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4 years old

On 20 February, Lea turned 4 years old. It seems crazy that 4 years have passed since she was born on that Monday night at 20h15 via emergency c-section (after 26 hours of labour for her Mom).

Our lives changed at that moment and have been filled with love, laughter and new experiences ever since. When I think back to the moments before I was moved to the theatre for my c-section, I was alone while Gavin signed the forms and I always remember being that Michelle. As Lea was born, I felt my entire world, my perspective & focus change.

Lea took to breastfeeding easily & after one session with a lactation consultant, we never looked  back over 18 months. It is a time that I look back on now & I am overwhelmed with love & gratittude that this was included in our journey.

Before I had Lea, I did not know what type of mother I would be, if I would breastfeed, if I would co-sleep or how much patience I truly have. I didn't know how much I could deeply love my own child & how the moment she was born, I felt like my heart had left my body & was now in hers.

I didn't know that as I watched her grow up, so would I. As she learnt new skills or abilities, so did I. There is no doubt that my lack of cooking skills has improved over the 4 years and I have learnt to sleep like a pretzel, often with only a sliver of mattress. I didn't know the comfort of having my sleepy daughter crawl onto my chest in the middle of the night to sleep.

I have learnt that as a mother, it is important to show my daughter my emotions: postitive and negative. For her to see that it is okay to struggle with her emotions and that our journey cannot always be smooth sailing. Instead we learn together to take care of ourselves and be kind to ourselves when we feel low and to always celebrate the big and little things.

There is no doubt that this 4-year-old phase is the most challenging for me so far. The increased sense of independence and the mood swings are definitely keeping me on my toes. Over the last couple of months, I have found myself wondering why we have had such a range of emotions within minutes or why is the lack of sleep over weeks happening again. 

When Lea was born, one of my friends introduced me to the Wonder Weeks where babies go through certain mental developments at specific weeks. It is during this time that the baby will be clingy, cranky & crying more often. But once they settled again, suddenly it is clear that there has been a mental development. This could be seen in their vocabulary or being able to sit up etc. The last Mental leap listed on Wonder Weeks is at 17-18 months old.

I noticed that when Lea turned 2 years old that she showed these signs again of clingy, cranky & crying. Again at 2-and-a-half years old and when she turned 3. And again when she was 3-and-a-half-years old and now again at 4. Each time after these periods, I would notice that Lea had had a mental leap. 

Over the last month, she has been easily upset, often just wanting to be with me and bursting into tears easily. But as these signs are easing up, I noticed on Monday that she got on a swing & was swinging herself. Something she has never done before. I asked her if she swings herself at school and she replied that this was her first time swinging herself. I have also noticed that Lea's vocabulary and pronounciation of words have improved. For example, "relax" used to be said as "pelax". She sent her Dad a voice note on my phone the other day & said," Hi Dad, we have just left home. Juliet (our dog) is there. Please can you go to her at a certain time that is good for you. Thank you very much Dad, Love you, Bye." So grown up.  I have also noticed that we are having very deep conversations about a variety of things such as heaven. 

Lea is enjoying spending time with her cousins & although they are a few years older than her, there is no longer a large gap where she is the baby. She plays beautifully with them & loves the company. 

In the moments where Lea is emotional because the dog licked her hand or she wanted a pink cup, not a yellow one, I remind myself of these leaps and developments. It often puts things in perspective for me and helps me remain sane. I understand that Lea is overwhelmed because she is learning, her brain is developing & her world may seem out of control in those moments. I remind myself that these emotions have a purpose & it is hard work being a baby, then a toddler & now a child.

Although I have my Honours in Psycho-Education, I can honestly say that I have learnt more in these four years of being a mother. There is no other practical experience like this.