Finding out I was pregnant was one of the best days of my life, I don’t think I’d ever experienced quite so many feelings in such a short time, I’m pretty sure I had experienced emotional whiplash.
I have to share with you all, I was never really a ‘Baby person’, that’s what I would say to my friends who had children when they asked me if I ever wanted kids, and looking at their children’s snotty faces, nappy rash covered bums and listening to ear splitting screams I would turn and say, “No, I’m not a baby person.” But regardless of this I couldn’t help but get caught up in all the lovely, gushing birth stories of how magical the bond with your baby is and how it just miraculously springs into being once you’ve pushed the little sprog out. How being pregnant is an absolute joy for the entire nine months and just how marvellous your body is when it copes with all the changes it has to go through. I have two words for you ladies, bull shit!
Expectations of pregnancy
So being the unexperienced mum to be, I bought into the glorious, holistic (and at times) glamorous life of the pregnant woman. I expected to glow, not just look like I had had a good night’s sleep, I mean, The Glow! I expected my hair to look glossy and tumble down my back in soft waves, my face to look dewy and soft with no makeup on at all. For want of a better description I expected to look like a Disney princess with hair as dark as ebony, skin as white as snow and lips the colour of a blood red rose. I wanted to show off my perfectly round baby bump in cute maternity clothes, and brunch with lots of other glamorous pregnant women as we talk about how fabulous we feel, and how prepared we all are for our precious little bundles of joy to arrive.
Reality of Pregnancy
For the first 18 weeks, my reality was vomit. And lots of it. I actually lost weight in the beginning of my pregnancy because I was so sick, I tried everything to make it stop. Just looking at ginger nut biscuit nowadays makes me want to heave. Now I just want to make this clear, I love my baby, but I HATED being pregnant, and guess what ladies, it is okay to admit that! It is all right to not love your body or yourself when you need to pee for the third time in 2 hours, or in the middle of the night when you can’t get comfortable and keep tossing and turning because everything just aches.
My reality of being pregnant was struggling to find cute plus size maternity clothes that didn’t just make me look fatter than I already did, and trying to make new friends was impossible. I worked up until the very late stages and missed some antenatal classes (which I survived without ladies so don’t stress) so missed the chance to meet new mummy friends, my idea of fabulous brunching did not happen. What about your old friends? I hear you ask, well some of them have the privilege of now being called Auntie, the others, well we don’t talk about them.
I remember walking round Morrison’s doing my weekly shop, when I started getting some very odd looks as I waddled my way round with my husband, eventually I turned to Steve and said is there something on my face because people keep staring, it’s not like they haven’t seen a heavily pregnant women before, and I’ll never forget the slight fear that crept onto his face when he looked down at my chest ( I was very, very hormonal at this point, and it was quite likely that that my very own Mr Hyde would make an appearance if I got upset) as he just said, Babe, and pointed at my chest. I looked down and I shit you not ladies, a tsunami of breast milk had just erupted from my breasts and was leaking its way through every item of clothing I wore. The reality of pregnancy is that its not fun, some may find it easier than others, but I genuinely believe that you would struggle to find a Mum who enjoyed every moment of being pregnant.
So my expectations of labour and the reality weren’t that far off. I anticipated a lot of pain, so my birth plan consisted of me wanting drugs, all of them, as quick and as often as possible.
My baby girl had decided she was pretty comfortable where she was, and ended up being 12 days overdue, and I have to admit I was sooo ready for her to come out, not just to meet her but because I wanted my body back. I remember my contractions starting on the Friday and being in what the Doctors call ‘Latent labour’ until on the Saturday night, BOOM! It was game on, contractions every six minutes. I shall never, ever forget, my husband playing cards with his father and uncle in the next room, while im bent over the sofa mooing like a cow, him shouting ‘you alright love?’ , me answering ‘ do I bloody sound alright?!’.
Im not going to go into every minor detail of my labour, its safe to say that it was a very scary, painful, and for myself quite traumatic time. Every labour, and birth is different, some go smoothly; others not so much. But ladies don’t beat yourself up for not sticking to your birth plan, having pain relief, having a c-section, as long as you and your baby are safe and healthy, that should be enough.
I will address the one thing that gets mentioned a lot though, and this is, literally shitting yourself in front of a room full of people. One friend mentioned that whilst having a water birth, she had a Kevin and Perry ‘floater’ moment (yes I know, there will be some people who are reading this who will not get this reference, that makes me feel old!), so the midwives gave her partner a little fishing net to try and scoop it out of the water. I was one of the lucky ones, this didn’t happen to me, but it has happened to my friends and they have all said that in the grand scheme of things what’s a little poo between husband and wife!
Everything that comes after
For forty one weeks and six days I had eagerly awaited the arrival of my baby girl, anticipating that fairy-tale moment when she’s placed into my arms and a huge overwhelming surge of love would wash over me. I don’t know if it was all the drugs, but I felt no wave, just exhaustion, and when she was placed on my chest the first thing that popped out of my mouth was ‘ she’s got an egg head’ ( we had had a forceps delivery). The next 12 hours were a whirl wind of excitement, fear and mind numbing tiredness. I stayed overnight in the maternity ward, the midwives were amazing, a very calming and soothing influence over a rather emotionally wired new mum.
When we were finally allowed home, a whole new world of dread hit me, what if I can’t do it on my own without the midwives? What if she doesn’t latch properly? Will I ever sleep again? Is my cat going to suffocate my baby by sitting on her? Will I be a good mum? Self-doubt took over my entire world for what seemed like the longest drive home, until we got in and I laid her down in her moses basket where she slept without a care in the world, completely oblivious to my inner turmoil.
I do have to admit, my husband was very supportive, but they just don’t have it the same as we do, they don’t have the pressure of breast feeding, being up all night when baby wants to cluster feed, one breast feeding baby the other dripping like a faulty tap at the same time. They literally don’t feel like a cow that’s being milked 24/7, from either breastfeeding or expressing. I only managed to breastfeed for one month before my supply dwindled, and as much as that upset me as I really wanted to be able to feed my daughter, a part of me was secretly happy that my husband would be able to now share the load as we started to bottle feed.
There were some things that we are just not prepared for by the midwives or antenatal classes. No one ever prepared me for colic. I mean seriously that should come with its own leaflet, specialist class, the works! Colic sucks, big time. Plus no one prepares you for the mental and emotional impact a baby has on your life. For example, I could not stand my husband, I literally wanted to rip his head off several times a day, not that he was doing anything wrong, he wasn’t, he was actually very helpful but that didn’t matter; all he had to do was speak to me and I was ready to commit murder. I would also cry, all the time. All my baby had to do was make a noise, I cried, my husband made me a drink, I cried, I watched Dumbo, I cried.
There is one thing though that I do feel really strongly about since having my baby and I feel this needs to be shared. It is totally acceptable to ask for help. I don’t know why in this day and age we are so determined to do everything as independently as possible; it is not a weakness or a sign of failure to ask for help. Years ago, and nowadays in other cultures, the new mums family would literally swamp her with help. Helping with daily chores, cooking, cleaning so Mum could just focus on her baby and not have to worry about anything else. Five days into my new mum life, my husband went out to wet the baby’s head, I literally could not get him out of the house fast enough. For four days I hadn’t washed my hair, my teeth had not been brushed in two days, the pyjamas that I was still wearing at five pm were covered in baby sick, wee and poo and also had some rather sour smelling milk patches. This was because I was adamant I did not need help, that I could do it on my own. My mum just happened to be popping by to see how I was, I opened the door with a crying baby attached to my side and burst into tears. Before I realised what was happening she had hold of my baby, had ran me a bath and kicked me out of the front room so I could sort myself out. I didn’t realise until then that I really did want help, but I felt like asking for it was admitting defeat at only five days in. It is all right to ask for help, it is okay to admit that being a mum is hard and a little help would be muchly appreciated.
Being a mum, from the early stages of pregnancy, to now my baby girl being nearly a year old, is hard work. There is so much I did not expect or did not know about. I knew it was going to be different, scary and exciting, I also knew it was going to be hard at times. What I didn’t know was how I would change, how I would no longer be who I was and even now don’t feel like me anymore. I guess I’ve written this not as a warning to new mums, but as a heads up, a silent nod to new mums everywhere that its not all magic and rainbows, that we all go into to it with rose tinted glasses on. That what you expect and what you’re prepared for are two entirely different things. But, after all that is said and done, I know that I would do it all over again.