Remember back in B.C (before children)? When we thought we were tired? Working all day at a job outside the house, then coming home, cooking dinner and going to bed. And sleeping through until the sun rose?? I do. I thought I knew what exhaustion was. I used to work a 55 hour week in a job I didn't really love and would collapse with exhaustion at the end of the week. Back when weekends were for sleeping in and catching up with friends, reading a magazine and going out!
Then we got pregnant. Some planned, some as a surprise (yep - that was me!). You still have no idea how much your world is about to change. No amount of talking and hearing the stories can prepare you for it. Because at the end of the day you used to go home to your quiet, warm bed and sleep. Through. The. Night.
I remember when I was pregnant with my first and talking to friend who had just had her first, and the realisation slowly dawned on me of the sleepnessless that was about to happen. I was petrified. For some reason, not of being responsible for another human - but of not getting a full nights sleep...! Ha!
We push our bodies to the limit during pregnancy. Some suffer less than others. The morning sickness set off by the most random things. Frozen bread would make me run to hug the toilet every single time I opened the freezer. I didn't even know bread had a smell when frozen until I was pregnant! Our bodies stretch and strain for 9 months (give or take). The feet in rib cages. Indigestion and heart burn. Constantly needing to pee. Hips and pelvises that feel like they're falling apart. Feet and ankles that swell. There was no pregnancy glow here. It might have been a residual glow from throwing up for the 5th time that day.
Then labour. Again, some suffer less than others. I was so very fortunate to have 2 quick and easy labours. But I've heard so many stories of others that didn't. And we thought our bodies had been stretched to their limit during the previous 9 months... think again!
Of course, once we hold them in our arms and breathe that sigh of relief that it's all over, we forget about it so quickly.
Then comes the feeding. Whatever way we choose to feed. All night long. And all day long. And all night long. Until we don't actually know if its day or night, can't quite remember if we showered today or not, and eat pretty much whatever looks like it might be edible. Including oh, so much chocolate.
And don't get me started on sleeping. Apparently there are some babies that like to sleep... My first did not. At all. Ever. Wouldn't even sleep in my arms. Then when she finally did, she would fart herself awake again 5 minutes later. At age 5 she is now a wonderful sleeper, so persistence pays off. Or she's just catching up on all the sleep she didn't get as a baby. My second was the best routine baby ever. Slept and fed on schedule like an angel. Then she turned 2 and decided enough with the predictability. And now at almost 3 I can't actually remember the last time she (and I) slept through the night...
There's lunch boxes to fill. Dinners to be rejected. Tantrums over the wrong colour cup. Emotional meltdowns in the middle of the supermarket. Inappropriately timed toilet accidents. Ear infections. Broken bones. Drawing on walls. Painting themselves. Waking up in the middle of the night because a sock came off...
Some return to work. Because they have to. Some because it provides a welcome relief. Some because they dearly love their careers. Some don't go back to work and choose to stay home. Some run a business from home, between getting dinner ready and nap time. Everyone single mum has challenges to face and guilt to overcome.
And each day we get up and do it again. We don't get weekends off anymore to sleep in and read a magazine. We survive off a heady mix of coffee and wine. But we wouldn't change it for the world. When those little chubby fingers grab you around the back of the neck in a hug so tight you can feel their soul crush against yours. When you get woken up at the sparrow-fart with 'Dood morning mamma. It's a bootiful day today'. When a cuddle from you can fix their biggest problems. When they look at you with those eyes and tell you how much they love you - and you know they truly mean it.
And some mums have had to deal with the most unbearable devastation and loss. I can't even begin to image the pain. I know all our hearts go out to those.
And of course we can't forget those that help us along the way. If we're lucky enough to have them: our significant others. Our parents and in-laws. Aunties and uncles. Neighbours and friends. Those who help us pick up the pieces when it all feels too hard. Those who cook dinner or drop off a much needed coffee when we couldn't get out of the house. The ones who appear when we need a shoulder to cry on, or to down a bottle of wine with us. Those who we know we can drop a child or two off to at the last minute to do a mad dash to an appointment. Those who offer to take our kids overnight so we can get some much needed sleep. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts, because without you, we'd be a mess.
And then, after some time has passed, some of us choose to go ahead and do it all again.
"To the world you may be just one person, but to one person, you are the world"