever leave him alone crying. I feel it would break the trust he has in me.

Having little control over your own time takes a bit of getting used to as well.  Suddenly you have to decide between making yourself some lunch and calming your crying baby. In the early days I would find myself at 3pm still in my pyjamas, having not eaten or drunk anything all day, because I had spent hours and hours just walking around rocking, willing, Devon to go to sleep. Of course your baby's needs must come first, but I soon learnt that one of those needs is to have a happy, well-nourished mother and you have to find the balance in that.

It's also not nice being judged for every decision you make. It seems no matter what you do, someone frowns upon it. Co-sleeping vs a cot in a nursery, formula vs breast, feeding to sleep vs cry-it-out. And everyone wants to give you advice, often conflicting, often based on social expectations rather than actual evidence. It's very confusing for a new parent, when all we really need is someone (everyone) to say: 'Hey you are doing great. Yes it's hard but you can do it. You're not alone'.

No one else has ever parented Devon before and no one knows him as well as Nick and I do. He is unique, and so are we, so I quickly learned to not compare our parenting experience with anyone else's and to take all advice from others with a pinch of salt. Other parents may seem to have it easier or harder than us, but who knows what happens at home where no one can see, or what time will bring? Easy babies may be demanding teenagers, and vice versa!

It does get easier with time. But I think this is mostly because our selfish, child-free days become an ever-distant memory. It's true Devon no longer requires near constant attention and care, and can amuse himself for ever-increasing periods of time, but he gets bored easily, is very vocal about his needs and usually leaves a trail of mess and destruction in his wake!

However I do feel like I've got a lot more breathing space now. Devon can go for up to four hours or so without a breastfeed quite easily, and will happily spend a couple of hours away from me with his Dad or my mum. When he was younger, I couldn't even go to a doctors appointment without a lot of stress and tears. As a result, I'm starting to think more and more about my own interests and dreams.

All in all it's been an amazing year and although I would love to hold Devon as a newborn again, I'm not sure I'd want to repeat it! We would love to give Devon a brother or sister but we constantly change our minds!



  1. Emma I absolutely love this post. Few people are as honest as you have been when they recount the first year of parenthood. So much of what you've written rings true to me, and brings back often painful memories!! We also thought that we'd just trot around doing what we wanted with a baby in our arms, but as you say it changes EVERYTHING and you end up just trying to get through each day rather than planning anything. Of course, as you say, the other 'dimension' to it is that having a child is the most incredible, magical thing that can ever happen. And Emma, it DOES get far easier. Loads of love to you all XXX

  2. Thanks Dan! This was one of those posts that I regretted posting once I saw people were actually reading it! Firstly I wanted to write it because I find writing helps me put negative thoughts to rest and clear my head, it's sort of my online diary! But I guess i wanted others to read it though because, it really really helps to know you are not alone and that other parent's have felt just the same.
    And like you say, not many people share publicity what it's like, which is why I found it a bit of a shock!
    Can't wait for you all to meet our little man, he's a real outdoors kid!



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