It has taken me seven weeks to get this parenting thing down. Seven long weeks - that feel like seven hours.
There have been times where I have despaired. Times when I thought I would never be able to breastfeed, times when I thought he would never go to sleep! Times when I stayed up for entire nights too afraid to take my eyes off him or his breathing patterns. There have been times when I thought I would never be able to leave the house unaided again. I resigned myself to living in our room in our little dark cocoon, warm in safe timeless solitude. There have been times when I thought I would never be able to get dressed, wash or look semi decent again. There have been times I have nearly murdered my partner - for no reason other than him being there. There have been times I thought I just wasn't cut out for it all - that I was unqualified, incompetent and unworthy. In the words of Mr Dickens - there have been hard times.
There was a moment this week as the baby I brought home seven weeks ago lounged in his new vibrating chair dozing in a peaceful slumber, the corners of his tiny mouth searching for a smile, that I sat up, in my slightly larger un-vibrating chair, and looked at him and realised ... he was mine.
I think up until this point I had been doing my best to look after this baby correctly. I had been living my life as though I was on some sort of baby Big Brother series where my actions were under constant scrutiny and surveillance - by a team of midwives, health visitors, relatives, and strangers on the street. I had been living like I was training for some sort of 'mother' exam (Theory and Practical). I had been taking care of him as though someone had trusted me with this unbelievably precious object - like some antique vase - and I had been spending every second - anxious, concentrating on doing everything in my power to prevent it from falling through my hands and shattering.
It has taken me seven weeks to realise he is my baby.
It has taken me seven weeks to realise, the likelihood is, I won't break him.
It has taken me seven weeks to understand when he wants to eat before he knows it.
It has taken me seven weeks to know the little ways to get him to sleep.
It has taken me seven weeks to know the little ways how to settle him.
It has taken me seven weeks to know the little things that can distract him.
It has taken me seven weeks to know that sometimes, all these things will not work.
It has taken me seven weeks to work out how to transport him around the house.
It has taken me seven weeks to know his little routine.
It has taken me seven weeks to seize the little opportunities he gives me, the little windows - to make a cuppa, have a pee, put on some make up and do the washing up - sometimes, all at the same time.
And with the seven week mark came the smiling milestone. Not just smiling due to some relieving bowel movement - smiling in response to me.
This morning I lifted him on to his changing mat and, half asleep he started his usual thrashing around, like a shark stuck in shallow water - he commenced his perturbed grumblings, squeaks and yelps slowly building to the loud Rock/ Heavy Metal chorus and, for a change, instead of staying silent, without thinking, I said in a chirpy voice
"Oh, what is the matter with you then?"
and instantly he stopped. All movements ceased. His tiny arms fell to his sides. Someone had pressed the mute button on the angry baby soundtrack I had come to know by heart each morning. He lay there and opened his eyes wide, for the first time properly that morning. He stared right at me and I stared back a little shocked myself. The baby - my baby - my son - smiled a huge broad smile back at me... and let out a loud giggle.
"Bloody Hell - He knows who I am!" I thought. And I smiled back and giggled back in response. He had heard my voice and just known that, although he was on the torture device he has come to loathe, the changing mat, he was safe - because I was there. His mum was there.
Yes - it has taken me seven weeks. As the sun slowly shows his face over the UK, the darkness is lifting over me - and I emerge from my cocoon - a Mother.