There are some typical things about being a new mother I've found very challenging, such as getting enough sleep and trying to cope with tiredness when that isn't possible, but I've also discovered parenting Owen has some rather unexpected challenges too:
1. Keeping up with laundry is sooooo hard sometimes. Owen's reflux means he changes outfits at least four times a day, and we get through burp cloths and blankets like you wouldn't believe. I can usually attribute the mood I'm in as to whether we have clean burp cloths or not, as I feel a thousand times happier knowing there's a clean stack somewhere.
2. The bickering and constant arguments with my husband. Mike and I have always had a fiery relationship and fighting for us meant we got to make up afterwards, but these days we spend more time bickering and sniping at each other than smiling and laughing. We still talk, but it's always either about Owen or how one of us is failing at some aspect of the housework, and it can be completely exhausting at times.
3. One thing not every parent has to endure is the feeding routine we have with Owen. Feeding him with a pump every four hours, followed by at least an hour and a half of continuous, hand-held venting, is monotonous and time-consuming. I've said it before and I'll say it again, but if he ate from a bottle or the breast and didn't have reflux, I'd have so much time on my hands I wouldn't know what to do with it.
4. I wrote in my last post about how I've found it difficult accepting my new title in life. I'm still finding that hard.
5. Keeping the house clutter-free. This is SO tricky! Mike and I have a policy of doing at least ten minutes of tidying-up and/or cleaning every evening so that the chores don't build up too much before the weekend, but the CLUTTER! I spent time last week purchasing a couple of wheely carts with drawers to organise Owen's medical supplies and the kitchen is now a lot neater, but the rest of the house just gets overwhelming sometimes. How does a small boy generate so much mess?! Between dirty laundry (there are those burp cloths again), small toys, feeding supplies and the crap Mike and I seem determined to litter the living room carpet with (currently new kitchen brochures and bill stubs), I can count on one hand the amount of square feet of tidy space I can see from here.
6. Leaving the house. As with any small baby, this is a challenge, but it was very unexpected nonetheless. Owen used to screeeeeam whenever we went in the car and he's got a lot better now, but he still throws up the minute we go over a bump and organising a time to actually get to an appointment is bloody hard to start with. I have stopped making appointments for the morning as the earliest feasible time I can get out without drama is 12.30pm, but it's so limiting and I do miss that freedom to just jump up and go.
7. The sheer boredom and loneliness of having a baby was very unexpected. I won't go into too much detail, but I believe they have really contributed to my post-partum depression. I try to get out as much as I can to visit friends or attend baby groups, but as I said before, leaving the house isn't always easy...
8. I think finding time to be myself without being Owen's Mama is kinda tricky, too. Don't get me wrong: I love my little one and the thought of everything we've been through with him and how at any minute things could have turned out very differently scares me half to death. But there existed a person before Owen Henri and when he's grown up and left the house that person will still be here. I just have to make sure I don't lose her in the meantime.
9. The guilt! Goodness me, this is a big one. I feel guilty ALL THE TIME. I feel guilty that I resent getting out of bed to attend to him; I feel guilty when he's asleep and I'm relaxing with a book instead of washing the dishes. I feel guilty that I don't sleep with my husband enough and when we do get down to business, I feel guilty that I'm not looking after Owen. I feel guilty when he spits-up (irrational, but true) and I feel guilty when I spend money on new clothes for him. I feel guilty that my body doesn't look the way it used to; I feel guilty that I indulge in cookies and ice cream when I should be eating grapes to shift these last few pounds. I feel guilty for disturbing him and taking him to all his medical appointments even though they're for his own benefit and I feel guilty if I cancel one because one of us simply isn't up to the challenge of fighting a medical institution that day. Most of all, I feel guilty that my body make Owen the way he is. I feel guilty that my egg gave him those crazy chromosomes and that my body pushed him out when he wasn't ready. I feel guilty that I couldn't breastfeed him and I feel guilty that I had to leave him at the hospital for so long. I feel guilty ALL THE TIME.
10. The last unexpected challenge I've found (although I'm sure I'll think of more before my next post) is how much love I have for this little boy. You may not see that as a challenge, but can you imaging having so much love in you that it breaks your heart? If we have one, how on earth will I find room to love another baby as much as Owen?