By Haylee Hackenberg
I’ve just welcomed my third child. We welcomed our little girl after a five-year gap. So much of my mothering identity was built around the two under two rhetoric. With good reason – that sh*t was hard. It’s been really interesting seeing people’s reactions to “the gap”. My eldest are 5 and 7 now, and many people have expressed surprise, curiosity, or even thinly veiled disgust that I would “go again” after getting through the hard part, (when is the easy part??!).
The thing is though, it wasn’t a gap. We were busy living. In those five years, we experienced loss, and love, and joy. So much joy. We made new friends, we strengthened old bonds. We battled through health challenges, relationship challenges, and parenting challenges. My husband and I both completely changed careers, we watched our eldest thrive at school and our middle child grows more resilient and confident each day. I fulfilled a lifelong dream of writing a book and securing a publishing contract. That’s not a gap. This baby will not fill any void. This baby is a welcomed, loved, and very wanted addition to our already joy-filled life.
Something else happened in ‘the gap’. I became a far better mother.
My heart hurts a little when I think of all my firsts as a mum. For my small baby, and for me. We were both learning, and I’m afraid I didn’t have much grace for myself and my perceived mistakes. It was all just so…difficult. I was tired – bone-tired, soul achingly lonely, and quite sure I was failing at the most important job of my life. In amongst it all was birth trauma, unmet expectations, and a love so big I felt like I might drown in it. In truth, I did drown in it.
Every instinct in my body raged against the “shoulds” that were raining down upon me, and I was sure that every parenting decision I made was the wrong one. My beautiful baby did all the things I (now) know babies do. She woke regularly to feed, she cluster fed, she sought my arms for sleep, and she screamed her tiny head off in the car. Naturally, I figured this was all my fault, and I was failing her in my duties as a mother because she couldn’t self-settle, didn’t space out her feeds, and no amount of mirrors or toys in the car would stop her from crying.