“The baby stage is HARD.” “Just get through that first year.” Okay, but now what the fuck do I do?
When Rafe turned one on Saturday I was hit with every emotion under the sun. I think your baby turning one is such a momentous occasion. Not only because you look back at the year and think – where the actual fuck has the time gone? But because your baby is not a baby anymore. Although I know deep down he will always be my baby and hate me telling him that when he is 18, but throughout these months, people have said: “just get through this year!” and now I have, I’m like, what do I do? It’s still hard! He’ still not sleeping! I still don’t know what the fuck I am doing! It’s also a sobering reminder that I still look like I've been dragged through a hedge backwards and I can’t use the excuse of, “well I just had a baby a few weeks ago” or can I? It’s just a huge milestone. I’ve been taking those little photos every month, four months old, five months old, six months old…and now I’ve reached the end of the pack, I feel similar to how I felt when maternity leave ended. Like a little chapter has ended. And I have a lump in my throat again. It’s also been a time where you naturally look back. My time hop is littered with first photos of Rafe and I just hand on heart wish I could do it all again. Despite all my struggles – just give me a time machine and get me back so I can smell that newborn smell, hold his tiny hands in mine – have one more newborn cuddle. I think another reason I have been so emotional in the days leading up to Rafe’s birthday and the day itself is because you and your family are naturally quite nostalgic. “My contractions started this time last year.” “I would have been getting checked over by the midwife now.” “This was about the time you rang and said you were in labour.” And for me, certain memories and flashbacks were at the forefront of my mind. And I had some wobbly moments. I was naturally so overwhelmed with emotion that Rafe was one, feeling so lucky, surrounded by my friends and family celebrating such a beautiful occasion – but I was very much aware that I was also teetering on the edge and keeping a lot of my emotions in. And I felt guilty because among all the ‘good’ emotions I felt, I didn’t want to taint the day because of the anxiety I felt over my personal traumatic memories of the day Rafe was born. Yes, I am able to better manage my flashbacks most of the time now and I am coming out on the other side of all this – but I think Rafe’s birthday definitely was a natural trigger to make me feel like I had taken a step back. I did feel anxious and those flashbacks I felt were becoming more ‘emotional memories’ – kind of hit me in the face and I just wanted to block them out. I was a bit hard on myself to be honest, instead of accepting that I was going to possibly struggle that day, I just felt guilty for even having these feelings on what was such a lovely celebration. So I just kept it all in and then once Rafe was asleep and I was off to bed, I creeped into his room and felt overcome with emotion and had a good cry. Because that is what I needed. But I must say, for anyone else worried about a first birthday, all those emotions connected with the trauma of the birth, didn’t stop me from enjoying the day. It was lovely to see Rafe with all his presents (he was more interested in wrapping paper and balloons…), with his little pals and some of my close friends and family celebrating the day. Sometimes you forget that for a year, Rafe has not only brought joy (and exhaustion) to your life – he has changed other people’s lives too. And in the end, Rafe loved the day and that’s all that really matters. And his birthday cake was INCREDIBLE and I was eating the Hey Duggee icing figures for days after.
So now Rafe’s one. Does that mean he is a toddler now? I honestly can’t believe it. I just think back to all the times people have said – “just get through that first year” I think I believed after these 12-months I’d kind of know what I was doing but if anything, I have even more questions than before. (You never really know what you’re doing do you?) The health visitor came round this week for Rafe’s 12-month check (he has his immunisations next week – ahhhh. Are they bad? It's his normal nursery day so took the day off work in case he is upset) and she was happy with how Rafe was getting on. I mentioned replacing his afternoon formula with cow’s milk and she recommended a few things that although massively helpful – have confused the fuck me:
Rafe’s been poorly this week (cough and literally snots everywhere, he doesn’t quite understand ‘noooooo don’t do that’ when he sneezes and there is a snot explosion so he rubs it all over his face) so night-times have been very sleepless. Had to sleep on the floor in the nursery a couple of times as he had a temperature and was not a happy chappy. Although uncomfortable, having him shuffle to the edge of the cot to put his hand out for me to hold was pretty damn cute. I had major mum guilt this week as he was feeling better and less snotty so took him to nursery but had to go pick him up early because he wasn’t settling and wasn’t quite himself so felt so shit and guilty for sending him in the first place. And when I walked in, he was sat on a little table, with his little pals eating an apple, looking all grown up and it literally broke my heart. And then a little girl sat next to him was crying and he reached out his arm to touch he shoulder and that just tipped me over the edge. So back to sleep before I cry again…a mixed bag of SEND WINE to erm, okay you randomly slept through the night. Someone messaged me and recommended looking at ‘Save our Sleep Bedding Guide by Tizzy Hall. I haven’t had a look at it properly yet but I never thought that possibly the reason Rafe wasn't sleeping could be to do with what he was sleeping in. I always presume he is quite a hot baby but the other mum said she thought the same but since adding more layers (I think it’s more technical than that, like I said, haven’t had a proper look yet!) her baby has slept through. So quite frankly – it is worth a look once Rafe doesn’t have snots all over his face.
I honestly can’t even explain how overwhelmed I was with the amount of support I received after I opened up about my struggle with PTSD. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took the time to read, share, comment and send me messages. I am not going to lie, I have found it quite difficult as I think because I’ve been holding everything in for a long time, to be so open and transparent, I felt - I still feel quite vulnerable. But hearing about other people’s experiences and everyone’s messages made me glad I have opened up as I do want to help other mums – in any way I can. Other mums have contacted me to say I have inspired them to open up about their own birth trauma – so for me, any vulnerability, fear, worry I feel about being so transparent, is totally worth it. Because being a mum is hard enough. So please message me if you need to talk to someone. This website is also a good starting point if you don't quite no where to go - https://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/ I also need to accept that I will be living with this for sometime, some days, such as Rafe's birthday where there are obvious triggers, where it will be hard, or times I am caught off guard, or days where I can just sit down and talk about it and feel 'okay'. I do feel like I am coming out the other side of it though and hope that gives people hope.
And I think – on a less emotional note. Now Rafe is one I really need to start doing some fucking exercise. Can you send me some enthusiasm and motivation please? Realistically, I can only really exercise on an evening when Rafe, does anyone else do homework outs? I just know that once I’ve put Rafe to bed, all I want to do is still eat biscuits so the thought of doing anything but that makes me want to eat even more biscuits.
And finally...although Rafe has been saying dada and mama for a while - he's the past couple of weeks been saying mama to me, like he knows who I am. Which is just bloody wonderful.
Till next time,
Royal Marine Wife. Mum to Rafe.