Being the first out of my own ‘circle’ of school friends to have a baby, maternity leave was very quiet… boring… & lonely. So while I was able to, I was determined to get out there and give Harper the opportunity to socialise with other babies, adults and generally just see and experience new things!
That’s when my own fears and anxiety would have ordinarily stopped me. Believe me, there were numerous occasions where I would get us both ready to leave the house, ready to step outside and then suddenly think – “she’s 3 months old, she doesn’t need friends, lets put our comfies back on and stay at home!” – we actually did a couple of times! Home was our safe place, well… it was MY safe place. I am a sociable person, I’m happy, talkative, outgoing etc. but mainly around people I already know. Put me in a room of strangers and I turn into a tortoise sat in it’s shell – ask David about my nervous laugh – he will happily show you his impression!! I get weird, I mumble everything, I avoid contact with anyone at all costs and when I do get caught in a conversation I just laugh and smile … at everything!
I would constantly think things like ‘what if I hold her wrong and people judge me / what if I get the formula out and I get judged for not breastfeeding / what if she throws up everywhere! / what if she doesn’t stop crying’ all these ‘what ifs’ went round in my head every single time I had to leave the house and go somewhere alone with Harper… What if Judgy Jane is out today watching my every move! Sad isn’t it. My only worry was that I would be judged – why did I care?
It didn’t stop me from physically forcing myself out the door though and going.
I am glad I did! I soon realised that we were all in the same boat, all wanting our children to be absolute angels but the truth of the matter is, shit happens. It happens to everyone. Babies throw up and poo just about anywhere it feels like, when they’re hungry they will demand food as if they’ve not been fed in 3 days. Your baby could be laughing one minute, you put their sock on and all of a sudden its World War III.
“How DARE you put a sock on my foot!! I’m going to scream the place down, take it off immediately and throw it across the room. The audacity… a SOCK… on my FOOT!”
Their mood swings are ridiculous – and – EVERY baby will show you up at least one time in public, I don’t care who you are, there will be at least one occasion where your child has done something, you have a million (slight exaggeration) people looking at you – who are probably thinking ‘poor woman’ but their faces are giving the ‘why can’t you control your child’ look – and you genuinely want to walk away and quit.
But we don’t, obviously – imagine that! All it takes is a simple smile from another mum or for someone to kindly say “it happens to all of us” and suddenly all is okay.
We started by just having a mooch to our nearest coffee shop, about a 20 min stroll. The more we ventured out, the easier it got. We went to playgroups and classes, got to know other mums and their children and actually enjoyed going, enjoyed catching up with them and finding out what new things our cherubs had learnt over the week.
I dreaded maternity leave, I dreaded being on my own all day everyday and having to provide for my mini human even though I felt like I knew NOTHING. I was hugely lucky that I had my sister to keep me company most days. She is a full time mum to my niece and nephews and was able to come out with us, go to baby clubs with us etc. so not ALL of the clubs we went to were as scary! But I am so proud of myself for venturing out and putting myself into vulnerable positions, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t have had half of the experiences I had with Harper & you know what? We survived! I may have had to feed her sat in the backseat of the car, hold her whilst pushing the pushchair and a weeks load of shopping as she wasn’t settling, had to spend an hour in the baby changing whilst using 3 whole packs of baby wipes to clean a poo explosion OR sat in the baby feeding room of our shopping centre whilst bottle feeding Harper just to be away from everybody (apologies to the breast feeders that may have had to wait for me) … but we survived, I’m here to tell the tales and I have a lot of them!!
Shout out to all the mums out there who give those little smiles or words of encouragement. Those small gestures could mean the world to someone!!