Since Eric turned one I've been reflecting on motherhood quite a bit. What it means to me, how it as changed me, and more importantly - things I wish I'd done differently. I touched on this a little bit in my Mummy Milestones post but as this topic is so important to me, I wanted to explore it a lot more.
Now I don't mean what bottles I should have used or if we should have given our baby a pacifier. It goes a lot deeper than that. In fact it's not so much about things I wish I'd done differently with Eric, it's things I wish I'd done differently for me.
Everyone has their own opinions on parenting and how it should be done. As humans we just can't help it. But if there's one thing I've taken away from having a baby of my own is that it is only we as mothers, fathers and care givers who know how to care for our children. Because it is true - they are all different. But more importantly - so are we as parents.
I struggled so much at the beginning of this journey. My experiences with anxiety made me incredibly insecure and unconfident. There was nobody to teach me how to tackle things and I was learning as I went, which, when you're a first time mum, is terrifying.
There was a great amount of pressure on me to "do the right thing" or "do what's best" but in reality, nobody stopped to ask me what was best. Nobody really knew everything that I was going through and just had to get on with it. On my own. My confidence and self-belief was so low that it took me six or so weeks to even feel comfortable taking Eric for a walk round the block on my own.
One big mistake I made was listening to outside voices. I was told I needed to go to baby classes. So I did. And it's one of my biggest regrets. Leaving the house with a tiny baby is stressful enough but for me every time I walked out the door I had to take so many extra items. The pram was piled high with things and the back seat of my car was hidden under a blanket of baby paraphernalia. Looking back it was just ridiculous.
What I should have been doing was working on myself. My confidence. My self-worth. Because the reality is that I was fucking brilliant at doing things on my own. It is only really now that Eric is older that I sometimes need a bit of help (and even then it is very rare that I do).
Going to classes I felt like I was was a complete joke. I was so nervous I barely spoke to anyone and I was terrified that other mums would think I was a loony for going about things the way I did. I hid myself away and it took me ages to mingle with the other parents. It made it impossible for me to make friends.
It is only now that my confidence is coming back and I have a handle on my anxiety that I'm reaching out to other mums. I no longer feel like a third wheel and I've actually made friends of my own. And it feels so good. Over the summer I went out for brunch with a group of mums and it was the first time ever that I had the confidence to stay out with Eric all day. After our coffee date was over I took him to the library and then to soft play. By myself. And I was - and still am - so proud of myself for it.
When Eric was new I should have listened to myself and said "no thank you" when people had advice to give. For the first few weeks I was on my own I should have gone on walks with him in the pram, taken him on shopping dates, ventured out in the car and used public nappy changing facilities. But instead I gave into the pressure. And I feel like I failed Eric. I feel like I failed myself.
I know what you may be thinking .... 'He won't remember.' And you're right - he won't. But I will. I'll remember. And even though there's nothing I can do to change how I went about things those feelings will stay there because next time I'll know what I need to do differently.
Yes. You heard me. Next time. Ryan and I want more children. It's on the cards. And God willing one day it's going to happen.
That's another topic everyone seems to have an opinion on. Having more children. As soon as it comes up everyone becomes an expert on how long you should wait, how many you should have, and if in fact you should have any more at all! What is with that? It infuriates me beyond words because, on an entirely personal level, I need to think about it even more than some would and the timing has to be perfect.
On the one hand I want to wait so that I feel I'm ready to enjoy the pregnancy experience. Last time was so shit that I want to go into it again with a more positive mindset. Then there's the logistics. Do we wait until Eric is a bit older and can help? Or do I want to keep the gap a bit smaller and plan it with when he's going to nursery?
This post may not make much sense, but as a new-ish mother I had to share my feelings. They have been building and building for so long that if I don't get them all out now they'll just stay hidden forever. And that's not healthy.
There may even be somebody who reads this who is reading this and feeling exactly the same way. If this is you then I hope this helps you realise you are not alone. That pressure you are experiencing is a real thing - I've been there. It might not feel it right now but you can push through it and if you feel you are being pulled to do something that as a new parent you are just not ready for, you are well within your rights to say "no".