Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm Touching Wood, But I Think Things Have Got Easier

I can finally say it: things really do get easier. Sometime around the 18 month mark things started to fall into place. It's hard to put my finger on exactly what has changed, but I feel better, calmer, more contented.

I wake up most mornings feeling rested, much like I used to do before I had a child. It's not that I don't get woken in the night, but the night feeding sessions are shorter and less frequent and they just don't seem to affect me like they used to. During the day Cave Baby doesn't stress me out as much as she did in the past. For a couple of months she seems to have become less clingy. It's just little things that make the difference; in the past, for example, she would scream if I put her down while I was getting my breakfast and now she's happy to potter around the kitchen instead. I can honestly say that I am now feeling like the person I was 20 months ago. And that is a good feeling.

I'm not writing here as much as I used to and that's because I don't have that same frustration inside me that needed to vent somewhere. I have come through the most difficult days with my first child and I can look back with a little distance at my experiences. I don't have that immediate sense of anger at the way society was telling me to bring up my child. I can see how and why different people are motivated to raise their children in different ways and I am confident that the close, loving care that I chose to lavish on my baby was the right thing for her. I can even talk objectively to new mothers about the pros and cons of attachment parenting without feeling that my choices need to be justified or defended.

I still want to shout from the rooftops how we need to hold, nurse and love our youngsters but I have found other ways to do it besides blogging. I help mothers to breastfeed at a support group and I provide friendship and support at a coffee morning. And I am about to embark on training to become a full-blown breastfeeding counsellor so I can provide real practical help to get more women breastfeeding. Most importantly, I have built a network of like-minded mothers who keep their babies close, sleep beside them at night and refuse to do anything remotely resembling crying it out. Finding support online was absolutely invaluable for me when I was deep in the hardest parts of my first year as a mother, but the real life support I now have is even more reassuring.

So if I'm not updating this blog quite as often, these are all the reasons. The challenges posed by a 20 month old toddler just aren't as immediate and stressful as those posed by a high needs, boob-loving, sleep-dodging baby. Having reached this point in my life as a mother, I am even finding myself telling new mothers how it will eventually get easier and more comfortable. I no longer feel the need to justify my decisions all the time because my daughter is the walking talking evidence that attachment parenting works (though I still hate the term).

So if you are reading this from the bottom of the pit of new baby exhaustion, please believe me when I say that you will eventually feel better. It might take a year, or 18 months or 2 years but you will some day feel like your old self again. Just knowing this is going to help me to survive the hard days that I still do occasionally have. But it also casts a new light on the idea of having another baby; when will I really be ready to submit myself to another 18 months of tiredness and anxiety? (By the way, there are no worries about having another one just yet because yes, I am still anovulatory).

Did you notice a point at which your life became easier? And did you find it hard to contemplate embarking on the whole baby adventure for a second time?


cartside said...

your post sounds so familiar. Things got much easier at 17 months, and at 21 months she slept through (mostly) and I was me again. That's when we decided to try for no2 - hubby would have happily tried earlier, but I wasn't sure if I could cope, so we'd waited.

I have to admit though that this pregnancy is rough and the frustration has returned. BUT it took a good while to get pregnant, so I had my toddler moon!

Lisa C said...

I don't remember exactly when it was, maybe because it came on very gradually, but there was a point when he started playing for periods of time by himself (maybe around 20 months)...and I could leave the room for several minutes and he would be fine...that's when I was like WOW, I can get stuff done! Of course, now I stress out that he is able to push a chair up to the counter, or sink, or stove, and help himself to whatever he can reach, and he's cranky from teething badly, so now I feel like I just need to survive the toddler years!

Liz said...

I think it was starting to become easier when my eldest was around 5 years. But this may be because by the time she was starting to sleep through the night and when she self-weaned, I was heavily pregnant and very ill. So maybe without that, things would have been easier then? Things were a little easier when my son was first born and my daughter was just turned 2, but by the time she was 3 and he was 1 that was the worst time of all my parenting journey.

Looking back now that they're 5 and 7, my daughter definitely passed through a real transition at around 5 years. My son was always much easier though he's taking his turn now at being a challenge. But the first 18 months of the first child is definitely the hardest. With the second, the newborn bit is the easiest part - they don't walk, argue with you or anything!

Isadori said...

This is a wonderful post for me to read - thank you! My boy is 14months now and we're going through a really bad sleeping phase involving 2-3hrs of awake-time in the middle of the night. He's only slept through the night about 10 times (in total - not consecutive - he's been careful not to give the impression that sleeping through is the norm!) but this is really taking it to another level of hard so your post is really what I needed to read right now. In other respects though I have a fairly easy baby - thankfully as sleep deprivation doesn't do a lot for my patience!

I hope you continue to blog - it'll be good to read more about the lovely time you're having now. I've really appreciated your stuff on attachment parenting (I also hate that term - in fact, I vowed not to be an attachment parent before I knew what it meant because I didn't like the term and then, to my dismay, I discovered that what I was doing was essentially attachment parenting - darn!).

Jessica said...

Ah yes. The Moment. For me, it was around 18 months, too. Hollis started sleeping through the night right around then and it was like the clouds parted and I was hearing angels sing. All that hard work at night finally paid off. Not only that, but my baby was lovely to spend time with during the day and we grew even closer, if that's possible.

My sister has a baby much like Cave Baby, it sounds like, and she's exhausted. But I always tell her that having a trusting son who feels safe with his parents and his world is worth all the effort and she digs back in and keeps going.

It most DEFINITELY gets better!

shortstack said...

I really needed to read this today. We're at nine months, and my little guy is bursting with the need to explore and alternates between clingy and independant. I wake up, and i'm exhausted. I just can't seem to grab enough sleep. I struggle, trying to find a balance of me time, and still give my Son the best of myself. It's really exhausting some days. Knowing that it gets easier, having the little glimpses of serenity and peace now, make it easier to not get so frustrated. Thank you Cave Mother!

Cave Mother said...

18 months must be The Change. At least I'll have something to look forward to if I ever have another baby as difficult as my first. Thanks for the lovely comments.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

I felt the same way! I think for us it was even closer to the 2 yr point. Kieran was still so clingy at 18 months, but he has gained independence (& fearlessness) by leaps and bounds since his second birthday. It has really been a breath of fresh air!

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Amanda said...

I distinctly remember feeling more like myself right around 20 months, too. Like I was coming out of the fog. Like one of the million threads that interweaves baby with mother frays and quietly falls away.

Melodie said...

I love hearing what you've been up to and I think that's SO WONDERFUL that you are becoming a breastfeeding counsellor. Yay you! For me, I'm not sure if I've gotten to a place where it has gotten easier yet. My kids are 3 and 5 and still presenting me with challenges I am at my wit's end for figuring out what to do. Especially my oldest. Because every stage is new with her I think. With the youngest I have a little bit of experience, you know? I need to meet somes with girls just slightly older than mine I think, to figure out how they do it!

Cave Mother said...

Melodie - I wonder if this is just part of the ebb and flow, and things will sometimes be more difficult. I read your vent on Codename:Mama's blog and I appreciate things are tough with your older daughter. I do not underestimate how difficult it must be to look after two or more children compared with just one.

Anonymous said...

I also found that things got dramatically better in the second half of the second year! (A is 23 months today) From reading your posts in the past year or so, it feels like we had similar, high need spirited child, so I completely hear you on your struggles and frustrations. And it does feel nice to be less stressed, more content, more at ease. :)

A is still high energy, demanding, spirited... but that's ok. We found a balance. And we found a balance between our greatly different temperaments too. Now when she wakes up early from her naps, I feels less like "Oooohhhh noooo what oh what am I going to do!!!" (lol... :) ), and more like "Darn, I barely got some downtime... oh well, let's colour!". It feels great :) I also think that fostering a close attachment was key.

However, we ARE expecting #2... in 20 weeks... so... I'm a little apprehensive about that ;-) (even though it was a planned pregnancy) But I also like to believe that my experience will help, and I'll be more at ease this time around!


(formerly Chatter Box Joe - I changed my blog, long story)

Dr Sarah said...

With the first baby, I found the point where I really felt things were improving was around the two year mark. Looking back, I can see that they'd been improving gradually over the second half of the second year, but around two years was the point of really feeling as though the worst of it had lifted. With the second baby, I found the turning point was around eighteen months (which was good, because I'd prepared myself for it to be two years again and felt good about getting there half a year earlier than expected)!

I do find that, although things are practically a lot harder with the second baby, they felt emotionally a lot easier. It makes such a difference knowing what it's like to have gone through it once and had everything turn out OK.

Hathor's Bath said...

Oh wow, yeah, been there, done that, only I had a completely different experience. The keeping my son close wasn't the hard part - his undiagnosed autism was, however. The tantrums and the screaming and the stares and whispers from other people ....ugh. The pregnancy was rough (I spent the second trimester in a wheelchair) so having any more children is completely out for me but now that my son is six, I am breathing easier as things fall into place, he's easier to manage, and I have a lot more help and information to manage. Sometimes I think I'd like another one but after three threatened miscarriages with my son, I don't think I'd dare. I'll take the gift I've been given and be happy. World is overpopulated anyway - if I want another I'll adopt

allgrownup said...

I've just cried reading this. I've had a bit of a tough week with teething, and I've not been well with a cold, and my back and SPD have been bad so I've been keeping babywearing to a minimum, which really doesn't work for us. The children have stopped napping at the same time (so i never get respite in the day) and the baby has stopped going to bed in the evening too. But you've reminded me that this won't be forever. And also, I think I'm going to scrape tother for a cleaner :-) its just time wasted that I could be with the children!!