But on my third baby I have a different perspective and I can see a pattern within me and my babies, and it's a bit easier to put words on some things.
So the main reason I find parenting so disorientating at times is because it is always changing.
Today I woke up to a different baby than the one I went to sleep with.
Firstly she woke me using her voice, talking incessantly at me until I was roused from a tired too-short slumber. Previously she's kicked me awake, or pinched me with a little claw right where it hurts (i.e. nipple).
She's chubbier today, she's looking around at us all with new eyes, as if taking in new details. She's focusing on new things in the house, and yes, she nearly rolled over right now on the rug beside me.
At 17 weeks her newborn stage is well and truly over, she's grumbling and fretting and foaming at the mouth, desperate for a finger to gnaw on to relieve her tender gums. She's blowing raspberries. Her arm movements are no longer jerky and uncontrolled, they are smoother and more focused.
She's making more defined sounds, goo and boo and hoo and poo, much to her brothers' delight. For weeks now she's been signing "all gone" when she's finished a wee in her nappy, but now it's exactly the same movement every time, and done with concerted eye contact to me, letting me know to change her please.
She's holding a rattle, sometimes with two hands, bringing it up to her mouth, turning it over and looking at it. Sorry all this must be really boring to you but it's fascinating to me, even third time around.
In the baby stage, each period goes so quick, a matter of weeks or months in each stage. Just as you're getting your bearings in one, feeling you can anticipate your child's needs, they're suddenly in another stage and you have to relearn it all over again, new skills building on old ones, helping them navigate the physical world.
And it's exhausting. You might take to the online forums to ask questions, get advice and anecdotes to help you make sense of it, but ultimately it's your baby and only you will have the answers.
(You could go the opposite route and not pay much attention to your baby's needs, let them cry for your attention all the time and do what you think they need, but I know you're not that kind of mama, mama!)
Pre-babies our adult lives could remain the same for years on end, the same foods, routines, people surrounding us. There was comfort and security in all that. But throw a baby into the mix and the rug is pulled from under you with frightening regularity.
Just when you start telling people they sleep x hours per night, you hit a growth spurt and it's all up in the air again. Just when you think you've figured out their napping pattern and make plans to get stuff done around that, it's gone and a new pattern emerges.
You're always on your toes, on alert, on edge a lot, keeping this new creature fed, clean and dry, changed and happy. On top of all that you may have a toddler, pre-schooler or older child(ren) needing their own things in their own time too, so you're juggling two, three or six sets of changing needs, along with your own needs, your household, your career, your marriage, your friendships...
Is it any wonder we are feeling stressed all the time?
So how do we stay sane in all of this? I'd advise keeping your baby close, physically. That keeps them happy and you can anticipate their needs as they arise, not once they've got to crisis (crying) point. You will instinctively know when your baby needs to feed, wee, play if they are on or near you most of the day, through their beautifully attuned body language signs. Don't ask how, just watch and learn. Don't try and quantify or categorise it, just use your intuition. We're not supposed to put words on everything. Could you put words on your lovemaking? It's another physical dance led by hormones and pheromones. Let it work. Wear your baby in a sling, talk to him or her, stroke her, smell her, drink her in and let her guide you.
Your verbal kids will let you know verbally, but their emotional needs will be more hidden. You'll have to read through the body language, see the building frustration before it becomes a tantrum or a strike, keep them close as possible too, and if you've built up that interaction from infancy it is all a lot easier. But it's never too late to start. On the very worst days turn on a DVD and snuggle up with them all in a darkened room, these days will be gone before you know it and you'll have a house full of teenagers who will have their own lives to lead, and you'll wish for the crazy babies again, even for a little while.
And talk. Talk to anyone and everyone about how bloody hard it is to be a mother. And recognise that it is a struggle, and we're all struggling, and the more we talk the more we'll feel okay and the easier it will get.
That is all,