Snarfle by Kirbi Fagan.
A few weeks ago my baby Snarfle celebrated his first birthday, so now seems like a good opportunity to look back on my first year as a mum running this website: after all Amelia’s Magazine has always reflected what is happening in my life.
Snarfle’s Sheep Cake modelled on one of his favourite fluffy toys, by Claire Kearns.
I know it’s the biggest cliche of all, but nothing, nothing, can prepare you for becoming a parent. So when I was pregnant I made a big effort to prepare only for the birth, imagining that I would follow my instincts like every other mother down the millennia and everything beyond would just fall into place somehow. Sink or swim, right? I read nothing about parenting and bought the bare minimum, instead making good with second hand offerings from relatives and friends. Then all my great birth plans were thwarted… and I was left with a baby.
Snarfle was ripped out of my stomach covered in poop, whisked away for tests, prodded and poked, and for the first days kept apart from me in a plastic bed, a huge cannula held aloft in his tiny hand. For the first month breast milk was forced into him via various artificial methods, and yet I instinctively knew I wanted to be as close to him as possible, and soon discovered that the common parlance for this is ‘Attachment Parenting‘. I even started reading a book about it. The world of parenting is rife with differing opinions, but my approach has been to follow what feels instinctively right: I always think about what we might have done for many thousands of years before we had so many gadgets to help us out, believing this to best from an evolutionary perspective. This has meant that I breastfeed on demand and intend to continue until he wants to stop, I carry him wherever I can, we sleep together most nights, I have followed baby led weaning techniques, we are learning baby signing, he wears non-disposable nappies (most of the time) and I have made attempts at elimination communication…
First birthday by Bethany Wigmore.
Those endless baby bits and bobs scared me so much before I gave birth that I could not even look in a brochure, never mind go into a store. So many buggies to chose from! We have a family hand me down but we rarely use it. I was determined to get by with as few purchases as possible, which was probably why we had no clothes small enough for Snarfle when he arrived. He was so tiny that the only sleepsuit that fit properly for the first few weeks was a tiny scrap of material that my mother found in a charity shop. Inevitably, our lives have since filled up with baby paraphernalia.
Snarfle is One by Jane Young.
Before birth my baby could only ever be an abstract notion: in fact although I have always loved children (and have spent a lot of time being a leader on FSC children’s camps) I never much liked babies – that is, before my own arrived. I had imagined them boring so avoided time with them, and in more recent years they have made me feel a bit sad as I feared I would never have one of my own. So nothing prepared me for the visceral physicality of having a baby: falling in love with this tiny person who is all my own creation, who has remained so closely attached to me as he has woken up to the world. Breastfeeding on demand, co-sleeping (sleeping in the same bed) and baby wearing have helped make motherhood an intoxicating physical experience that I will miss as he grows up and away from me: I now understand why some women are addicted to babies.
Baby Snarfle by Kim Jenkins.
And the love I feel for Snarfle is unquantifiable despite the many hard and tedious parts of being a new mum. Even when rocking him for hours every night (he is not an easy sleeper) I stand there and think: this, this, is amazing. He’s my greatest creative project, this little person who has somehow appeared in this world as though he was always meant to be, perfect, somehow, despite the flaws of his parents, despite his demanding ways. This time, it will be over so soon. I love every aspect of being a mother and feel I have to soak up every moment, for before I know it he will be 18.
Rainbow Birthday Cake by Christine Charnock.
I started working again two weeks after Snarfle was born, with him sleeping against me as I typed. We didn’t leave the house until some time later: I was scared about how I would cope with him in the outside world when he seemed so precious and vulnerable. In the beginning getting on with work was relatively easy – he slept so much that I became very good at multi-tasking. But things change rapidly when you have a small baby and this year has passed ridiculously fast, routines constantly shifting to adapt to Snarfle‘s needs. Seen from afar it seems daunting, but you manage, there’s no alternative. Despite the constant tiredness and many small frustrations I have never been bored. I love learning a new skill and this is no exception – I have found the process of becoming a mother endlessly fascinating.
Neopolitan birthday cake by Jo Ley.
I started work as a lecturer at Middlesex University one day a week in January (I am lucky enough that Snarfle can stay with my parents, so we commute down to their house in South London). This means that work on Amelia’s Magazine is squashed into ever decreasing time slots: currently these include a two hour stretch in the morning (if he sleeps) and after he goes to sleep at night, until I am too knackered to continue. My creativity has gone into overdrive and I have big plans for the magazine yet little time to carry any of my ideas out, but my frustrations are tempered by the knowledge that this time is so short and so precious: even though my mind may drift it is more important for me to be present with Snarfle than building my business. I have at times been jealous of other mums revelling in maternity leave for a full year, but ultimately I feel blessed that I can carry on being a (nearly) full time mum for much longer. I could not have had a child and sent him straight into the care of others – I want to be with him, to watch him grow. To listen to the birds together, help him learn animal sounds and primary colours (his current interests), and tend to our little garden now the weather is warming up. Baby sessions are now full of other mothers who have their own businesses… and lots of childminders and nannies.
So Snarfle is one year old, and I will continue the juggling act that I have created for myself, for much as I love being a hands on mother I always knew I could not only be a mum; my work will always be important too. I find myself increasingly drawn to the idea of home schooling (to the chagrin of my partner and family) but I don’t know how I would manage it. All I know is that I feel ridiculously blessed by my situation, and so thankful that Snarfle has entered my life.
I’ve already written about the joy of using real nappies, and over the coming weeks I will be blogging about other specific baby-related things such as baby wearing, breastfeeding, cosleeping and elimination communication. I’ll also be sharing with you the best lesser known clothing brands and makers of lovely unusual toys. I might even share my Quiet Book craft ideas, if I ever finish it. I’m writing about these things because there have been many times when I have scoured the internet, hoping to find more advice and information about my choices of parenting… so if this is a subject that is dear to your heart stay tuned, these writings will be popping up in between my other design focused blogs.
- Welcome, Snarfle Monkey
- Little Playful Art: Illustrator Isher Dhiman introduces her bespoke range of artwork for special occasions
- Biscuiteers Iced Baby Biscuits & The Great Biscuiteers Ice-Off! Illustrated Biscuit Competition
- Mothering Sunday 2012: an illustrated ode to Mothers everywhere
- I am on Maternity Leave: Burlesque Baby Bump Photography by Tigz Rice and Pregnancy Illustrations