By Laura Murphy
I don’t think I’m alone when I admit to being all about ‘the rules’ when I was pregnant with Little Frog. “It’s not that hard to put your baby to sleep in their cot,” I would mentally muse while listening to a friend regale me with tales of accidental co-sleeping. “Babies will follow your lead,” I would nod determinedly when asked what I thought about babies and routines.
I actually laughed out loud when I wrote that last one. Oh Past Laura, you quixotic fool. How much you had to learn.
Over the last year I have transitioned from ‘Structured Sergeant’ to ‘Hippie Housewife’ and I am so, SO much happier.
Being an Early Childhood Teacher meant I was always aware of the routine and determined to implement it to maintain a sense of order. I also remember reading countless books about how addicted babies are to routine. I read the rules and I learnt them.
My ‘First Time Mum Experience’ set fire to the rule book, hurled it off the top of a skyscraper and blew it up with a rocket launcher.
Let’s begin with labour – or ‘The First Uncertainty’. At 10pm one Friday night I experienced a pang. Three minutes later, another. This went on for a few hours until I called the hospital.
“Take a Panadol and go to bed”
Tsk! This midwife must be having a laugh. Three minutes apart means the baby’s coming soon, right? IT’S A RULE! I ignored her advice.
33 hours later, Little Frog arrived, dragged from my exhausted body with a glorified vacuum cleaner.
Already an obsessive rule breaker, Little Frog refused to latch at first and I had my boobs squeezed for some colostrum for her to guzzle from a syringe. She then refused to fall into three-hourly feeds as my book dictated and would settle for nothing less than 24-hour nursing.
I didn’t know what to do. I wildly considered myself a failure for not training her properly. I obviously had no idea what I was doing and sought advice from every single person: from my childless friends to the groundsman I met in the hospital garden (he told me my gum tree was likely harbouring termites). Everything I was told was contrary (except the termite warning). My brain was scattered, wildly searching for some common rule or law to follow. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. My body shook constantly. I felt sick with dread and panicked hourly, even when Little Frog was peaceful, fed and asleep.
I didn’t understand what the sleep books were talking about. There was no ‘protest cry’ in my child’s repertoire; it was silence or screams. I failed to train her. I failed to teach her.
I hated motherhood so much I felt that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I could not stomach the sound of my baby screaming. I didn’t understand what the sleep books were talking about. There was no ‘protest cry’ in my child’s repertoire; it was silence or screams. I failed to train her. I failed to teach her. I did not like my baby. I was broken.