A thesis on some of the finer points of first time motherhood.
- The first 6 weeks are hell
There is no pretty way to dress it up, or tell it another way. And like Nam, you don’t know unless you were there.
Nobody talks about it. Nobody warns you. But for 6 weeks you might as well be living in Guantanamo Bay – there is sleep deprivation, the food is awful and you live in constant fear. Fear you will drop the baby. Fear they will stop breathing. Fear they will never stop crying. Fear your in-laws will never leave. Fear you will never want your in-laws to leave.
Some days it feels like your love for your baby is closer to Stockholm Syndrome – you love him, you know he doesn’t mean to hurt you, and yet, if you could hide him under the bushes without Social Services getting involved you might. Like Bosco’s magic door, people have no idea what is going on behind your front door, but just assume it’s likely to resemble a zoo.
But then it passes. Like dawn arriving, it’s silent and you don’t realise it’s happening until the darkness lifts and brightness returns. And then you forget it ever happened, like a horrific event your mind blocks it out and supressed it to your subconscious, which is the reason the world has middle and youngest children.
- It’s no longer creepy to watch somebody sleep
And to add to that – now watching someone sleep is a completely acceptable group activity.
Forget the TV, you and your partner will pass many a happy moment just lying on the couch or bed watching your little one sleep. Some of this is joy they are no longer crying, some of it is to watch that they keep breathing, but mostly it’s because you are too tired to do anything else. Anyone who drops by during this moment will probably just sit down beside you and join in the staring.
- You realise Queen Bey, Christina Aguilera, Britters, Lily Allen, Pink – all your pop icon Mums lied to you
Ladies who have sung about all the heartbreak and hardship in life. Ladies who have taken on everyone and everything, declared what was womanhood, and said it how it was. They have sang about cheating, lying, orgasms, drinking, going to work, watching other people going to work, being back-stabbed, going on a night out, sleeping around, traveling, everything and anything and sometimes about nothing at all. You name it – they have a tune about it, and how you will overcome it. But another human gets ripped from your Ya-Ya ….. nothing – just an empty space on the record.
You would think somewhere along the way they might have dropped a hint. Somewhere between waxing lyrical about how much they love their kids and declaring war on any challengers in their absence, you think they might have mentioned, oh by the way, getting pregnant is great and all, but childbirth is hell, and after that, your body looks like a deflated balloon and your spirit, well best not talk about it really, but we made it through somehow and you will too. Nowhere in their songs of motherhood is there the mention of cracked nipples, tracking the ratio of wet:dirty nappies, or the elation felt when the baby finally burps.
- You become strangely competitive
Milestone check-ups and Mother/Baby groups seem to bring out the crazy in the most stable of people. Mothers morph from the Relaxed Mom “ah-he-has-ten-fingers-and-ten-toes-sure-he-is-a-grand-little-baby” to Stepford Mom “my-baby-can-lunge-at-10-weeks-clearly-he-is-Mensa-material-and-Harvard-would-be-lucky-to-have-him”.
Parents know in their right minds that very few grown adults are incapable of lifting their head, or moving it to both sides, and yet, coming up to that milestone check, they are training those babies like they are trying out for the Olympics. There is a daily schedule of practice time and rest time to be strictly followed. And once the baby passes the test? well, books back in the bag until it’s time to cram for the next one.
- Dirty nappies are no longer totally gross
You become very comfortable with a little baby sitting on your knee filling that nappy practically to the brim, because you know if it is coming out, there is enough going in the other end. Plus there will be less chance of colic and the sleepless nights of crying it brings with it, if everything is passing through the clearing house. Shit never smelt so good.
- Previous faults can now be disguised as enthusiastic mothering
All previous irritating habits and faux pas can now be twisted so that it does not appear that you are an annoying twat, rather you are An Awesome Mum:
Previously: OCD Clean Freak disinfecting everyone and thing in a 10 mile radius
Now: An Awesome Mum working fearlessly against the invasion of germs in any disguise
Previously: Social bore telling tedious stories that may be a reflection of her son’s genius or may be him passing wind.
Now: An awesome Mum of a possible over achiever
Previously: Over demanding pushy bitch
Now: An Awesome Mum just trying to get the best start from life for her kids
Previously: Self-obsessed narcissist only waiting for you to finish your dull story about skydiving from a speeding train while being tracked by international spies, so that she can tell the story of her kid’s dirty diaper again
Now: An awesome Mum concerned about her son’s health
- No matter what you are doing, someone will make you feel like you are doing the whole thing wrong.
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, gave birth vaginally or by C-section, have decided to conduct social experiments on your children by raising them with wolves or have opted for the more traditional route, everywhere you go someone will have an opinion.
My particular favourite is that something you are doing makes you ‘less of a Mom’. Now last time I checked the only criteria to being a Mom was having kids. There is no grey area. Either you have kids and are a Mom, or you do not have kids and are not. I can imagine that there is many a mother out there who has had to drive down to the police station to discuss her kids anti-social behaviour who would love to say to the arresting officer “Actually, I didn’t breastfeed him until he was three, so there is that possibility I am not 100% his Mom, and so therefore may not actually be liable for this fine.” I could imagine the officer’s response would not be open to that theoretical debate.
- “Well…. did you miss him?”
Leave your child for more than two seconds and this question will be asked. However, a little like the question “When did you stop beating your wife” there is really no correct answer. Say yes and you are an over-bearing possessive mother raising a clingy child. Say no and you are a callous bey-atch that does not deserve a child.
The real question should be what self-indulgent naughty thing do you get up to without them? Did you go into shops in old-fashioned cramped buildings with steps at the entrance and a windy staircase to the other level? Did you wander around expensive designer stores without worrying if you would have to buy something because it was now covered in puke? Did you sit in the cinema to watch the loudest action film you could find and stuff your face with noisy foods around nap time? Or did you just crawl back to bed and lie there, with a book and maybe a cup of tea, with no reason to get back out of it for hours. Paradise.