Wednesday, 16 September 2015

My plans went to hell and I couldn't be happier about it.

It's no surprise to the people who know me well that Dom was a complete surprise to me.  Having kids wasn't in the long-term plan and certainly wasn't in the short-term plan, just wasn't on my radar.  I was having fun, having boyfriend trouble, having the occasional meltdown, having to go to work with stinking hangovers, but was definitely NOT HAVING KIDS.  

And then, suddenly, I was.

All that stopped me from being the world's worst pregnant woman were the hormones, the planning and the new world of reading material that had opened up in front of me with this new situation.  I floated around in a mellow ocean for the first eight months or so, reading everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and birth and occasionally dipping my toes into the waters of "what will happen when the baby actually gets here."  I love having a project, so preparing the baby's room and researching my childcare options proved welcome distractions, preventing me from having to admit that I didn't actually believe the baby was real.

I wasn't losing my mind.  I was just losing my life as I knew it, and I wasn't sure how to deal with it, so I buried myself in paint colours, kellymom articles that seemed useful for those people who might actually need that sort of thing (you know, like people with babies), and cute little outfits for the baby I was half-convinced wasn't going to ever wear them.  My body was way ahead of my brain for the majority of my pregnancy.  

I was possibly the only pregnant woman ever who didn't just want it to be over with by the time the third trimester rolled around.  During the three years that made up my final month of pregnancy in a sweltering Barcelona summer and despite the fact that the 99% humidity arrived at the same time that the hormonal high waved goodbye, people asked me constantly if I was excited to meet the baby, if I couldn't wait, if I was ready.  I said yes to all of these things, because while I may have been delusional, I still knew that the answer they were looking for wasn't, "No, actually, I'd rather suffer the feet in the ribs, head in the bladder and utter discomfort forever than ever get to the end of this torture and have to actually be a real mother," so I smiled and laughed and nodded and cried when I got home, sure that I was going to fail and I was going to hate failure and the baby was going to hate me and that I'd ruined my life and his, plus his father's for good measure.  

Of course, I didn't believe this all of the time.  I didn't HATE the baby, I didn't NOT WANT the baby, I just was not mentally ready for the baby at all.  Thankfully, compared to Mat, I was on the ball and ready for anything - earthquakes, colic, triplets...  Having to pretend to be the grown-up meant that shit got done, regardless of my inner turmoil.  

So, in this maelstrom of emotions, the pregnancy progressed and Dom was eventually born.  It's as much a reflection on my state of mind throughout the pregnancy as evidence of the exhaustion of labour that, when Dom was born and Mat broke down, blubbing, "There he is!", I croaked out, "Who?".  During the birth, I'd become so overwhelmed and out of it that I'd forgotten who all these people were and why they were shouting at me, cutting me and pushing with their full weight on parts of me that would have protested about being tickled with a feather at that point.  Evidently my addled brain had eventually reached the conclusion that there were more of them than there was of me and if I did as they said, eventually they might stop torturing me. 

It worked and they did stop torturing me.  However, now was the moment of truth.  I HAD A BABY.  I hadn't broken him through not fully believing in his existence, though the birth itself had - we later discovered that, in the urgency to get him out, his collarbone had been broken.  Poor little angel, what a welcome to the world.  Someone breaks your tiny bones with giant metal spoons and your own mother is so out of it that she doesn't know who you are.  

I loved him from the start, but I didn't have that OH MY GOD I NEED HIM straight away, so I had to fake it so as not to leave everyone I met appalled at my lack of maternal instinct. On top of the agony and the exhaustion and the terror, I felt like I was faking being a mother and somebody would find me out.  I finally understood the clich√© of leaving the hospital and panicking because none of the staff have checked that you know what you're doing.  But, leave the hospital we did, and the next stage of our adventure began.

Oh, the tears, the fears, the agony.  NOBODY WARNS YOU ABOUT THE POST-BIRTH AGONY.  I hadn't made the connection between the nice nurses dropping in with tablets every few hours and my ability to shuffle to the bathroom.  Once we got home and I was armed with nothing stronger than paracetomol (I'd known you couldn't take ibruprofen during pregnancy and wrongly assumed that meant it was off limits when breastfeeding too), I realised just what a dog's dinner they'd made of my downstairs area.  I made this pleasant discovery around the same time that I realised just how difficult it is to walk, roll over, sit up or do anything except cry without involving your downstairs area in some way.  And Mat couldn't take any time off work.  

I dreaded Mat leaving for work. The days were short but the hours were so, so long. I couldn't walk, could barely move, and spent a lot of time wondering who I could call and how I could explain how much this hurt so that someone could tell me whether it was normal. 

I started to heal physically, which made things better, but then came the self-doubt. I'd been hit full force with the "I need my baby" stick shortly after getting home and way before the healing started, but sometimes I resented him so much because I just wanted to go and grab a pint of milk but that meant getting him dressed me dressed him dressed all over again oh now he's hungry and shit now he needs changing and I JUST WANT A CUP OF FUCKING TEA AND THERE'S NO MILK.  I hated not being able to just pick up my keys and walk out of the door, and I hated myself for feeling that way because, against all the odds, I had this amazing, beautiful, perfect son who I adored and who I didn't deserve and here I was sobbing because I wanted a cup of tea.

And then, slowly and yet suddenly, it got better. I learned how to be a mother. I didn't know we had to learn it like learning to drive or kiss or make lasagne. I thought it just happened and there was something wrong with me because it hadn't.  I remembered a particularly low point in my pregnancy, where I'd cried to Mat that all that lay ahead was stress, drudgery and hard work.  I hadn't realised that it could be enjoyable.  I hadn't realised that I'd feel like my soul had grown wings, never knew it was possible to feel good at something that I'd been so adamant I wouldn't be suited for, was completely blown away by the fact that I was LOVING this.  People told me after the first couple of months to start "getting my life back," and I thought they were mad.  Getting my life back?  This WAS my life, all of it, all I needed, all I'd ever need.  I laughed and cried at the thought that I'd seen only backbreaking toil ahead, like I'd somehow missed the rainbow because I was still complaining about the storm.  

Nowadays, things are a bit more balanced.  Dom is, of course, still my life and my world, but now I do embrace the rare occasion where I get to spread my wings for an evening or even a weekend.  He drives me absolutely crazy sometimes, but he makes me smile like my face is going to break.  He's the funniest person I've ever met, and coming from a Scouser, that takes some doing.  I'm so, so glad that he decided to be born, because I'd have never taken that plunge and if I hadn't, I'd have missed the best thing that ever happened to me.  He made me be a mother, and I'll be forever grateful.

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