Some Ways I Failed to be an Earth Mother
I think most of us must go into parenting with a mental image of the parent we're going to be.
I was going to be serene. I was going to be one of those mums who is calm and unfazed and wears baby-safe jewellery and brightly-coloured-yet-flattering dresses and always has time to bake cakes and prepare elaborate toddler games which I didn't even need to search for on Pinterest. This, despite expecting to be horrendously tired.
Yeah, that worked out the same way as the pregnancy I was going to spend drifting through cornfields in a floaty white dress...
Here are some of the ways I've not quite lived up to my own expectations:
BabywearingI fully expected to have my baby strapped to me from the word go. I didn't factor in how long it was going to take to build up my strength after having pelvic girdle pain. It was weeks before I could carry my child for more than ten minutes or walk further than the corner shop. I managed about four lovely months of carrying her and then she became heavier and my hips became weaker and it was back to the buggy she went.
BreastfeedingThere was never any question of me not breastfeeding. Then it didn't work. MM and I were both becoming distressed by the whole thing; it was physically challenging thanks to my PGP; and it was so tied up with me being kept separated from my baby (who was in the neonatal unit) that I simply didn't have the strength to persevere.
Cloth NappiesWe meant to buy them. We didn't. We still could but MM's showing such clear signs of... eh... toilet awareness that I'm not sure it would be cost effective at this point.
The Joy of WeaningTo be honest, I always knew weaning wasn't going to excite me much; Steve's the foodie and, whenever possible, we try to ensure that it's him who gives MM her dinner - he's the one who can't wait to see what she makes of beetroot and who monitors her salt intake. I want to find weaning fun but... I just don't. It's dull and messy and I find it exhausting trying to come up with something other than toast to give her for lunch.
Fresh AirWe were going to get some every day. She was going to play in the mud whatever the weather. Then there was wind and rain. And deliveries. And exhaustion. Sometimes we just stay cosied up indoors.
TelevisionWe didn't plan to ban television; we don't have a problem with MM watching it now and then. However there have been more occasions than I care to admit when "now and then" has become "all day background noise". She's not really that interested in a lot of it but it's a convenient crutch on the days when she's a bit clingy and I really fancy a cuppa.
Bedtime StoriesI was always going to read my baby bedtime stories. I was really looking forward to it. But different stories each night or anything longer than about ten pages turned out to be too stimulating for her right before bed. For the moment, she gets the same two books (sometimes one, sometimes both, depending on how tired she seems) every night.
Nine and a half months in, I've made my peace with all but one of these things. For some reason, I can't seem to shake my disappointment at not being able to babywear; every time I see an Instagram of somebody proudly wearing their baby, tagged with some
But the rest of it? I'm over it.
MM is strong and healthy and smart and determined and affectionate and amazing. I haven't stunted her growth with formula milk; I haven't destroyed her intelligence with CBeebies (which turns out to be pretty educational).
I haven't turned her into a bad, uncaring person by not carrying her in a wrap for the first few years of her life.
Last week, she and I were looking after a friend of hers for a little while. When her friend became upset, MM did the thing she finds most comforting in the world - she reached out and took her friend's hand.
This is not a heartless little person that I'm raising. This is a child with empathy.
I don't suppose any of us are perfect parents. We all make compromises along the way; some of our values change; we screw up when we're feeling stressed or tired; we make mistakes because we haven't figured out better ways of approaching a situation.
This stuff happens.
But we love our children. We're doing our best (most of the time).
I think she's going to turn out okay.