In antenatal class they prepare you for the sleepless nights, the endless feeds, the broken sleep, the sore nipples, the pooey nappies, and the inability to even have a wee on your own during those early days of becoming a mum. However, they do not prepare you for the hardest part of motherhood, which I have experienced so far; leaving them in childcare for the first time.
I always thought the newborn phase would be the toughest, but how wrong was I? In that era, you’re still high off oxytocin from the constant breastfeeding and the adrenaline is still running from creating the most perfect little miracle and finally meeting the miracle after those nine long months of anxiety, hoping everything would be okay. And then I thought teething would be the worst kind of hell.
No, leaving an inconsolable eight-month-old baby, who can’t breathe properly for tears, is the toughest. As a mum, as soon as a cry is heard you go with your maternal instincts to do anything to comfort them. And then suddenly you must walk away, leaving them in the arms of someone you barely know and who doesn’t know your baby. It’s simply horrific and I hadn’t thought about how hard it would be, but I don’t think anything could prepare you for the emotions you feel. I walked to and from nursery in tears and I didn’t stop sobbing as I sat in my very empty house.
I chose a day nursery for Henry, my baby boy, because of how much he enjoys socialising with other children. I imagined him giggling with other babies and being given toys by the older ones. I envisaged him watching the children who could walk and picking up tips for the day he takes his own steps. But this week all I’ve seen are tears, the worst kind of tears that say, “Mum, I need you and no one else!”
Thanks to plenty of reassurance from fellow mums, I know eventually my visions of a happy Henry at nursery will happen. I have realised this week just how wonderful the internet and social media are for new mums. I have shared my anxieties and mum-guilt, and in return received so much reassurance that this is normal behaviour and feelings for both mum and baby. Some of the best mummy bloggers say give it six weeks to get into your new routine and rhythm.
Today, it felt so odd to go to our favourite café without him (day two of leaving him). I jealousy watched a mum and her baby sit together as she sipped a coffee as her baby played happily. I knew I would be doing this within hours when I picked up Henry, but I felt a sense of loss that our weekly routine as we knew it will now be different.
I was told I should do something for myself this week and I did. I had a sports massage as I have had chronic back pain for a couple of weeks due to the complete exhaustion of picking up a growing Henry. It felt good to do something for me again and once Henry is settled, I’m looking forward to having the balance of having time to myself and going back to work, as well as doting on Henry. You do get lost in the sea of nappies, weaning, feeding and talking about your baby’s poo.
I’m fortunate that Henry goes to nursery two days a week as I work for myself and can also work in the evenings. I can’t imagine working full time, especially as a single mother. Being a single mum means me and Henry are very close and together 24/7, which made me realise that Henry would thrive from partial childcare. I’d hate him to grow up being clingy and not feeling confident.
So with that in mind, I am determined to get through this hard phase. Day 1, Henry came home over-tired and I was emotionally drained with little patience. Our last feed of the day, which is normally a lovely moment, was full of pinches and face scratches. There were tears from both of us, as I exclaimed ‘I can’t do this anymore!’ to my good friend, Liz. In response to my full-on mum guilt and general feelings of being utterly shit at the hardest job in the world, she referenced a wonderful line from one of my favourite films, Brief Encounter: ‘This can’t last, this misery can’t last.’
And it’s so true. After day 2 of nursery, we both seem to be feeling a little calmer and our bedtime routine was back to normal.
The signs that Henry will thrive are already there. He has obviously observed the other babies at nursery as he crawled properly for the first time tonight! So that’s a real positive and hopefully the start of more things to come from his time at nursery.
Now it’s time for my bedtime routine; a glass of red, slab of dark chocolate and the latest episode of The Affair, while he sleeps soundly, for now. And with a back that doesn’t ache as much.