There is something really exciting about being pregnant with your first planned and longed for child; seeing their little heart beating on the monitor for the first time, picking out toys and bedding and adorable clothing, taking advantage of your pre-natal class of choice (aqua natal in my case), meeting new friends in the same situation and feeling those first little kicks (from the baby, not your new friends hopefully!).
For all those reasons in September 2009, at the age of 38, I had the biggest shock of my life (and we’re not even talking about labour and birth here) when JJ made his appearance in the world fully loaded with colic.
I duly posted a birth announcement and pics on my Facebook timeline and back came that most memorable of comments “Congratulations honey – now the fun begins“.
JJ was what might be described as a “fussy baby” and along with the sleepless nights, sore and bleeding nipples (TMI!) and a delicate sensibility, it felt as though I had stepped off the top of a tall building and was in complete freefall.
Only at this point does it occur to you that you have taken on a literally 24/7 job, which you have flip all qualifications for and cannot quit at any time. I don’t think the commonly used phrase ‘Baby Blues’ in any way covers how I felt for at least the first four months although I’m not sure it went as far as post natal depression either.
I remember clearly seeing other people in local parks with 2 or more children and feeling completely uncomprehending of how anyone could possibly want to put themselves through this experience more than once. People told me it would get better but I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and spent hours trawling through forums, zines and blogs searching for believable, convincing, reasons why this decision I’d made to become a parent was the right one and what good it was actually bringing into my life.
Ironically in doing so I also found a lot of negativity from child-free commentators who seemed to be pointing at me personally, with a derisive laugh, taunting “look at you, slave to your biological imperative, you’ll never be free, and in the meantime here I am, lying in until ten before cruising off for a leisurely brunch and a trip to the spa”.
On the other side of the coin, and somewhat lamely in my opinion at the time, the odd doting parent protested that having a little person to love you unconditionally, hearing them come out with the funniest things, that warm fuzzy feeling when they giggle or give you a kiss, watching them sleep – you get the idea – made it all worthwhile.
None of those things relate to a screaming newborn. And none of them gave me any comfort or set my mind at rest that I had done the right thing.
In fact the whole thing seemed a bit like a self-deluding attempt to justify a poor life decision and the child-free denouncers were quick to back up that viewpoint, for example “You’re trying to tell me that two hours of nagging, whingeing and screaming is instantly cancelled out when little Johnny finally calms down and mispronounces par cark – how we all laughed! Give me a night down the pub with my mates any day”.
The panic properly set in then – will I really be spending the rest of my life covering up pervasive unhappiness with a thin veil of self-delusion?
Nearly four years later down the line and with a second, completely planned and adorable (non-colicky) baby, I can see the situation so much more clearly and all those ‘reasons to be cheerful’ about parenthood come into focus. I know now that the expression ‘this too shall pass’ is utterly relevant and that what all those goading, free-time flaunting nay-sayers don’t see is that the most valuable, precious parts of your life are the parts you have to work the hardest for; they appear to be robbing you of your time/ your sense of self, but a few short years later you begin to get that back and these arguments fall down.
I’ll admit I’m not quite there yet but I can see it coming and this blog is the start of it for me.
What once seemed like smug, snide comments from child free commentators now seem to have missed the point completely and I’m part of that lucky club of people who know the true secret to lasting happiness, and its more than the sum of its parts.