It was past midnight when I got a message from a friend: “I hope you’re sleeping.”
I was not. Between 9 p.m. and midnight, I had held León on my lap as I tried to finish up some work, hoping he would finally fall asleep. But León wouldn’t settle.
Her baby, who is a few weeks old, wouldn’t settle either. We exchanged messages, voiced frustration, and felt a bit less lonely, I guess, after an irritating evening.
León was born four months ago, and I am back working. But life is not normal. I set up an automated response to emails to cut myself some slack and to recognise that I am not just back at work as normal. I am still transitioning, trying to find a rhythm. I am not capable of handling things as efficiently. Nor do I want to.
Is it bad to admit that to myself? To say that out loud?
Is it normal to feel so resentful that I have to work, even though I feel that I am not up to it? And what does it mean to not be up to it? Shouldn’t I be grateful that for a few months I managed to get what resembled a maternity leave, which meant I was able not to worry about work for a little bit?
After giving birth to my first child Lorenzo, I had no break. I even worked the day he was born because I was worried about keeping my job. Eventually, of course, I grew exhausted.
But this time around, it’s proving difficult too. It’s a situation many parents face. Gaining a child brings a lot of positive things. But it can also mean losing big parts of yourself — or losing yourself completely.
A malfunctioning parent
I have slept very little. Nacho, my husband, is away this week. Lorenzo doesn’t want to leave the house this morning for kindergarten, and he won’t get dressed. León is crying from his cot. I can feel my emotions rising: none of it is in my control, and I am about to escalate the situation with Lorenzo, menacing him with something stupid and pointless just because I am frustrated that he won’t get dressed. I resent him for making my morning harder. I am about to make everything much worse.
Also, I am late with this newsletter.
I can feel the anger coming up. I am exhausted, malfunctioning.
Is this why my mum would yell at me if we played too loudly during her nap time?
I get dressed.
My clothes won’t fit me anymore. The only pair of jeans that fit nicely ripped at the knees while I was looking for a toy under the bed. And now I am wearing them like this. I simply haven’t had time to get new clothes. But also, what is the point of shopping, if my body is in transition?
My body, my mind and my work self are all transitioning and adjusting to doing things with one more person to take care of. And in the meantime, I lose track of myself as a unit, as one person. I feel lost, angry, sad.
Lorenzo eventually gets dressed. As we walk down to the car, we see a long, thin worm making its way up the street. It is so thin it looks like it can’t possibly hold all its body together as it goes places. It is so long that surely it will leave a part of itself behind.
It wriggles. Lorenzo stops to look down. I snap out of my fury. I forget how late we are, how angry I was. I forget that I am wearing jeans that are old and broken. I look at this worm and I see myself.
I remember I read that worms can regrow their tails if they are amputated. That the humble worm actually has remarkable regenerative powers — scientists even believe that they may hold the key to longer life. Maybe this worm is in the process of transition — a process that is sometimes ugly but ultimately beautiful.
So this worm trundles along, moving as quickly as its body and circumstances allow. It holds itself together in spite of it all.
What I’ve been reading
“Do not say, ‘at least we can get pregnant’. What you’re really saying is ‘I did my bit,’ even if you don’t realise it.” This is how best-selling author Matt Farquharson starts off a list of what to say and not to say if you’re a man and your partner has had a miscarriage. In the short piece, published in The New Fatherhood newsletter (which I recommend!), Farquharson touches on many of the misunderstandings that often arise within a couple when they miscarry. (If you lived through a miscarriage, I am so sorry. If you are interested in reading more, I have written extensively about it, here.)
What I’ve been watching
I finally watched The Swimmers, the Netflix movie based on the true story of two Syrian sisters, Sara and Yusra Mardini, who fled war-torn Damascus and swam for hours in the Mediterranean to reach Greece as asylum seekers. I really enjoyed how director Sally El Hosaini, who is Egyptian-Welsh, portrayed life in Syria during the war, beyond Western clichées, and really got into how difficult it is to be fighting for one’s dreams and ambitions when uprooted. I also cried plenty — the scenes of the boat in the Mediterranean are very hard to look at, knowing just how many thousands of people keep dying in the Mediterranean.
Who’s been inspiring me
Schools in Madrid, Spain’s capital, will be open during holiday periods such as Easter and Christmas so that children can take part in some activities while their parents work. The new scheme, announced this week, will start from next year, and will take place for children in kindergarten and primary school, up to the age of 12. Why am I inspired by this? Because it inches towards understanding that families have needs that are not met by the school structure. As I have written before, most countries have school holidays that don’t match with the labour market, and so parents need to struggle to figure out where to place their children while they work. Is this a great solution, outsourcing children to schools even during holidays? It is not, but until we revolutionise our cities and societies, and make work more flexible, this seems like a step that helps a few. Thanks to Claudia, a member of The First 1,000 Days community, for sharing this link.
What members have been saying
The conversation around daycares and what each parent considers non-negotiable continues here, below this piece. “I completely agree with the low child-to-teacher ratio and positive caregiving, imagining that this includes following the child’s needs without forcing her to fit to a given schedule,” writes Simona. Herb, a member of The First 1,000 Days community and a grandfather, asked other members what is non-negotiable for them. I am trying to gather more testimonials from within the community to write a follow-up piece.
So please chime in, either below the piece, if you are a paying member, or simply hit reply. My question is: what do you want when you pick a daycare? I look forward to your comments.
With love and care,
📣 The First 1,000 Days is edited by community member and friend, Shaun Lavelle.
📸 Sven Brandsma on Unsplash, child crib.…
One thought on “Gaining a child, losing myself”
This is all so familiar. The frustration of wanting to do something and having a wee one with a different plan. The not buying new clothes but also not actually having anything that fits your current body shape.
I’m “just” the partner and didn’t even have a kid grow inside me and yet its lead to significant body changes. The lack of sleep / poor sleep, lead to more snacking and a lot less physical exercise. I gained 10kg in the first year, and almost 5 more the second. but refused to get new clothes until I physically couldn’t get into my pants anymore and my shirt buttons just wouldn’t reach the holes on the other side! And then I only got the bare minimum because I told my self: it will get easier now, I am sleeping better and soon I will have time to get my self fit again… But the reality is the transition back isn’t really happening yet, In fact Im still transitioning to something else at the moment. so still no reason to buy more of the clothes that would fit me at the moment…. or should I give in.??
As for the news letter delivery date frustrations: I know you like structure and consistency, But for me its fine if the news letter comes late, later, or not at all that week. Im in the situation that I have to “star” the newsletter most of the time anyway as I have no time to read it and will come back to it at some point in the future. And unlike real “news” this newsletter is still relevant in three, six, thirteen weeks time. so from my point of view the exact time that the newsletter is released isn’t so important. I like the community you are building and the thought provoking topics you write about. But thursday isn’t essential if that helps you at all ;). For my self: I’ve become pretty pragmatic: I’ve given up on trying to push my plan through if its not essential. can it wait? – yes. Then I leave it for now. There is no need to get frustrated over it now, we can always have a bad day later, but now we don’t have to have it yet, and who knows what will happen this afternoon/tomorrow…. I think the content is more important than the consistency.