A few lovely people in my life are expecting their first babies this year…
It’s such an incredible time of your life and remembering all those excited, uncertain moment before Munchkin was born feels very bittersweet.
On the one hand, it’s so special and so exciting, and you’re so blissfully clueless about it all – those dreams of your perfect, soft, sweet milky-smelling baby, slumbering peacefully in a shady spot while you waft about the garden in a floaty dress seem really really possible.
On the other hand, I look at how much I didn’t know, how much there was to learn, how much time I spent charting the size and shape of my little orange pip or watermelon, how I read and read and read about pregnancy, and immersed myself fully in every birth theory and approach going. I was the queen of the theoretical pregnancy and birth. I knew every school of thought going. It never occurred to me, until about Week 38, that I might need to know what to do with this baby when it finally arrived.
And, it never occurred to me that all those people who told me how hard it was and how I really should appreciate this time before the baby arrived were telling the truth. I was sure that they were just making a big deal of something ‘natural, and wonderful and exciting and amazing’ and that I wasn’t going to make such a meal of it all. I was going be so relaxed. Such a happy, earth mother.
Probably I should have listened to them. But probably it wouldn’t have made any difference.
How can you prepare yourself for something that is, at times, bloody awful? You can’t. You’re already knocked up, there’s no eject button, this baby is coming and parenthood, in all its crazy, stupid, love, will be yours. As my mother wisely said a million times in those early days: “Head down darling, just keep going.”
I came across this email the other day that I wrote to a pregnant friend of mine, just after she’d popped round to meet my new three week old baby. Obviously, most of that time is a demented blur, but I do recall I talked at her and her husband incessantly for over an hour about how hard it was, how tired I was, how there’s no let up, how they’ll need more than just each other to get through it, how I wanted to go back to work rather than be stuck in the house with a screaming baby – all the while juggling a screeching newborn on my lap. And then they left.
Well done me. I recall watching them walk down the drive, and thinking…’whoops’. So I fired off a hasty email: “Lovely to see you tonight. Hope it wasn’t too overwhelming for you – I realised when you’d left that I’d done to you exactly what a friend with a new baby did to me when I was five months pregnant – talk at me incessantly with endless well-meaning advice that just made me want to go and hide under a rock!! I am sorry. Pls ignore most of what I said – especially anything that scared you! Can I claim baby brain and being slightly sleep starved?! ”
Ha! This is hilarious to read now. It was so true. And actually everything I told her was true. So true. But, of course, my dear friend was still BB (Before Baby) and in that blissful stage of believing it would all be different for her – “Don’t worry we are still really excited about everything. It’s a big new adventure!” she replied… Hmmmm. I’ll remind her of that one day…
The reality is that I can’t say I wish I’d listened when everyone told me it was going to be so hard. Because I wouldn’t have listened. And – really – why dread something, that you can’t avoid? Why not just look forward to it with blissful ignorance, and then deal with the reality of it when it arrives? I hear people sometimes saying that they were ‘totally unprepared for parenthood’. How do you ‘prepare for parenthood’? Nothing in life is so radically life-altering as a new life. Nothing.
So, embrace the ignorance, wallow in the days of sweet dreams and great plans, and then, plunge head first in parenthood, and let it just all wash over you.
Enjoy the ride…it’s not like you can get off it any time soon anyway….