I’m sitting in my new favourite café that’s just a short walk from my home. My four-month-old baby boy is bouncing excitedly on my knees. The café, with its friendly, down to earth staff, is an oasis away from the four walls that start to close in come mid morning. Henry is so intrigued by the world and I worry that he isn’t entertained enough at home. We both like to people-watch so it seems easier to head out before my anxiety that Henry could somehow be bored gets the better of me.
I realise at this moment how far we have come together. I have no partner yet this baby boy is bouncing with joy, getting admired by strangers and smiling from ear-to-ear. I must be doing something right; even on those days where I cry with tiredness when he urinates over his vest in the middle of the night during a nappy change. Henry and I are a tight team and only now, four months after the end of an emotional pregnancy and a traumatic birth, do I realise how strong this beautiful baby boy has made me.
I used to be a walk over when it came to friendships. I’d find it hard to say no. Now I’m a mother, I’m not scared of making decisions anymore; they have to be in the best interests for Henry, not just me.
I must say that motherhood has come to me a lot more naturally than I ever imagined it would. You can read all the parenting books in the world but there is nothing more reliable than listening to your gut instinct. I know Henry’s moods and cries in order to work out what he needs. At the end of each day, when he closes his eyes, I feel like I have accomplished something. I’ve kept him fed, loved and happy for another day.
It’s not all fun and games, of course. As a single parent, I have no adult conversation in the evenings, I don’t have anyone to hand him to whilst I prepare dinner and I rarely get time to myself to go to the gym or write. Sometimes I am so exhausted I cry because I need to feel some sort of release from the constant care Henry needs. You never fully relax once you have a child. Even when he is asleep, he could wake any minute and it starts all over again.
And I have come across the competitive mothers. I am not very competitive so I find it rather amusing. I met one in the café this week.
‘My baby sleeps 10 hours straight AND she is breast fed,’ she said proudly after I told her how Henry was going through a sleep regression. I congratulated her and she then looked shocked as Henry grabbed a toy. ‘Is he four months? My baby does not do that yet!’
‘All babies are different though,’ I replied reassuringly. Maybe if your baby slept less she might learn how to grab, I said bitchily to myself. I snapped myself out of the tired induced bitchiness and smiled to my fellow tired mother.
She went on to talk about how her husband was a nightmare for not hearing the baby cry. I tell her how I am raising Henry on my own. She looks guilty for moaning but I reassure her that it must be more frustrating to have an unhelpful partner than not to have one at all. At least I can just get on with the job at hand.
I don’t tend to dwell on the fact I am raising Henry without his father. I think my friends and family are more concerned about the fact ‘I am on my own’ but I know no different. I only realise how much I do for him when my best friend or mother stays over and helps.
Any single parent will tell you the loneliest time is the evenings. However, I’m still at the point where my tiredness from four months of broken sleep means I still relish in the joy of eating my dinner on my lap in pyjamas in front of reruns of Friends whilst Henry sleeps. It’s just rather monotonous.
I realised that I spend my evenings how I spent my nights as a pregnant singleton. So it’s been a year of TV dinners. Instead of pasta and a mountain of Bolognese, I now have steamed salmon, vegetables and brown rice. That wouldn’t have quite cut it for pregnant me. Instead of a bag of Curly Wurly bites (so good but so addictive!), I have two squares of the darkest chocolate. Instead of my bump, I have my son snoozing next to me.
And anyway, it’s really not that lonely. Henry and I have our evening routine; I bathe him, massage him and give him a final feed from my breast before he falls to sleep. It’s our little evening bubble. Guests are invited in but most the time it’s just the two of us. For now. Right now, we’re content.