A few weeks ago I was having a momentary writers block and I called on my friends to tell me what to write about. One of my friends, a gorgeous girl who works with children every day asked me for my ’10 most frightening list of things that mums do not tell their ‘non mum’ friends’, the list of secrets and the ugly truths. Great idea, incredibly hard to do. Maybe it is because the things that I am afraid of now, as a mum, are different to the things I was afraid of before becoming a mum. Sure some fears are the same, like the fear of dark shadows while swimming in the ocean or the fear of snakes, but I am quickly learning that as your child grows, your hopes, worries and fears are constantly evolving.
So I’ve done some brainstorming and here it is, my list, the frightful ten. Maybe not so frightful for those of you who have had children, but these are the things I failed to even think about before becoming a mum. Here goes:
1. Nothing will prepare you for the heartache that is trying to get pregnant.
Heartache, disappointment, frustration and the worry that something might be wrong. Every month you think, this is it, you may even start to feel slightly nauseated, but then you get your period and that is it, another month of no baby. It hurts and we didn’t even go through it for half as long as some people do. Getting pregnant isn’t as easy as forgetting to take the pill one day and then ta-da you are pregnant, although we have all heard the stories. Months of trying, mapping, planning and ovulation kits, all while people constantly asking you when or if you are having a baby. Each month that it doesn’t happen grinds on you ever so slightly, even if you tell yourself you are in no hurry to get pregnant, there is always that fear in the back of your mind, what if I can’t?
2. Pregnancy is hard.
Yes, I am sure this is no surprise, you have all heard this. But it is not all great hair and cute round bumps. You may even, to your disgust, find yourself wondering if it is all worth it. Morning sickness, fatigue, mood swings, and that is just the first trimester. Third trimester, sciatic pain, hemorrhoids and maybe even some incontinence takes away all the confidence you ever had in your body. By the end you will be hot, tired and when people tell you are glowing you will wonder who the hell they are looking at. You will feel huge and gross and you lose the fear that you once had about labour, instead you are doing anything you can to bring it on so you can start to feel like a human again rather than a whale.
3. Choosing someone’s name is scary.
Everyone has names that they like. That is different to giving that name to someone. A name is so definitive. Choosing someone’s real life forever name is an enormous task, we didn’t want to stereotype our child before they were even born by the name we had given them. Maybe I am the only one who found this frightening, or maybe we found it harder than it actually was, but getting to Leo’s name was a long drawn out process, something much harder than I ever thought it would be.
4. You won’t care what happens in the delivery room.
It’s true what they say all dignity is lost. I did things in front of people who on a normal every day basis you would never do, but I don’t care. This was one of my biggest hang ups before going in to labour, I wanted a dignified labour. I didn’t want Duncan to see me in ways that cannot be unseen, but now that those things have happened I’m not fazed. The delivery room, in our relationship, has been like a cone of silence. Sure I can still remember Duncan being there through all the pain and bodily fluids, I’m sure he can still remember it too, etched in his memory like an extremely long movie. Duncan knows not to bring up the disgusting bits, because he is a gentleman and knows nothing before the safe arrival of Leo matters.
I could go on about how labour is scary and painful and to some horrific, but there is no need. Labour itself is not scary, the only thing about labour that is scary is the fear of the unknown, the fact that every one is different and you just can’t predict how yours will go. So that’s all I’ll say about that.
5. Having a baby stuffs your body.
First there is the postpartum bleeding, which is horrible and feels to be never-ending. Then the constant threat of pelvic floor dysfunction by every practitioner you see after birth, how you are meant to do pelvic floor exercises when it hurts to even sit down I will never know, and then your milk comes in and Oh My Gosh. I looked like Dolly Parton, I woke up day three of my baby’s life with watermelons attached to my chest. They were rock hard and painful, so painful in fact that I had to express just to be able to get to sleep, I know I am lucky I had so much milk but seriously. The first few days (lucky for me they were only days) of breastfeeding will make your toes curl, you will feel like a cow with udders and neither you or the calf knows what they are doing. All of this is just the early days, the months to come are filled with hair loss by the handful, uncomfortable sex, abdominal separation and the unpredictable, irregular, dreaded return of Aunt Flo. Not to mention the lines around your eyes that weren’t there before and the way you look slightly different but can’t quite put your finger on how.
6. Babies don’t come with manuals.
Three things that you quickly learn when becoming a parent;
So much of parenting is instinct, quite simply because there is no one size fits all method of parenting. What works for your baby will not work for someone elses.
For this reason, babies are hard. They do not know day, they do not know night. Every single thing about us as humans has to be learnt and the teaching process can be testing.
And thirdly, everyone else knows how to raise your baby. Advice will flood in from everywhere, friends of friends, even strangers in the supermarket, let it roll off, unless it is good, in that case use it! You are a new mother and despite your best efforts to be wonderful at it, you do not know a thing about what you are doing!
7. Babies are expensive.
It’s not so much the baby that is expensive, well their stuff is costly, but it is the dropping down to one income that is expensive. This alone has been probably one of my biggest stressors since becoming a parent. It is frightening, maintain all the current expenses you pay as a double income family and drop it down to half, maybe like us, if the woman was the breadwinner, drop it to less than half. So most of the things you buy will be on sale, and your baby will have a nicer wardrobe than you do for a while, you will dip into savings that you don’t want to dip in to. You consider going back to work way before you wanted to and you tell yourself that it is good to go back to get some adult interaction again just so you don’t feel guilty. You do what you can and you get by. One day you will tell your child how you did it hard once, marvelling at how you did it, proud that you did everything you could to support your family.
8. Parenthood tests your relationship.
In a way, a baby puts your relationship on the back burner. There is no longer time to go out on dates and all conversation tends to revolve around nappy changes and sleep routines. Before we had Leo we had plans to continue date night at least once a month. This did not happen. Going out for dinner was hard, night-time, between feeding and settling for bed, was hectic. For the first six weeks we ate in shifts, we soon realised our days of leisurely dinners and movie nights were over for a while.
If anything, having Leo has taught me that I married the right man. Duncan and I lived together, travelled together and even looked after small animals together, none of those things even comes remotely close to how much a small child will test your relationship. Sleep deprivation combined with a massive life change can be hard. You need a partner, an understanding, patient, helpful partner and although, there are times where the patience has worn thin, I am lucky I have that.
9. Motherhood can be boring and lonely.
And it’s OK to admit it. I was used to working in a busy workplace, constantly talking to people, constantly doing something. The change of pace takes some adjusting to.
Staying home when your husband gets to go off to work, leave the house and talk to people, some days you may even find yourself jealous of his freedom. I would find myself particularly jealous on those days when you are stuck, stranded to the couch, feeding your baby constantly on and off and only the company you have is that of daytime TV. I have walked more since having Leo than I think I have in my whole life and I am grateful we spent good money on a pram.
10. You are moulding a person.
This is by far the scariest thing of all.
When you have a baby, you don’t just get a baby, they soon turn into a toddler and then a child. Everyday they learn new things. They watch you, they mimic you, they even sometimes become mini versions of you. They take on your cynicism and your attitude, they copy your words and body language. You try to do every thing you can to raise a good person and you can only hope that what you are doing is working. The scary part being, you won’t know if you were doing the right thing for another fifteen years or so.
After writing this list, I realised, there is one frightening thing I am yet to mention.
The way that you love your child is unlike anything else. You don’t care that you endured months of morning sickness, or that the labour hurt. You don’t care that your body doesn’t look how it used to or that your date nights are postponed. Your love for them is indescribable. They make it all worth it because they are, quite simply, amazing.