We're going through a very weird stage at the moment. This post was supposed to be purely about the massive event that has been me returning to work after 13 months of maternity leave, but I can't in good conscience not mention the realities of this stage of parenting.
I don't even know how to explain it really. Our little man is going through a difficult stage at the moment. I'm sure it's developmental because he seems to learn something new every single day lately. It could be a new word or gesture. He is understanding us more and more. When I ask him to "go get your book", he goes and gets the book. Proper little human being now. It's amazing really.
As you probably know this developmental stuff comes with a different side too though. A tempermental little baby who doesn't like food, sleep, clothes or people. Oh he is a whole different level of cranky these days. We've had to leave a restaurant, avoid food-shopping with him and just yesterday I had to walk out of the credit union mid form-filling. I'll be honest, it's been very stressful.
He's never been a "sleeper" but I can safely say that he's worse than ever at the moment. Very troubled, fretting, waking about ten times a night and just generally crying and unhappy. In those moments nothing will cheer him up. He has little interest in food which is very strange for our little chunk who normally adores his grub. He still eats but has decided that he no longer wants dinner. The moment we put him in to his high chair he roars. Goes from 0 to 10 in about half a second and absolutely loses the plot. We've taken the approach that if he's hungry he'll eat. We make him dinner, offer it and accept his instant rejection. He looks absolutely disgusted that we would even think that he might like something delicious. Irrational toddler behaviour already starting to creep in it would seem.
Then there is the screaming. Or maybe you'd call it screeching. Either way, you really have to hear this to believe it. It is ear-piercingly loud. It could crack windows. I genuinely believe he made an old lady cry on the bus the other day when he let out an unmerciful scream out of the blue. I got a fright, she got a fright, the whole bus stared at me with that look that is a kind of cross between "please make him stop" and "Jesus your head must be thumping". He does it everywhere. In the car, in the high-chair, in the pram. Basically anywhere that he is in any way restrained. I think a huge part of it has to do with his yearning to walk. He isn't walking yet but he's in proper "cruising" mode, walking along furniture, always up on his feet, and getting steadier by the day. At times he seems frustrated, probably knowing that he will one day be able to travel around the same way that Mammy and Daddy do.
And the boobies. oh the boobies. Hear me out now. I know that boobies is far from politically correct but in the early days we needed to be able to decipher between food hunger and milk hunger. "Are you hungry?" always resulted in an excited nod, but we needed to know the difference. And wouldn't you know it stuck. So yes, we call "it" boobies. Breast milk that is. Well lets just say that lately there is no need for the question. It is loud and bloody clear. A couple of weeks ago I'd nearly forget to feed him. He'd feed once throughout the day and then in the morning and before bed. Hours and hours would pass without him even suggesting that he wanted a feed. Well that has completely done a 360' and we now have a baby who, if he could, would stay permenantly attached to his mammy. He has had a really awful few weeks with teething too, so milkfeeds have provided him with some much needed relief and comfort, but on top of that we've had a huge issue of separation anxiety.
Ah yes, exactly what this post is supposed to be about. I'm back at work. Nearly three weeks in and it still feels completely surreal. I was picking out my work clothes today (for tomorrow. Yes I do that) and I realised that I really need to buy some work clothes. I'm getting away with it at the moment, but after 13 months of wearing whatever I want (ie clothes that I don't mind having Billy maul with his food covered fingers) I now suddenly have to dress a certain way. Shoes in particular. I need shoes. Sorry, drifting away from the topic here. So yes, I am now a tax-paying citizen yet again. I show up, I work, they pay me. That type of thing. I have to say, in one sense I'm surprised at how relaxed I've been about the whole thing and then in another sense I am utterly exhausted and haven't been able to stop my mind racing for about a month now.
It all happened very quickly. Interview on a Monday, job offer on a Friday, and starting the job two weeks later. It was a flurry of organising childcare (my mam, thank God. I am so lucky), finding work clothes, and trying to figure out the logistics of getting to my mam's, to work and home in a way that wouldn't disturb Billy too much. Naturally that is virtually impossible. We've managed to make it work though. Mostly down to the fact that my mam has been an angel and has been dropping me to work as well as collecting me and dropping myself and Billy home. It means that by the time the other half gets in from work dinner is being served, Billy is in his PJs and we can enjoy some family time together.
And by family time, I really mean a hyper blur of activity that is making Billy's lunch for the next day, our own lunch, making and serving dinner, bathing and dressing Billy, cleaning up after dinner, packing up his bag for the next day, leaving his clothes out, picking out clothes for myself, putting Billy to bed, doing any extra chores that need to be done and shoveling a cup of tea down my gob so that I can pretend I've had some me-time each evening. It's a blur, honestly. It's at least 9pm before I have everything sorted for the next day and by then I can feel myself getting irritable. It's tiredness, I know. That all being said it has been going well. Better than I thought it would. I can't complain because I have a really ideal work week in that I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays. I have a long weekend every weekend. Fridays and Mondays off. It is wonderful and I know how incredibly lucky I am to have found a job that offered me this. Friday mornings are spent catching up on house-work, fitting in some sort of friend meet-up or day-out with my little man, doing banking or errands that need to be done during the week, and generally feeling exhausted. But it's great! Come Saturday I feel brand new and totally refreshed. I can really enjoy the weekend and I have Monday then to catch up on other housey-bits and prepare for work.
It's been tough on Billy though. I know that it is no coincidence that he's going through this tough phase at the same time that I return to work. It's all connected. At first I didn't realise. I remarked on how he seemed totally oblivious to it all. He loves my mam and is having a ball in her house surrounded by my siblings, a dog he likes to throw food at, and going on long walks and adventures with his Nanna. He's loving it. But there is also the other side.
He is showing major signs of separation anxiety. Firstly, he has stopped settling for his Daddy. We've always had a nice little routine whereby I feed him before he goes to bed and his Daddy brings him up and rocks him to sleep. It worked really well. He adores his Daddy. He still adores his Daddy but is totally rejecting any form of him trying to settle him, cuddle him or rock him back to sleep. He roars when he sees him entering the room. Not because it's Daddy, but because it's not me. It took us a couple of nights to realise what was going on. Naturally his Daddy wasn't feeling delighted about it and probably felt a bit rejected but we soon copped on to the fact that he was totally fretting over his mammy... leaving him. He seemed panicky when he woke up, hyperventilating and eventually hysterical. We've always shared the "night wakings" and would take turns to settle Billy, but Billy just wasn't having any of it. If it wasn't Mammy and it wasn't "boobies" he didn't want to know. He was literally shaking in my arms, grabbing on to me as if he thought I was going to leave him. Really upsetting. So for the past few nights we have co-slept. We decided to own this little phase. It's survival mode and you just have to do what maximises sleep for everyone. So for three nights in a row I slept with Billy in our bed while Daddy slept in the spare room. We put up a bed-rail, submitted to it and just went with what worked. It's afforded us more sleep and a bit more sanity. Getting up 10+ times a night is HARD, let me tell you.
I'm speaking in past tense terms purely because for the last two nights Billy has at least allowed his Daddy to put him to bed. A huge feat. He fights it, but eventually he relaxes and lets his Daddy settle him. He's been asleep for an hour now, which has given me the chance to write this. So far, this is a good night. Funny how our good night is probably an awful night for many of you. Different strokes and all that.
So yes, we are in this weird little phase. It's tough going and draining to say the least, but one thing that parenting has taught me is that every phase is fleeting. You just have to roll with it, own it, and do what works. I've definitely had a few "pity party" moments where out of pure and utter exhaustion I just wanted to cry. Moments where I've given Billy everything, am making dinner with one hand and holding him with my other hand because he doesn't want to be put down. I can barely keep my eyes open and I have a pile of wet laundry starring at me because the bloody sun has disappeared and I cannot dry my clothes on the line, yet it's too warm to put the heating on to dry them that way. I'll have a weak moment and feel like I just haven't the energy to contend with the tantrum Billy will throw when I try to put his PJs on him. Dressing him is a massive polava in itself. He screams bloody murder. So I'll be on the brink of tears. And then I'll look down at him and he'll give me a wink (his new "thing", he blinks both eyes and smiles) and I'll just burst in to laughter, kiss the face off him, and thank the universe for this absolute crazy love in my life. The blessing that is having a child. It's overwhelming. Our little boy. I just love saying that.
So we'll roll with this. I'll feed him in the car park outside my new job (because he has decided he won't drink a bottle and literally starves himself of milk all day until he sees me, gasping for a breastfeed), I'll co-sleep, cuddle him and submit to him feeding like a newborn again at night. I'll reassure him that I am here, he is loved, and that everything is OK. I'll battle through the tiredness and feed him bits of rice cake as he roars the car down every single time we're driving somewhere. And then it'll be over, he'll be in great form again, and we'll wait for the next stage on this wonderful journey that is parenthood.
Next time we'll talk about my new job and me being back at work. But now - time to shovel a cup of tea down my gob and retire to my leaba. I've a date with a 13 month old. Clocking in for the night shift. Mamas coming!