Wednesday, January 4

Motherhood myths

So much for resolutions; I was fifteen minutes late for work arriving with unbrushed hair and sneaking my toothbrush in my handbag to quickly do en-route. I thought things were supposed to get easier as baby got older! My "baby brain" seems to be disintegrating at an alarming rate.

As life plods on and Wriggles grows up there appear to be a wealth of things creeping out the woodwork that you either don't get told about or get brushed under the carpet very quickly.

1. The birth of your child is the happiest day of your life

This is my personal bugbear as unfortunately Wriggles' birth was a very traumatic event for I think, both of us. It was one of the worst days of my life as I had no idea if my baby would survive let alone unscathed and according a midwife full of cheer, I was very lucky to still be there too. I gave birth alas with no medical assistance as it came very quickly and had to resuscitate my daughter prior to the arrival of the paramedics before being rushed to theatre myself. I only fleetingly saw her the day after, did not hold her for days and only got skin to skin at a month old. Some jolly day that birth was then.
2. Breast is Best

This is controversial, and I'm not actually disputing. It is best. I am convinced of that fact and stand in awe of mothers that breastfeed and express, whether for a day or a year or longer. It is a skill I never have had. What I do ever so slightly wish though is that formula was not referred to snidely by some people. As my child was premature, I don't regret (mostly) that she was fed on formula as it was a specific recipe designed to meet her needs she had missed out in utero. It also gave us the opportunity to take part in a medical trial, trialling a new formula for premature and low birth weight children which hopefully will make the road smoother for future parents. As a non-breastfeeder I can't comment on whether it was easier bottle feeding, but I suspect bar any physical pain and mastitis, feeding any very small 'want it noooooooooooow!' infant is very very very exhausting. Why do they want to feed excessively small amounts every fifteen minutes? Why 4am? Why?!

3. Mothers will instinctively know what their child wants and needs

Well, this is true I would say at about 6 months into it if you are lucky. Either that or I am incredibly unintuitive. Poor Wriggles. I found the early days like wading through a fog with a blindfold on, desperately fumbling with an unerring sense I might be doing it wrong and subjecting my poor child to misery. I doubt this was true, but it felt like everything was a stab in the dark and making a decision came down to a case of whittling things down. Every vomit seemed a damnation of my parenting ("Oh that'll be reflux!" trilled a GP only about eight long months later) and every exploding nappy up to the neck felt a punishment.

4. Cliches.

Most of the cliches are true and yet no one seems to appreciate it when you have had three minutes sleep for 4 weeks running, could pack a suitcase for a family of nineteen under your eyes and cannot remember the concept of matching socks let alone find any. Birth hurts but no one wants to hear after it happened, you love your child uncontrollably but people get bored after the ninth hour of you waxing lyrical about nappy contents and you do forget everything, not that your boss takes that as an excuse why you photocopied everything upside down... The worst one is exhaustion. Even that word does not sum up the real feeling of it when your limbs feel like a ton of bricks and if you admit it, you're likely to be met with a jolly "Oh it can't be that bad!". As you gravely grip a cup of super-strength coffee and dream of lie-ins (are they a myth?) the whole world appears to be tripping around on roses and yet you feel like death. Except you don't have time to.

5. Life is never the same

So this one isn't a myth. But you don't appreciate in until your life is upside down and doesn't appear to be re-turning anytime soon. In fact, it seems to have shifted to another orbit entirely without consulting you first. Once your newborn comes home with you, everything revolves around them, and rightly so. At 16 months, I have forgotten what life used to be like and it is only now I am beginning to think about reclaiming a tiny tiny bit of 'my' life back, far less doing anything about it yet. That might be next years new resolution. The practical details (no, I can't come to the pub at fifteen minutes short notice/take the baby to the restaurant and keep her quiet under the table/etc) and immense and overwhelming at time. Everything has to military precision otherwise it all falls apart, normally in public when favourite Mouse has got misplaced, you ran out of milk and your soup has been kindly upturned on your lap. I have a sneaking suspicion that my childless friends look on in wry humour, like I did I must admit, thinking that will never be me. I will have a perfect pink-cheeked baby who will quietly follow my instructions as we travel around going from coffee shop to quaint bistro... wake up! There are days when I really wonder what is worth what; is working work it, is trying to do a gazillion (I wish!) stimulating sessions worth it, it is really worth dredging around playgroup to playgroup to find one that doesn't make your toes crawl? (I did find two lovely groups for the record) As a singleton pre-child, you never imagine salvation to come kneeling in a draughty church community centre with hair sticking up and yesterdays food-stained cardigan still on and comparing notes on lack of sleep. But the flip side to this, is you never imagine the pure joy a gummy grin in the morning can bring, how a cuddle can pierce your heart and the privilege of watching a little person develop and become themselves in their own right. So apart from work, I haven't actually yet had a period of time apart from my daughter? Frankly I don't really mind yet. The hours I spend with her make up for it all. A little hand on my knee can miraculously melt away the frustration of the previous hour, like nothing else. Not even kitkats can do that...


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