I've been doing a bit of reflecting on the year that was. Now that Layla has commenced her second year, things are so different to the challenges of year one. Don't get me wrong - there are still plenty of challenges, but things are very different. We know each other and despite her changing every day, I feel like I've got this Mummy business somewhat under control.
A number of my friends have recently had babies and watching them as well as Layla reaching one has made me revisit my experience. In my professional life, I am an organised, logical and determined woman. I take on challenges with excitement while seeing hurdles as a development opportunity. Before I had Layla, I was a person who got things done, always presented well, knew what was happening and always managed to squeeze the most out of every day. I always knew I wanted to have a child. My maternal instinct was strong and as the years ticked by, I continued to yearn for a child of my own. Having seen my friends have their babies and having spent plenty of time babysitting and nannying in my university days, I felt I knew what to expect and how I would cope. If that was the case, then why when I had a child did I feel like Alice going through the mirror into an upside down, back to front, parallel universe? I was no longer the organised, confident, professional, presentable woman. Instead I was the teary, messing, tired, confused Mum who stumbled from one day to the next unsure as to what was happening on the other side of the mirror. I really shocked myself as to how I fared and how I felt.
I wonder how people saw me during this phase? Did they see me the same way as I saw myself? Did every new Mum feel this way? A few months ago, I was standing in the lift at Westfield. Layla was in the pram, covered in food, her face was filthy and her running nose was reeking havoc on her delicate skin. I was in a tracksuit with remnants of breakfast caked in my leg, my hair tied back to conceal the need to wash it, no make up on, just the bags under my eyes that told a tale of yet another sleepless night. I looked across the lift to see a woman with a young baby, immaculately dress, hair and make up done to perfection. I felt like I was looking through Alice's looking glass yet again. It made me wonder whether the experiences of new motherhood are always what they seem to those on the outside. I wondered whether her baby was a good sleeper, did she have help at home, did she forgo that extra hour of sleep in order to prepare herself? I wondered what she was thinking as she looked at me.
When people would ask me how I was going during that first year, did I tell the truth or did I smile and put up a story of perfection? When I ask my friends do they tell the truth? Does everyone struggle like I did to come to terms with the change or do some people just take it in their stride? Looking back, I feel embarrassed about how desperate I felt at that time. The sleep deprivation sent me crazy. I was no longer that confident professional woman but rather a crazed, tired Mum wanting to stop the ride and get off, if only for a short while. Did I whinge too much about the problems I was having or did I put on a fake happy face and pretend that this was everything I had wished for? I think I did a bit of both. Looking back, I'm a bit shocked that I didn't sail through the early months. There is no doubt that I put in the effort. The problem was that I expected perfection instead of reality.
The first year is the hardest. I never really knew that before I began this journey despite all my reading and preparation. Overall, I survived and so did Layla. We made it past the milestone and are now continuing our journey, this time on the right side of the mirror.