I am not catholic. Yet there is no shortage of the guilt I am feeling as a new mum.
I feel guilty when she cries. Guilty I can’t always make her stop crying. Guilty I don’t know why she’s crying in the first place, when she’s been fed, changed, loved, and anything else I could think of. I feel guilty I want to go for a run without pushing her in front of me, so then I do just that and feel guilty I forgot to grab the rain protector for the pram and she got a little bit wet. Guilty I spend a portion of each day wondering why my child can’t be more like the other kids and sleep so I can get some timeout and don’t have to feel guilty for wishing I got it when I don’t. Guilty for this, guilty for that, guilty for stuff that hasn’t even happened yet, because I’ve had time to imagine it while rocking my baby through her post-injection blues.
One of the mother’s in my mothers group said ‘we’ll have a bad moment every day and a bad day every week.’
Yesterday was a bad moment all day long, after two other bad days all day long. Does that mean I’m home free for the next two weeks?
The thing is, I’ve never hung out with anyone as much as I hang out with Miss Q, and honestly, sometimes it’s exhausting.
Exhausting in a way that running to rehearsal, dancing for 6 hours then running home never was. It’s a fatigue I feel deep in my marrow and it’s made all the more resonant because I fight against it, not wanting to admit that my resources are tapped. That although my well of love for this little person is infinitely deep, the further I have to go down the well to get it, the more effort it is to pull it up to the surface.
Is that bad?
Am I failing?
I feel like I am.
And because I do, I project that lack of self-confidence into every facet of my life. I’m a bad wife; I’ve got no energy left for my husband. I’m not helping enough with the chores. I look like a frumpy house frau badly in need of a haircut.
Don’t you wish you lived in my mind?
Last night I went out. I wasn’t going to – was feeling guilty about leaving my child with my parents, knowing she would bottle refuse and probably scream – but they made me, saying they’d looked after me, they could look after anyone.
And so off I went with my husband, my brother, his girlfriend and a couple of friends playing the same role of nervous new parents as Gregory and I, and my mew-mum friend and I had a couple of cocktails, feeling like we were on night release from prison and feeling guilty for it just the same. Before our first drinks were finished, we were giggling like schoolgirls in the seventh grade, swapping secrets, feeling free, being just us, not mothers to our delicious baby girls which is how we are now more commonly known. We pranced up the opera house steps, took our seats and Tim Minchin and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra entertained and thrilled, impressed and distracted us.
He’s a brilliant performer for many reasons, but last night he was brilliant because he spoke just to me. In the first act, still high on my liberation from the mighty Q, I grabbed my husband’s hand and squeezed as Tim sang his lullaby to his baby girl.
What more can I do to put a stop to
This mind numbing noise you are making?
Where is the line between patting and hitting?
When is rocking “rocking” and when is it “shaking”?
I don’t know what else I can try to try to hush you
My heart says I love you but my brain’s saying fuck you
And hoping a child trafficker will abduct you
At least then I’ll get a few hours in bed
Do you understand? I silently begged Gregory. This is how I feel some days. I don’t know how to love her more, I’m consumed, almost obliterated by it, but still it’s not enough.
The applause at the end of this song led me to believe I wasn’t the only person capable of appreciating his terribly inappropriate lyrics and I sat back and felt the support of strangers all similarly entwined.
Tim’s musical prowess was put to the fore in the second act and I was inspired by a man who stuck by his dreams to turn his nerdy enthusiasm for piano into an international career.
Of course, we begged for him to return post bow, and of course he did, performing not one, but two encores.
By then I’d already started to miss my little Q, was loving the entertainment, but had one eye on the door, anxious to head home to my baby girl when Tim read my mind again and this time reduced me to tears.
And you my baby girl my jetlagged infant daughter
You'll be handed round the room like a puppy at a primary school
And you won’t understand but you will learn one day
That wherever you are and whatever you face
These are the people who'll make you feel safe in this world
My sweet blue-eyed girl
And if my baby girl when you're twenty-one or thirty-one
And Christmas comes around and you find yourself nine thousand miles from home
You'll know whatever comes,
Your brothers and sisters and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun
Girl when Christmas comes
Your brothers and sisters, your aunts and your uncles
Your grandparents, cousins and me and your mum
Will be waiting for you in the sun, drinking white wine in the sun
Baby whenever you come, we'll be waiting for you in the sun
I really like Christmas. It's sentimental I know
And I really like Miss Q. In fact I really love Miss Q. I love everything about her. I love her individuality. Her determination. Her gorgeous gummy smile. Her singing, her contented face in a shower. I love her when she’s a punk. When she arches her back and throws her arms out like she’s being crucified. I love her now. I love her then.
I’ve just got to remember to love myself and the mother I am to her. I’m doing the best I can and somehow, beneath the fatigue and the self-doubt I know that's enough for her.