Last night we took down the Christmas decorations. This is hands down my least favourite part of the festive season and always has been. I know some people love the chance to get organised and tidy up and get back to normality, but for me it’s always held a sense of melancholy. You see, I love Christmas. The twinkly lights, the parties, the songs, drinking Prosecco on a random Tuesday and eating chocolate for breakfast – I love it all, beginning to end. But it always seems to be over just that little bit too quickly for me. Maybe it comes from having spent so many years working in the pub industry, when I’d spend the majority of the festive period working and watching all the fun and merriment from the sidelines and counting down the days till I could join in – either way, it always seems to whizz past in such a blur and I never feel like I’m quite ready to let go. This year brings an added sense of sadness too. Bailey’s first Christmas. It will never be his first Christmas again, and it’s an all too vivid reminder that time is passing by so quickly and he’s growing up so fast. Of course, it doesn’t help that things didn’t quite turn out the way I’d pictured them. I’d spent such a long time picturing this time in our lives, and as much as we had a lovely time, it somehow felt as though things never really got started.
When I found out I was pregnant at the end of December last year I spent a lot of time picturing what life would be like, but above all else, I pictured Christmas. Possibly it was the festive backdrop to our good news that put these images in my head, but I couldn’t help but keep thinking to myself, ‘Come Christmas there will be another one of us in this house!’ And so I built a catalogue of imaginary events in my head. Seeing his face light up when he saw his first tree. Seeing our friends and family filled with love as they cuddle him and play with him. Imagining him with us at the table as we eat our Christmas dinner and picturing the lovely gifts we’d buy him. It was all very picture perfect and Insta-worthy, and why wouldn’t I think that? Everyone knows baby’s first Christmas is just magical, right? Or at least, that’s what people kept telling me.
In so many ways, it was magical. His eyes really did light up when he saw the Christmas tree, he was fascinated by all the pretty lights and he loved it when I sang him Christmas songs. We had a wonderful couple of hours on Christmas morning opening his gifts with him and it really was lovely watching him with our families and seeing how much he is loved. But the fact is, a lot of Christmas – not very baby friendly. When they’re as young as Bailey they really don’t have much of a clue what is going on and the things they do take in are incredibly overstimulating. Their routine has gone out of the window and suddenly Mum and Dad become super busy and stressed and seem to have less time to devote to them. There is a constant stream of people visiting wanting to cuddle them when they really should be napping. On top of this Bailey had just hit sleep regression, a huge growth spurt and developmental leap, he had picked up a nasty cough and had started teething, so he already wasn’t in the best of moods. Neither was I. I was sleep deprived, back to feeding every hour and a half like the newborn days and spending most of my days consoling a grizzly boy that just didn’t want to be put down. The run up to Christmas made me realise that life isn’t actually quite so festive when you’re sat at home with a small child all day rather than at work soaking up the party atmosphere. And on the big day itself I spent a large chunk of the day walking the streets on my own in my Christmas day finery trying to at least get a quick nap out of him in the pram, and another chunk sat in our darkened bedroom crying frustrated tears as I tried to get him to sleep while I listened to everyone else having a good time. In the moments he was sleeping I spent most of my time glued to the monitor, simultaneously sad he was missng out and terrified he’d wake up.
The honest truth? I missed my old life. I missed the buzz in the city as I headed in and out of work every day. I missed dancing like an idiot to Mariah Carey and The Pogues after a few too many gins at the office party (I did actually get to do that again this year, but it wasn’t quite the same when I lived in fear of having a hangover with a baby to look after). I missed the impromptu drinks after work and cheeky lunchtime trips to the German Market. I missed being able to sit all the way through a Christmas movie. I missed eating my meals hot and at the same time as everyone else. I missed being able to have a few glasses of Baileys while I wrapped presents without having to work out how many times I’d need to pump and dump. I missed wearing sparkly outfits without worrying about whether or not I could breastfeed in them. I missed the old, carefree me, basically. And that’s the reality. It’s not pretty or Instagrammable, but it’s the truth, and for a good while I felt so darn guilty. Guilty that I wasn’t enjoying every second. Guilty that I hankered for a time before my darling son was here. Guilty that I was wishing away the time till he’d sleep through the night again. But I’m done feeling guilty now, because everything I felt was completely normal and understandable. It didn’t mean I don’t love my boy, that I don’t thank my lucky stars everyday that I get to be a Mummy and don’t appreciate all the wonderful moments we did get. It just meant my life has changed beyond recognition and that is sometimes a little overwhelming. And I know I’m not the only one to feel this way, except people are too scared to say so for fear of being judged or seeming ungrateful.
So Christmas wasn’t quite how it used to be, and I really miss how it used to be. But it will someday get back to some kind of similar state and I know we have so much to look forward to. Christmas has given way to the year Bailey will eat his first food, take his first steps and say his first words. I will get to hear him say Mummy for the first time (and probably wish he would stop saying it sometimes too…) He may get his first trip to the beach or maybe see his first snow. I look forward to all these things so much, but I also accept they may not be as perfect as I picture them. And you can trust me to be honest about how they go down too, because we seriously don’t do enough of that these days!
In the meantime, I hope you all had a wonderful time, and if you too were having your baby’s first Christmas and felt a little deflated by the whole thing – I hear you.
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