This time six months ago, I was stuck in a hospital bed, numb from the waist down, with a squidgy new bundle of baby and absolutely no idea what the year ahead would hold. I was pretty certain, though, that it wasn’t going to be easy. I wasn’t too worried about how The Boy would cope with the new addition, but I had a reasonably good hunch that I was going to find it tough. I figured that the coming months would be an exercise in survival; something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
I had good reason to expect to find new motherhood part II a challenge. The Boy was, to put it politely, a High Needs baby. Needless to say, I didn’t always put it that politely. He didn’t sleep for the first year, didn’t eat, and spent the vast majority of his time screaming. It was a massive shock. At the time, I was working as the features editor on a parenting magazine, and no matter how many articles I on colic, crying and sleep deprivation crossed my desk, I blithely assumed that none of it would apply to me. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The boy’s first year was one big struggle. Sure, there were happy times, but I also had my fair share of dark moments: moments when I thought I was a complete failure, moments when I was sure my baby hated me, moments when, after hours trudging round the park in the rain, trying to get The Boy to sleep, it took every last inch of willpower not to park the pram under a tree and leave him there.
This time, I was going into motherhood with my eyes open. I didn’t dare hope for a happy, easy-going baby; I just assumed that she would follow in her brother’s footsteps. Experience had taught me that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, but also that it would take me a long time to get to it.
I honestly never, ever expected to enjoy the baby stage as much as I have.
To my immense surprise, The Baby is an entirely different breed from The Boy. Some of it is down to us being older and wiser and a bit less neurotic. Some of it is the result of us spotting the signs of reflux within the first six weeks – a far cry from the seven months that it took to get The Boy diagnosed – and getting The Baby onto medication, pronto. But mainly, it’s just her.
Admittedly, The Baby is a hopeless sleeper; I class it as a good night if I ‘only’ have to feed her three times. But when she’s awake, she’s the archetypal pudding baby, all smiles and coos and rosy cheeks. I remember thinking that The Boy would never smile. In contrast, The Baby gave us her first gummy grins before she was five weeks old, and hasn’t stopped since. She’s the most sociable little thing, chatting away and fluttering her eyelashes at anyone who looks her way, and is the epitome of easiness, happy to go anywhere and do anything.
I was worried, in the manner of all second-time mums-to-be, that I’d never be able to love The Baby like I loved The Boy, but of course, I do. He, too, is smitten with her. After all, she listens to him prattling on about trains, cars and construction vehicles, and shrieks with laughter at his funny faces and silly dances. He’s never happier than when he has an audience, and The Baby is an ever-willing spectator.
So here I am, six months into being a mummy of two, and loving every minute. When The Boy was six months old, I was at my lowest ebb, wishing the days away in the hope that one day, he would finally become easier. With The Baby, however, I find myself savouring every single moment, and wishing I could freeze-frame her just how she is right now.
Tonight I will pour a glass of wine and raise a toast not to myself, for surviving the first six months, but to The Baby, who has made it an absolute pleasure. She has shown me that it is possible to enjoy the baby stage after all, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been.
Happy half-birthday, baby girl. We love you more than you could ever know.