I have (almost) finally succumbed to the fact that certain things are deteriorating due to my age. The blurry texts on my phone quickly prompt me to put on my glasses. My muscles not wanting to spring back to life after injuries, remind me that they are (ever so slowly) going downhill. Things change and I must accept it, as graciously as possible so as not to become that archetypal grumpy older woman. I am nowhere near 50 (46) after all. But the big one is beginning to be a reality for friends, possible membership to Saga is merely three and a half years away and it starts making you think about things in a different way.
Sometimes my Facebook feed and articles I read, remind me of how things were back then, back when my girls were tiny, compared with how they are now. It makes me sound so old, but I am sidestepping slowly that way. Back then, I was a housewife, not a SAHM as there was no such thing. I was dog chained to the patriarchal society. I hated the word. I hated having to write it on forms, whilst beside it writing that my (ex) husband was a ‘Director’. He sounded so important and I sounded so pathetic. Yet I didn’t feel pathetic. I felt like a mum boss: organising, creating, managing her team. I fucked up, but I expect the ‘director ‘ did too. We’re all allowed to fuck up. We’re all allowed days when we feel like jacking it in, when the team don’t want to play the game. When we’re so frazzled we just want to call in sick.
Back then, when daughter 1 was born, it was a hot, hot Summer. As I lay and fed her at night in the humid open air, without the need for a sheet or duvet, I would doze, as would she. When we woke I would just change her to my other side to feed and so we would slumber the night away in a sticky, milky haze. Daughter 2 was a winter born. At night I did the same with her. It was easier for me than lifting her every hour and sitting shivering in a chair or propped up on pillows with the midnight chill around me. We would lie and doze, under the warmth of the duvet we would fall asleep. One night I woke and she wasn’t there in my gaze, where she had been as she fed. I was engulfed in panic as I reached down under the duvet and pulled her up. A warm bundle of sleeping joy. But what could have been?
Back then you didn’t hear about the dangers. Within a year my sister, as a rookie policewoman, was called to a house where a mother had rolled on her baby and suffocated him. “Never sleep with your babies” she told me and I reassured her that now I never do. A couple of years on and a cousin’s best friend tragically lost their baby the same way.
Back then we didn’t know. Now it has a name: co-sleeping. It has become a topic of conversation, an actual choice rather than something you just instinctively do or don’t do. Something I did to make my life easier – my gut instinct driven (or obscured) by a desperate need for sleep. It was for me, not them. They needed milk and security, but they would learn to settle where they were put. Daughters 3 and 4 were in cots in our bedroom for 6 months, then my gut said we needed space. We needed to regain our nest. When the girls were unsettled, they were comforted in their rooms and our bedroom was only ours. Intimacy needs to happen in that bedroom. Couples have to cuddle alone and make love to keep their bond alive. It is your one sanctuary where your love for each other is cemented.
Back then there was no debate. There was no hot potato. Back then gut instinct told us this felt right. When something becomes a choice you have to weigh up its pros and cons and make an informed decision. You are barraged with ‘advice’ and your gut instinct is in danger of being drowned. Back then the main battle to retain your gut instinct was against well meaning relatives, who insisted it was better how they did things “back then”. Your granny’s advice is easier to dismiss as old-fashioned, than the vociferous women on Mumsnet.
I promise I will try not to be that annoying mother, who sees the internet as the devil and the main stress inducer of her daughters’ generation. Especially as I feel that my gut instinct, fuelled by sleep deprivation, could have endangered my babies. I can accept change. Things just seemed a tiny bit simpler back then.