5 things I wish I'd known about having some time alone after I had a baby
I always knew that I wanted to be a mum, and there was a joke in my family that if a man so much as winked at one of us, you could fall pregnant. To cut a long and painful story short, I was the anomaly, and falling pregnant took a lot more than a wink.
Suffice to say, when our baby girl arrived, I was elated.
After the first month or so when the visitors had largely stopped, we settled into a kind of rhythm. Life had moved on. Except that mine felt like it was on pause. Though the frequency of social occasions had changed dramatically for both my partner and I, he could still go out for a beer after work, or grab a coffee or get a haircut without doing the mental gymnastics required to work out feeding and sleeping times. He could wear the same clothes, and though he got covered in milk too (our firstborn was quite the chucker), his clothes remained well fitting and less… activewear like.
He seemed so comparatively carefree when it came to going out. Still able to do things on a (relative) whim without military grade planning.
I was jealous. His (relative) freedom seemed to serve as a reminder of how different my life was. Of course, I could have gone out too. I could have disappeared to my favourite café with only a book in my hand, but as much as I wanted to, I also didn’t want to. I wanted to stay in the newborn bubble and just be with my beautiful baby, and in equal parts I wanted to be alone, and to feel like my body was just mine for an hour.
I remember that he offered. The mere suggestion however that I leave our baby behind made me feel like someone was casually asking me to leave my heart on the kitchen bench. I wondered if I was normal to feel so reluctant. I wondered that often.
Here’s what I wish I had known.
1. It’s ok to not want to be away from your baby, and it’s ok to really want some time alone. It’s also ok if you feel both of these things at the same time.
2. A walk around the block alone is a great place to start. You don’t have to go for dinner or book yourself a manicure if it doesn’t feel right - just find someone you trust to watch your baby for 10 minutes and throw your sneakers on. There’s a good chance it will feel great.
3. Know that your partner’s life has changed dramatically too. In different ways, perhaps more or less, but regardless, no one wins the ‘my life has changed more’ competition (and if they do, I suspect it didn’t make the relationship any happier)
4. Ask for what you need. When people suggested I leave my baby, I often felt anxious. What felt better was to have them come over, and have them hold the baby – it meant I could walk that block or shower without a small person observing me or wee alone. That felt wonderful. Especially if they bought good cheese.
This too shall pass. It won’t be like this forever. Your baby will change, you will change, and parts of you that might feel like they have disappeared, are actually still there (laying dormant). There will be other cafes, more books, and the energy to read them again.