This week I had a real lightbulb moment at the extent of my anxieties with Alice, and it was in an environment I visit every year. It has become an annual tradition for the last 6 years for my mum and I to go to the Bath Christmas markets together, and when Alice was born that was no different. As I was breastfeeding (and quite frankly, because I didn’t want to leave her), when she was four months old, she came with us. We were excited about it being a girls’ trip, with three generations away enjoying the festivities together. And she dictated the entire two days.
I am so grateful for my mum. I am fully aware of my obsessive nature, my tendency to fixate intently on something, my need for organisation and routine, and my mum is always more than happy to indulge it. She knows it makes me feel better to feel like I am in control of situations and she supports that. But, when we went to Bath, these traits of mine revolved around Alice so much that they tarnished what has always been an enjoyable, lighthearted trip.
This year, our sixth time we have visited, has been an absolutely wonderful festive time. We ate, we drank, we laughed, we shopped. We wandered around leisurely, we had no real time or schedule to our day; it was lovely and relaxing. Jack simply slotted into place. This was a polar opposite experience to when we first visited with Alice, and yet I only realised the extent of my anxieties in direct contrast to my experiences this week.
With Alice I was obsessed with the timings. Even travelling up I was in a mild panic if the car slowed down for fear it would wake her and she would cry. As soon as we arrived, I wanted to map our entire day out to ensure there wouldn’t be an occasion where Alice would need a feed and we wouldn’t be able to coincide it with sitting down for a food or drink break ourselves. This was in part from a general insecurity which stemmed from still having a lack of experience with breastfeeding, but with Jack, we just enjoyed the day and if he wanted a feed we addressed it at the time. As it transpired, he went long stretches being perfectly content in the pram and so allowed us to enjoy the atmosphere of the markets, all the while loving the lights himself! If Alice wasn’t matching up to the timings that I had imposed on her then I worried even more and created even more stress for myself. I just didn’t want to be in a situation where she would be crying and I wouldn’t be able to do anything – getting your nipple out on the high street in November is not for the faint hearted! With Jack, on the rare occasion he did get upset I simply put him in the sling and we carried on as we were. No stress, no worry and no effect on our trip.
I was also absolutely obsessed with the importance of Alice’s routine. She was an awful sleeper and I was convinced if I could keep things almost exactly the same on the trip as they would be at home then she wouldn’t be disrupted. Except, I forgot her sleeping bag. What ensued was that I dragged my poor mum around every department store in Bath desperately looking for a suitable sleeping bag. I had blankets with me but in my mind that was not good enough and so two hours of our day was spent purely on finding a replacement. Now, I can laugh about it. If that had happened this week, I wouldn’t have given a second thought to just making do with what I had with me, but at the time it was so desperately important to me and reflecting back on that makes me sad. I was so fixated on the small things that I was never just enjoying Alice. Instead, I was always worrying about her.
It does feel a little unfair to do direct comparisons when Alice had such severe reflux issues. This meant that she was in a lot of pain a lot of the time, she was on medication and she had to be upright as much as possible for her own comfort. Jack, on the other hand, is the happiest, most content little boy. He is forever smiling and perfectly happy to occupy himself. So, although I did have so many worries with Alice, she was my first so I had all the insecurities that came with being a new mum and there was also more for me to worry about with her. Who wants their baby to be in pain?
I don’t want to suggest I’m some kind of casual and laid back mum now. Far from it. I will still panic wildly every time I have to dress the children for going outside. And in fact, this did happen in Bath, where I asked mum approximately eighty times whether she thought Jack was warm enough / cosy enough / too cold. But I really am making a more conscious effort to not sweat the small stuff. And it’s working. We are all much happier and relaxed without the pressure cooker of my anxieties playing on everybody’s mind.