Humility, and other liberations

Today’s super-duper awesome guest post is from an old university friend, Marina. Last time Marina wrote on DorkyMum – a brilliant piece called The Pot Plant Analogy – it turned into one of the most popular posts on the blog ever. I hope this piece on humility works a similar magic…


Motherhood, for me, is an exercise in humility. And patience. And fortitude. And a lot of other virtues that would sound oppressive and downright creepy if they were being demanded by something less cute than a baby, or an enthusiastic nearly-three-year-old. But mainly, humility. The humility of admitting to myself just how much is outwith my control.

First pregnancy I read all the books, took hypnobirthing classes, and ended up with a 22 hour induction, epidural, and eventual 2 hours of pushing to deliver a 9lb baby boy who I was too exhausted to hold, let alone breastfeed in an aura of serene maternity.

Second pregnancy I made it to all my checkups but rarely knew what week I was, between work, study and looking after a toddler. I sometimes couldn’t believe how much time I had devoted to just being pregnant, first time around. The second slapdash pregnancy ended up in a two-hour labour, most of it in the back of a car so definitely ‘drug free’ though not perhaps what one imagines with the words ‘natural’. Does ‘natural’ involve a broken down Honda in your mind? Oh, and the final stage was three-pushes-in-twenty-minutes and a 10lb 7oz baby who just slid out in a sneeze, more or less, and left us laughing with the midwives about how we nearly didn’t get to the hospital on time.

So what did I do differently to get the effortlessly quick, easy (if slightly slapstick) birth of my dreams? Nothing. It was just luck. So I can forgive myself for the first time around – because if I didn’t ‘get it right’ because of anything I did, I certainly didn’t ‘get it wrong’ the first time.

Humility. I thought I knew what was coming this time. Oops. All sorts of things are different. Second Son feeds differently, likes to be soothed differently, laughs at different things, and above all, sleeps differently (in that he sleeps. Hurrah! This one’s a sleeper!) So when someone asked me ‘what has having a second taught you?’ I had a moment of internal grimace when I realised that the answer was ‘more bloody humility.’ And I didn’t say that, because I am too proud. Instead I said “Babies are people, and all people are different. So I can relax, it’s probably not my fault.”

And I want to share that with any new or first-time parents out there. Hallelujah and pass the wine, all babies are different and it’s NOT OUR FAULT!

Your child doesn’t sleep? Wants to breastfeed all hours of the day? Easily overstimulated? Winds him or herself UP rather than down by crying? Distracted by any noise or movement at all? Into everything 100%, all the sodding time? That’s First Son.

He woke at least every 2 hours at night, for eight months. So when I wasn’t trying actively to get more sleep I worried about it, reading books, reading blogs, asking friends – what were we doing wrong, he doesn’t sleep? We tried everything people recommended, and some other stuff we just made up. Eventually we gave up and decided to weather it out – we took the night in shifts, one parent sleeping in the spare room 9-2am, the other getting the 2-7am chance for some uninterrupted rest. And then the blessed night came, six months after some of my friends’ babies, he started to sleep in six, seven, and eight hour stretches.

Second Son sleeps in 3-4 hour increments, most nights. He’s slept 5 hours straight two or three times in these first three months of his life, and once six hours all at once. Of course we have growth spurts and bad nights, but on a bad night with Second Son I wake every 2-3 hours, which would have been a good night with First Son.

I would like to crow at this point, pointing to carefully researched and established habits and patterns I enforced from day one, which has fixed all the problems First Son ever had with sleeping, and made Second Son the way he is. But I can’t. Because I have done nothing different.

Things are different, but not because of anything I did. Which means I have to face up to just how much is out of my control. Just how much is down to the fact that Babies are people, and all people are different. And once I’ve let go of that illusion of control, once I’ve accepted that my sons are individuals with very certain ideas about how things should go – I can forgive myself for not ‘getting it right’ before. I can forgive myself for all the times I’ll get it wrong in the years to come. I can continue to do my best, but I can relax a bit, too. And so should you.

4 responses

  1. Another great post (I read that last one too). All these parenting books (most of them by authors who aren’t actually parents) should just be dumped into a 100 foot tip and then forgotten about – they had the effect of making me feel I was doing it all wrong in some way, even the gentle parenting books – why weren’t their methods working the same for me? (I did end up doing sleep ‘coaching’ (gradual withdrawal method) and that really worked but it was when my daughter was 15 months old). But the fact remains, and you are so right, every child is different and with their own rhythm. I think as parents we need to remember that we are doing a very good job – no one is failing although we may feel like we are flailing a lot!

  2. The only reason we had a second child is because we felt we had “trained” our first to be a well-behaved little boy who slept fairly well. Never occurred to us that a lot of it was already in his nature. Second son arrived and we did everything the same – he’s now 4 and still doesn’t sleep through the night (although I’m only up once or twice with him). He punches and kicks his brother – despite getting the same discipline. We love him (despite the devil horns) and just do the best we can.

  3. Pingback: Humility, and other liberations | Love All Blogs

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