What I would give to be able to write an emotional post about the wonderful moment my son entered this world, nine years ago. You’ve read them haven’t you? Maybe even written a similar update yourself about that surreal time in your life where you gave birth and you fell in love with your newborn, the moment you clapped eyes on him.
I on the other hand, wondered what the shitting hell had happened to me. My body had been violated, I was exhausted and all of a sudden I had to deal with this crying seven pound bundle of skin and hair. I wondered where my motherly instinct had pissed off to and why I had no idea as to what type of cry my baby was making. Please tell me I am not the only one who could not decipher, hungry, tired, sick and bored cries?
I’d had a long labour and was completely out of it and despite half hoping I would be off my tits when birth day arrived, I actually didn’t like the feeling. Maybe it was a loss of control but I just wanted to sleep and these annoying people called midwives kept bringing me this baby to feed. In my semi-conscious state I recall hearing a baby cry and wondering why it’s mother didn’t feed it or shove a dummy in. Eventually one of these midwives handed me the crying baby and told me I should feed it. Jesus, it was mine! Shouldn’t I have known my baby’s cry? After all, I had known him for ten whole hours at this point. I couldn’t work out why he wouldn’t go to sleep after I had fed him; that’s what babies do don’t they? Eat, sleep and shit. This one I’d had extracted from me didn’t appear to be conforming. I didn’t even know whether I was feeding him correctly. There was every chance I was just holding him close to me and slipping back into my semi conscious state and hoping he would find his way through my layers of clothing.
On the second day after being awake for most of another day and night, I pressed the buzzer and explained that the baby wasn’t sleeping, wasn’t eating and I just wanted to go to sleep. The midwife asked me whether I wanted to try and express some milk into a cup and she would try and feed him. Oh yes, that would be most delightful, dripping some milk into a cup. Yes please! And how on earth do you actually do this? It’s not something I had practiced before after all. I was more interested in the fact she was offering to take him away for a while and I could sleep. I was absolutely gutted when thirty minutes later she told me she couldn’t get him to feed either and neither did he want to sleep. For fuck’s sake, aren’t these people meant to know everything there is to know about babies?
I hear people talking about being desperate to leave hospital for the comforts of their own home yet I was scared of leaving the safety of the hospital surroundings, despite nobody being able to perform miracles with my crying baby. On the night I brought him home, I cried and wondered whether this was baby blues kicking in or just the reality of the fact that I was now a mum and the responsibility that came with it. Seemingly in eight months of pregnancy, the realisation of this responsibility had never surfaced.
That first night at home, he didn’t sleep and neither did I. I think it was about 7am when we finally drifted off to sleep only to be woken by a community midwife. Maybe she was the one who would have the magic answers? Unfortunately not and she seemed more interested in his Benidorm-style glow to his skin and arranged a trip back to the hospital for us for more tests. Oh yippee, something else to be worried about.
A couple of days later when my proper milk arrived, the minimal amount of sleep that I’d had was disturbed by me rolling over and then feeling an enormous amount of pain. I looked down and thought “What The Fuck?” Somebody had obviously inflated me overnight and I was now looking like Dolly Parton but without the make up and an absence of 9-5 hours. Despite me begging him to go to sleep, I now needed the baby to wake up so I could shove my Dolly Parton’s in his face and deflate myself again.
Despite me owning the obligatory pregnancy and baby manual, I must have skipped past these important chapters because I was meant to bloom and the baby was meant to sleep. I was meant to meet up with friends, do lunch, get my Dolly Parton’s out periodically and the baby would go back to sleep. The reality of our lives was so different; unorganised and somewhat chaotic. How could one small baby bring a tiny tornado with him?
Our lives were even more muddled for the following years; eye operations, gastroscopy and endless amount of appointments at the hospital about his reflux and I forgot what normal was. For us it was a child who never slept and projectile vomited for most of the day, every day.
Not long after those health problems settled, the next set of professionals started asking questions about his general development and whether he was hitting his milestones. At this point, I couldn’t give two shits about whether he was pointing or talking. I was just relieved I was getting more than five hours continuous sleep and wasn’t stinking of vomit anymore. And whilst I feel for those parents who have had to fight for an autism diagnosis for years, when ours came, I just wanted someone to cut me some slack.
If I’m honest, the first five years of Joseph’s life were the hardest for me for a variety of reasons and I know we still have more to come. I resent the extreme highs and lows that we experience and try to give you a flavour of those with my blogs. I guess sometimes, those regular readers must wonder what kind of post is coming next but that is entirely typical of our lives in that I never know what’s around the corner.
One thing is certain, children change everything for a parent. They turn your life upside down, inside out and what I have learnt along the way cannot be measured. Joseph has taught me things about myself that I never expected to discover and much of it I wish I hadn’t.
This isn’t a typical birthday post I know and our birthday experiences are very much different to other people’s. My life has changed beyond recognition by having Joseph in it and if those early days were anything to go by, I should have had some inkling our path would not be an easy one.
But in typical parent style here is my birthday message to Joseph that I share with everyone else other than the birthday boy himself.
I hope you continue to learn, grow (not in height as you are already too bloody tall) be happy and that those who encounter you, learn from you.
Happy Birthday Joseph, I don’t think I will ever forget what shit you put me through and I am known for holding a grudge for a very long time. Behave and you might make it to Ten!