I’m able to write this article solely due to two things: 1) my husband and 2) finding a bottle that the baby mercifully would take. The result of these things was five whole hours straight of sleep last night. After two weeks of no more than 45 minutes in a row (I wish I were exaggerating), I actually woke up of my own accord today and found myself able to think coherent thoughts, and, as it turns out, write them down. (Well, you can be the judge of how coherent they are.)
One of the aforementioned clear, coherent thoughts was about how becoming a parent has changed me – in many ways for the better. Let’s stay with the theme of sleep. BC (before children), I often struggled to fall asleep, and if I woke in the night, I’d panic about being awake, which in turn kept me awake, tossing and turning fitfully. If I didn’t get my full eight hours I was not a pleasant person to be around. PC (post childbirth), I have realised just how little sleep I can actually function on. I’ve learnt that there is no point in panicking about being awake in the night. And while I might not feel like a million dollars the next day, I won’t actually die (although I did once Google “Can you die from sleep deprivation?”). I’ve been right down there at rock bottom, managing on as little as two hours a night for several nights in a row. Once you’ve been down there, the only way to go is up.
Another change occurred to me when I found myself having the “ski school” conversation for the umpteenth time. You see, Rosie is not in ski school (shock, horror!). BC I would have spent many a far-too-precious moment worrying about this. It seems like everyone else is in ski school and all of Rosie’s friends are already practically slaloming down black pistes. BC I would have ruminated endlessly: Is she missing out? Should I be pushing her to do this? Will she never learn to ski as a result? PC: I won’t lie; these thoughts did enter my head, but I swiftly batted them away. My time is too precious. Rosie is not ready for ski school. And so I move on.
BC, I was one of those people who cared too much about what other people thought. My days were filled with an inner monologue of “What must he/she have thought of me?” etc. PC, I really don’t give a monkey’s anymore. I realised how much I had changed in this respect when I was breastfeeding the baby in a café recently. He had gone in for a long feed. On it went, and on and on. The clock ticked. My appointment at a practice a short walk away got closer but the baby showed no signs of stopping. After weeks of desperately trying to get him to feed, there was no way I was pulling him off. So I plonked a muslin cloth over him, gathered my stuff together, walked to the counter and paid, left the café and walked to my appointment. All the while, the baby blissfully sucked away. The waiter looked flustered, some passersby openly stared; one lady gave me a thumbs-up, and a teenaged lad went bright red. But me? I didn’t give it a second thought.
Patience: PC I have so much more of it. It’s mainly because I simply have had no choice. I distinctly remember the moment at which I realised I needed to work on my patience. It was right around the time that Rosie wanted to do everything “by myseeeellllllf”: tying shoe laces, eating, climbing into the car seat, and so on. One day, we were late for a playdate and I lost it with her. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but let’s just say that may have been the day she learnt the F word. The positive was that it made me take a long look at myself and work on my patience. I like that I’ve learnt to take deep breaths when I’m in traffic jams or queuing at a cash point in the rain. I like it that I’m no longer that stressed person, brow furrowed, pushing past others in the supermarket. These days, I’m not perfect, but I’m a lot better.
There are plenty more examples where these came from, but the baby needs fed and Rosie is asking me to play Queens and Princesses for the sixth time this morning…. Glad I’ve got that newfound patience…
By Liz McEwan
Liz is a Geneva-based teacher and writer. Originally from the UK, she moved to Switzerland eight years ago. She lives with her Scottish husband, sparky three-year-old daughter, baby son and big, stripy tomcat. Read more of her articles on expat life, pregnancy and loss at www.abumpabroad.wordpress.com.
Illustration by Albina Nogueira
Albina Nogueira has been a primary school teacher since 1992, and a writer and illustrator since 2006. She currently lives in Switzerland and teaches Portuguese. She is also the author of Letters to Grandparents and Hairdresser. To find out more visit: http://albinanogueira.blogspot.ch/ or see her books on Amazon.