It’s hard to know how to recap a year that was as eventful as 2016, both in my personal life and in the wider world. I feel like this is a year that shifted something inside us all, it was wave after wave of events that polarised families, friends, countries and the globe. 2016 has been full on.
I feel really emotional as this year comes to an end, because it’s the passing of twelve months that spans almost the entire of my daughter’s life so far. I remember so clearly this time last year, just over a week away from my due date and feeling excited and uncertain about so many things. It’s strange to now be on the other side of all of that, knowing the answers to all the questions that a year ago filled my mind. What will it be like to give birth? What will my baby look like? What will she be like? Will I feel differently once I have a baby? Will it change my relationship? When will I go back to work? Will sleep deprivation be awful? I’ve been through all those things now, and come out the other side. And I can tell you that yes, sleep deprivation is awful.
Coming to the end of 2016 is not just a celebration of a year for me, but the celebration of my first year as a mother. There’s no doubt that it has been wonderful, but parts of it have been so hard. There were days, months in fact where I thought I’d never get more than two hours sleep in a row. Dragging myself out of bed sometimes for the fifth time in an hour, to see to a baby that just wouldn’t settle. Nights of being awake for two hours solid between 2-4am, with a baby that just wouldn’t stop crying no matter what I did. Checking the clock the first time I heard the monitor, to realise I’d not even been allowed to sleep for half an hour before being disturbed. I’m sure I’ve forgotten more of this year than I remember, as so much of my brain shut down during the many months of sleep torture. But I got through it all, even the bits that felt like they would last forever.
As 2016 ends, I realise that everything is so much better than when it began. My life is infinitely better because Rory is in it. All that she is and all that she does fills my heart with more love and joy than I have ever known. Our flat is a third bigger after we renovated the attic during the summer, bringing us the extra space and light we desperately needed. Not to mention the amazing views across the city. And perhaps what I am most proud of is ending the year working for myself. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but only found the courage and focus for in 2016. For the first time I don’t feel a disconnect between where I am and where I want to be. I am right where I am supposed to be.
I feel more than a little exhausted when I think back on everything I’ve packed into just one year. I had a baby, went through major building works for five months whilst living in the flat with a 3-8 month old, started teaching knitting classes when my baby was six months old and not sleeping more than two hours at a time, quit my job and started my photography business. I honestly don’t think I have the energy for another year like that just yet. As much as it has been wonderful, it has been completely relentless in the amount of effort I have had to put in just to keep everything ticking over. I’ve worked hard this year, on everything, and it hasn’t been easy. At times I’ve doubted myself as a mother, partner, friend and creative. It’s true that there’s no such thing as balance, and trying to fit so many things into your life can make you feel like you are drowning. I’m learning that motherhood means you need to learn to prioritise, plan ahead and schedule like your life depends on it to have any hope of feeling in control of some of your time.
Gav and I have been talking a lot recently about our plans for next year, and we’ve both agreed that it’s not going to be a year of big goals. We’ve spent the last five years working towards something huge each year - buying a flat, getting new jobs, home renovations and having a baby - we deserve a year to sit back and enjoy everything we’ve worked so hard for. It’s time to prioritise holidays over work and rest over hustle. We’ve both ended the year with sickness (hey Noro Virus), and it’s a sign to us that we need to care for ourselves and not keep moving forward at the pace we have done in recent years.
I’ve been so enjoying spending these days in between Christmas and New Year slowing down and relaxing at home with Rory. I took the week off work - no emails or editing or even planning for 2017. What’s coming next can wait, because I just want to enjoy being right where I am. I’m preparing and re-energising myself so that when I switch on my computer for the first time next year I feel truly ready. But for now, I’m on pause. And it’s heaven.