Bubby is four weeks old. Hubby has returned to work. I have left the house to get away from the confines of my small one bedroom apartment.
I am trying to walk bub to sleep, but it’s not working; he is screaming. Scccrreeaaming. I make my way towards the parenting room at the local shopping centre to calm him and give him some milk.
I’m nervous. I hope there’s no one else there that we are going to interrupt. I hope I can just do my thing and relax with bub.
But the room is full of other parents. It’s not as noisy as you might think though, rather it’s quiet and peaceful inside. Just parents going about their business. I smile and apologise (for my baby crying). I get looks of “don’t worry” and “we’ve all been there”. That’s comforting.
I look around at the people in the room. There are mums (and dads) of all different ages, shapes and sizes; from all different walks of life; with newborns and toddlers. Some mums have fancy prams that look like they’ve cost the earth, others have babies in slings. Some babies are breastfed, others are bottle fed. Some babies wear cloth nappies, others in disposables.
But I am still nervous. I hope my little one doesn’t disturb everyone, or that I do something wrong and they think I’m a bad parent. The other mothers look like experts at this ‘parenting thing’. The mothers with newborns look comfortable as they feed their babies and look at them with all the admiration in the world: the mums of older kids look natural and in control of their active toddlers.
“How old is your little one,” one mum asks as she ‘expertly’ feeds her baby. “Four weeks,” I reply.
“He’s cute, very contented.”
“How old is yours?” I ask.
“Eleven months. It goes so fast. I remember when mine would feed that calmly,” she says as her baby wriggles around on her lap and does windmill slaps on her chest and chin. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have an eleven month old. It feels like my baby won’t ever grow up!
We talk mindlessly about our babies and the problems we have, she offers some solutions to my settling issues that I will try.
Many other mums and dads walk in and out. It’s busy here today, but it’s still peaceful. I want to stay and chat to the mum to get more hints and tips about parenting, but it’s time for her to leave. I am surprised by how quickly her baby fed, my newborn feeds for thirty minutes but her’s only fed for ten! She packs her pram getting ready to leave. She turns and says, ‘Good luck with everything” and walks from the room.
Almost everyone that I saw when I first entered has left and been replaced by new mums. Ten minutes later it is time for us to leave too. A walk out and pass another new mum, her baby is screaming too. She apologises for her baby crying. I smile a sympathetic smile. She gives me a flustered, worried smile back and enters the parenting room.
TEN MONTHS LATER…
Bub is awake and I’ve headed into town for some shopping.
We haven’t been into town for ages as we’ve been too busy with play dates. He is hungry and he cries for some food so I head towards the parenting room. It’s been a while since we’ve been there, I usually time our outings around his feeds. But alas, today we need to use it. I hope there’s another mum in there I can talk to.
The room is mostly empty with only two other mums, both feeding their newborns. I sit down next to one of them.
“How old is your little one?” I ask.
“Four weeks,” she smiles.
“He’s beautiful. How has your first few weeks been?”
We make mindless chatter about our babies while we feed and admire them. “How old is your bub?” she asks. “Eleven months. It goes so fast. I remember when mine fed so easily,” I say as my soon-to-be toddler wriggles on my lap giving me windmill slaps on my chest and chin.
She tells me about the problems she’s been experiencing with settling her bub and more generally about life as a new mum. I think back to what it was like for me when my baby was four weeks old. I was sitting in the very chair she was in, feeling so nervous that my baby would bother others and that I would do something wrong in front of everyone. I smile to myself and kindly offer her some suggestions on what has worked for me in the past.
My bub finishes feeding and I pack up my things. The other mum is still feeding her newborn – she’ll be another twenty minutes I’d say. As I leave the room I turn and say ‘Don’t worry, you look like you’re doing a great job”. She smiles and I walk from the room.
Lauren Jackman is the author of Canberra Mummy. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lauren writes about the truth about pregnancy and parenting for perfectionist mummies. Lauren is a mum, wife, author, runner and a not a bad cook. Sign up to her free newsletter at Canberra Mummy.