So much has been written about it. The enormous life change, the intoxicating love for your baby, the challenges to your relationship with your partner, the sleep deprivation. And so it goes on.
Some of it is patronising, some of it funny, some of it wrong. And now, as I hover on the precipice of my return to work – 3 days to be precise. I thought I would add to the volumes of writing on the subject. Nothing too heavy, just a few observations. After all, I need to get my brain going again.
While pregnant, I read a LOT and asked a LOT of questions. I kind of ‘knew’ what I was in for; loving friends – those already parents – would give me knowing smiles and nod at everything I said and everything I did. The sort of parent I wanted to be. The organised drawers in the nursery. The nappy bag already packed for my first outing with the baby. I would be relaxed, the baby would be relaxed. I would feed on demand. I would simply touch the baby in his bassinet next to my bed when he would cry in the night (surely sometimes they just need to know you are there right? – I would say to my friends. Cue again those knowing smiles*).
On the January 15, 2014 I gave birth by emergency caesarean section to my baby son. Typing that still feels weird. I gave birth…I had a son…
Change was something I thought I knew – I relished. You know the “Oh yeah, I went to South America and it changed me” ….I had lived and worked all over the world. I had travelled extensively, I had a busy and highly pressured job in an unforgiving industry.
However, I am not going to spend any time delving into ‘the nothing can prepare you rhetoric’. It’s been done and if nothing can prepare you (which for the record, is totally true and in a word, I didn’t cope very well to begin with) what’s the point of trying? There are millions of women all over the world, like me, who have run their lives and work like clockwork. CONTROL. A baby doesn’t allow for that as they are not robots. Coming to that realisation is soul destroying and liberating all at once.
The existence of the sisterhood (hurrah it’s real!) is something I do want to mention. After years of working in the ruthless media industry where women (and men) compete relentlessly, and are often horrible to each other, it has been wonderful to see another very different side to women outside of my friendship circle. I always thought women were bitches. I was wrong. The soft smiles in cafes when it’s your baby howling, the gentle questions about age, weight and how you are getting on. The constant reassurance to ride those early weeks like a scary wave, it really does get better. The mummy club. I never thought I would say this but I really, really like it. And I quite like talking about babies.
And my mummy friends, those I knew pre kids? I have infinitely more love and respect for them. Our conversations are often different now but the sentiment is always familiar. It’s like making a new friend all over again.
I will return to work a totally different person to the one who went on maternity leave last Christmas. I feel nervous, excited and uncertain. I know my priorities have changed but I don’t really know what that means – yet. I have a beautiful 9 month old son. He tested me for the first 3 months like I could never have imagined. He still tests me now. “This too shall pass” has become my mantra and patience is something I have had to learn. In some ways looking after a baby is a bit a like a marathon – slow and steady. Perseverance. Exhaustion. But our baby is wonderful and has given my husband and me our own family. I absolutely love watching him grow and change. He also does my head in on a regular basis and yes, I do miss my old life.
I read something by Caroline Beaulieu that I think is brilliant and I want to finish with it because it’s the truest thing about motherhood I have ever read. For those women who are agonising, should I do it – can I, will it be worth it?
“I can’t tell you whether having kids will be worth it for you. And that whole, “We are waiting until we’re ready” thing? Right. You are never ready for this. When the tiny human cometh, all bets are off. And from then on, the question is never again whether or not it’s worth it. The question is how you make it worth it for them”
*Oh and those knowing smiles were not agreement. I realise now they are a type of pity or mummy code for “just you wait” I now do the same thing to my pregnant friends as they bombard me with questions about the virtues of size 000 versus size 0000. And the type of blanket they want for their pram.