“When does it get better?”: Navigating the terrible zeroes | HerCanberra

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“When does it get better?”: Navigating the terrible zeroes

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I never wanted children. Then my ‘geriatric’ (thanks, medical system dominated by men for that term) ovaries sent a lil’ signal to my brain and BAM, it was baby city.

I had never spent time with babies before. It wasn’t that my friends hadn’t had them, it was just that I was completely uninterested in them and barely glanced at them when my friends brought them along. My friends knew I wasn’t into kids, so spared me the stories about their children doing or saying anything (which I did and still do appreciate).

My husband did want kids but also hadn’t given actual babies much thought or attention, so neither he nor I had any idea what they were like. For example, right before Ollie was born, we went on the hunt for newborn toys.

“Why are they all three months and over?” I asked Dave with confusion. The toys didn’t seem dangerous in any way. What were babies supposed to play with? Dave was as confused as I was. I finally got bub a rattle and thought that might provide a few hours of amusement.

Imagine my surprise when the baby popped out and I learned that they do not realise that have hands until about three months of age. A newborn does many things (cry, sleep, poop, cry, cry, cry), but playing is not one of them. As it turns out, a newborn can’t even see a metre away from their own face.

My Google search history of those early weeks feature the same question, over and over again. ‘When does it get better?’ Forums assured me that it would get easier at three months. “They become a person then.”

This became the magic number where the baby I had imagined would appear, all cooing and playing and interacting like a champ.

This was perfect timing because he would be just over three months old at Christmas. We excitedly made plans to take him to the Christmas store, where he could pick his own ornament.

Looking back, there were a few problems with this. The first being that just because he realised he had hands did not mean that he knew how to use them. The second being that picking something involved a level of comprehension that he still barely had at almost two years old, where his favourite thing in the world was a green spoon and he called planes ‘choo-choo’.

Now that I have been through the baby stage and am somewhat wiser, I can recognise he was a little tricky. He hated the car and screamed the whole time. He also hated his pram and screamed the whole time. He hated to be put down and screamed when we did so. At least ninety percent of the time that he was awake—which was A LOT—he was miserable.

I remember holding Ollie in a dark room, trying and failing to get him down for a nap: four weeks old and he had been awake for ten hours straight. He was screaming and I was crying. My friend, who had also just had a baby, messaged me. ‘How wonderful is it?’ she gushed. ‘It feels so natural and easy.’

I have never hated another human being more.

I wondered if something was broken inside of me. Why wasn’t I happy? When I was pregnant, everyone assured me I would be. It wasn’t as if I had post-natal depression; I didn’t feel depressed. I just felt exhausted. And bored. And stressed. And like I was failing every single second of every single day.

Three months sloooowly came and went and it didn’t get any easier. His sleep got even worse, he became more miserable, and he needed constant stimulation to ward off the screaming. He hated being a baby as much as I hated him being a baby.

I began Googling again.

‘If you think newborns are hard, wait until you have a toddler,’ so many people on forums said. This was not at all helpful, and also not true for me.

At two-and-a-half, Ollie may still have a meltdown every single time I go to the bathroom, and he also recently screamed for half an hour because he wanted blueberry smoothie smeared on his chest again like he had at day-care, but I also get cuddles, giggles and games. I get a kid crawling into bed at 6 am to snuggle in, funny stories (Me: How was daycare today? Ollie: Settle down, Ollie), and those precious words: I wuv you, mama.

Looking back, in those early months, though I loved him more than I ever thought possible and he was my absolute world, I didn’t particularly like him. What is there to like? Babies suck. Spending time with them is boring. And when it’s not boring, like when they’re ill or they have a cat hair stuck behind their eye and you have to rush them to hospital, it’s absolutely terrifying.

I remember my mum saying that it’s exciting to see them develop when they’re that age, and that’s true, but that excitement can only go so far. Sure, the milestones are great and all, but there are weeks between them. And those weeks are mind-numbingly dull. It felt a bit like watching a plant grow, if the plant was constantly attached to your nipples.

Of course, at the time you can’t tell anyone how you really feel. When people ask you how it is, you say, ‘Wonderful! I love being a mum so much!’, instead of, ‘Each day is a mixture of indescribable boredom and existential dread, and I worry that I have made a huge mistake’.

Luckily, I was soon surrounded by miserable first-time mums as my friends began to have their own little ones, so I didn’t feel like an evil outlier who, given a slight variation in genes, would have simply eaten her young and been done with the whole mothering business (as one of these friends recently said to me, the first three months of her baby’s life were the worst three months of hers).

Our kids are older now and we’re all in different stages of happy. Some have gone back for seconds. Others are just now emerging bleary-eyed from years of sleep deprivation. All of us adore our children. None of us liked the newborn stage. It is only now that we’re through it that we can be honest with those around us about just how miserable we really were.

We need to start talking about the fact that some people, even *gasp* some women, don’t like babies. Yes, we’re all aware it’s hard and there is sleep deprivation etc., but what is often not mentioned is how completely unenjoyable and soul-crushing it can be. You’re not you anymore; you’re an extension of them. And the ‘them’ can sometimes be an absolutely miserable blob who hates every second of their existence thus far.

Of course, there are those miracle babies where their parents smugly say things like ‘my baby just works around my life’ and ‘I would never sleep train’, but most are tough and you’re still expected to enjoy every second of it.

It wasn’t until around fourteen months—when Ollie was running, chatting and playing—that I realised I was no longer waiting for him to get older. The Google searches stopped. Instead, I was soaking up the now.

Toddlers come with their own challenges, that’s true. And sure, he recently THREW A BABYCINO AT ME in a café because he wanted more chocolate powder on it.

But hey, at least he knows he has hands. And he even knows how to use them. I’d take that over a newborn any day.

Need some support? 

You can call the For When Hotline on 1300 24 23 22, which provides free mental health support for expecting and new parents.


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