With a family of three, Louise's husband Charlie says he’s learnt that if something works, don’t rock the boat. Louise says the key to being happy as a parent is to accept help.
Louise Emma Clarke – founder of popular blog site ‘mum of boys and Mabel’ – is mother to Stanley, four, and Wilfred, two, and baby Mabel
It was a weekday in May 2012. And it was the first day I’d ever spent alone with a baby. He was mine – and he was about four weeks old. Until this point, there were plenty of hands available to hold him, change him, and take him for strolls – but now the husband was back at his desk and my mother was on a flight back home, here we were together in an echoey villa. And I felt utterly overwhelmed.
I plucked up the courage to go for a walk that afternoon and ended up at the local mall. Striding inside with my sparkling new stroller, I felt a surge of confidence. Until, that is, I stopped at the ATM to get some cash and a small child approached my sleepy newborn, reached his hand into the bassinet, and gave him a long, hard poke.
The angry, hungry screams that ensued snubbed out the tiniest spark of confidence that was left and I rushed back to the security of home in 40-degree heat. Once inside, I sobbed over my feeding baby and wondered how I would ever learn to be his mother.
But as time passed, we got into a routine together: right from the musical chair session that calmed him while I had my shower every morning, to the very precise way I fed him bottles to prevent wind, to the careful order of nap time to make sure he slipped into a milk-drunk sleep.
I was tired, though, and I remember whooping with joy when I heard the door opening and my husband’s footsteps on the hard villa floor. I spent the weeks counting down the seconds to the weekends, which felt like a holiday compared to the long, lonely days on our own.
As time passed and he grew bigger, however, I found it harder and harder to let go of our carefully planned routine when that weekend ticked around.
Don’t get me wrong; my husband has always been excellent with babies. With nieces and nephews in his family, he has a natural ability to calm, entertain, or get them to sleep. But five days is a long time in the world of newborns – and the routine changed on a near-weekly basis. My husband would say, “Let’s head out!” and I’d feel twitchy if I knew it was near to nap time. Yes, he could sleep in his stroller – but would that mean that he didn’t want to do it in his cot come Sunday morning?
I wish I could step back in time and give myself some advice in that echoey villa. I’d tell myself that the key to being happy and relaxed as a parent is to go with the flow and accept help. It isn’t always easy to accept it though – especially during those hazy newborn days where your world revolves around a tiny person in a sleepsuit.
Louise’s husband Charlie
Nine months is a really long time. When we found out Louise was expecting and the due date wasn’t until the following year, I didn’t feel like I needed to worry too much. Until, that is, the due date arrived and I was suddenly a dad!
I had a sudden realisation of what my dad had been through with me and had no idea how to replicate that. Until this point, it was Louise’s thing. What could I do? The baby was growing in her, while I sat there helplessly for nine months – but now this creature was my responsibility too and I could finally help. I could rock him to sleep, hold him, be in charge in the morning so Louise could try and fail to catch up on the lost hours of sleep the night before. I had no idea what I was doing, but if Louise was happy and the baby was happy and healthy, then that was all that mattered.
Two weeks of paternity leave flew by. We had just got a routine sorted when all of a sudden I had to go back to normal adult life. My protective instinct had now kicked in and I was more worried about Louise and how she would cope than I was about missing out on family time – but I still couldn’t wait to end the day to get home again.
I admit that it was hard sometimes when the routine changed suddenly when I was at work, but I quickly learnt that if he was happy and sleeping well, we should stick to what was working. All parents learn that if things are working, you don’t rock the boat – and I’ve found that to be a good motto to follow throughout fatherhood!