Before I fell pregnant, I had a somewhat rose-tinted view of what it would be like. I imagined peeing on a stick, one hand clenching the results and the other placed tenderly in my Husband’s grasp. We’d see the pink line appear and jump harmoniously, tears of joy running down our cheeks. The reality? I took the test alone in a local supermarket toilet (which was a good place to be considering I nearly shit myself when I saw the positive symbol). Nobody had prepared me for that initial surge of emotions. Holy crap – I was about to become responsible for keeping someone ALIVE.
As I embarked on my journey through pregnancy, I discovered that there was lots of things women ‘hid’ from each other. Some of which I may have been grateful for but some left me feeling cheated by womankind. Why had no-one told me what it was really like?
So here I am, baring the truth (or my perception of it, I know we all have different experiences).
People told me that I’d instinctively know when I was pregnant, that I’d feel different. It’s true, I did spot differences but I’m not entirely sure I believed they were pregnancy related to begin.
I recall the day before I took ‘the test’. I was at Bamburgh Castle with a few of my closest friends. I remember confiding in them that my ‘area’ felt different, a little wider, less able to fit in a thong so comfortably. I simply put it down to the few extra pounds I seemed to have gained, in spite of dieting excessively to fit in my bikini a week later. I was 9 weeks on when I took the test – and already showing.
So, now with an explanation in hand, the fun really started. Having already expressed that my perception of pregnancy was Hollywood influenced, I looked forward to the glow and compliments of radiating beauty.
This part I skipped – both times round. My glow was more of a luminous shine created by the several hot flushes I’d experience in an hour. My compliments came in the form of ‘well isn’t your face round these days’ and ‘you won’t look tired forever…just until your child is 5’. I mean, I had moments where I could cry at the way I looked but I knew it was short lived. I managed to find positives in most things (like when my face filled up with fluid and gave me a free Khloe Kardashian lip makeover).
Another thing I wasn’t expecting was the speed in which my leg hair would grow. In the early days I shaved those bad boys…every day! Sure enough, I’d wake up each morning appalled at the sandpaper texture of my pins. It was manic. Then…I became too damn fat and could no longer reach them. After a while, my priorities lay elsewhere and the legs became neglected. There was an awful moment when I was 35 weeks pregnant. I’d been Chief Bridesmaid at my Best Friend’s wedding the day before. As a treat, my husband had arranged a leg and foot massage to help me feel better after standing so much at the wedding. It wasn’t until I was laid bare from the waist down on the massage table that I realised my legs hadn’t been touched in maybe 5 weeks. I felt hideous.
Then there was the wind – the painfully loud and blatantly obvious wind. I think this part speaks for itself.
Between the sweat, the farts and the leg hair, I can vouch that pregnancy is not always as glamorous as the Movies make it out to be. However, even they don’t document afterbirth.
So here I was, in labour. Now the one thing I had been prepared for was the possibility that I’d open my bowels on the baby’s head. Honestly? In the heat of the moment after nearly 11 hours of pushing and 15 hours of labour, I couldn’t have cared a less. In fact, I would have welcomed it if it made the tinker extract himself any quicker.
In the Movies, I’d deliver my baby and scoop him up in a loving embrace. My hair would be perfect and my make up would still be in tact. I’d get up from the bed and head home, several stone lighter and in perfect form.
The reality? I think being hit by a bus would be less painful. Oh yeah, and thanks for the heads up about how my ‘lady garden’ would be feeling. Despairingly, I convinced myself that I’d had a prolapse. I made six Doctors/Midwives check me in several positions to make sure I was in working order. They all told me the same outcome – I was fine. The seventh Doctor (a 40 something year old man) told me ‘I’ll check you again but then really, you need to draw a line under this’. I listened to him but never fully believed him until one morning, nearly two weeks later, I stood up and felt ‘normal’ again. So, what had been wrong with my Foof? swelling! Yes, apparently after the trauma of childbirth, one’s delicate place can be quite swollen. Remember this one and save yourself the embarrassment of getting in trouble with your Husband for flashing Doctors left, right and centre.
Now comes my last glamorous point, the 1st time you try to open your bowels will feel as though you’re pushing your insides out. Good luck with that…
But every cloud has a silver lining doesn’t it? This one simply couldn’t be better either. You’ll have heard about how much you’ll love your own baby but seriously, it’s indescribable. It makes all of the above disappear in a single heartbeat and completely worth it.
You were 10 weeks old when your sister was conceived. It was not something we’d planned for so soon but something we’d definitely hoped for in the future. You were our firstborn and had shown us a different way of life. Before you, there had been laziness and selfishness. You’d opened our eyes to what life was all about and your newborn radiance was simply addictive. Suddenly, we knew that we needed more children.
Even still, we’d hoped to wait a little longer than we did. When Siena chose us as parents, the feeling was completely surreal. With you, there had only been joy. From the tiny pink line that indicated you were baking, love and excitement had ran through our blood. We were changing, getting ready for parenthood and couldn’t wait for your arrival. When the tiny pink line appeared only 15 weeks after your birth, we were left momentarily petrified. Not because we didn’t want Siena, we wanted her more than our hearts could imagine. We were petrified for you. You were so young, just budding and you needed us so much.
Although still overjoyed, It was very clear that your happiness was at the heart of everyone’s thoughts. I’ll never forget the reactions we encountered as we broke the news of our second bundle. ‘What about poor Tristan?’ They chorused. ‘He’s too young’ they said. We sensed their anxieties, heard them muffled in their throats. They stood out louder because they were all anxieties we’d dealt with to begin. The most upsetting reaction we encountered left me tormented throughout your sister’s pregnancy. ‘Tristan will have to grow up on his own, he’ll have to grow up very quickly now’. It tormented me because it made me feel so guilty. I’d loved every sleepless second of your childhood (okay, maybe that’s rose tinted, you’d been hard work but completely worth it). I didn’t want to put an end to the fun we’d been having, I didn’t want you to ever become anything less than my main priority. I certainly didn’t want you to feels as though I didn’t care about watching you grow, I cared so much.
You should have been nearly one by the time Siena would arrive – old enough to recognise change but not old enough to understand. This gave us time, time to form that inseparable bond I hope we never lose. I didn’t want to deprive you of your childhood, I wanted to dedicate ever waking second to you. I didn’t want to rush you to grow, I wanted to slow time down and keep a hold of you. You were by far the most precious jewel in my possession. I wanted to nurse you and protect you for all eternity. I made a promise that until Siena arrived, your every need would be my main priority. I was determined that having a pregnant Mam wouldn’t affect you in any sense.
So, until the day I delivered (and even in the delivery room), I was there for you. I lay on the floor and stared into your eyes as I encouraged you to do Tummy Time, I sat legs apart and passed the ball back and forth, back and forth a million times. I carried you on my hip through supermarkets and shops, beaches, parks and riversides. I gave you your bottle and snuggled into you each night, stretched over your cot to make sure you didn’t stir as I put your sleepy body back to bed. I was your Mother and there wasn’t one thing that would stop me from caring for you the way that you needed me to.
Then Siena arrived and our world suddenly came to a halt.
She was so poorly and needed me so badly. I had no choice but to break our deal and make her my priority. Momentarily, you were forced to ‘grow up on your own’ and it broke my heart. Now you’re 15 months old and we’re back to trying our best. Siena still needs me but we all need each other just as much. I watch you with her, gentle and caring. You beam when she enters the room, love to be near her. There’ll come an age when you’ll play wit each other, I used to worry but now I know I needn’t. I dedicate my time to making sure you cherish each second of your childhood. I make sure each day is spent making memories and living experiences. I’ve maintained your baby routine, make sure it’s me that gives you your bottle, make sure it’s me that puts you to bed. Throughout it all, I listen to your giggle, I marvel at your smile and I ask myself, how could I have stolen your childhood? It’s still very much your own.
There’s plenty controversy surrounding the issue of Breastfeeding in the Media of recent. The debate over bottle v breastfed babies is spiralling out of control, it’s to the point of teetering on ridiculous. As a mother of two, I have my own opinions on this matter. Opinions that rival those of millions.
Don’t let me go to sleep Mammy, I don’t like it when it’s dark. I can’t see your beautiful face. I search for it Mammy but all I see is black. I try my hardest to recall you, to summon your features, to picture you exactly as you are but its hard. Sometimes I manage and can’t but help smile. Even though I’m sleeping, it’s you that makes me happy. That smile that you’ll claim is simply ‘just wind’ is because I saw you in my mind but it doesn’t last Mammy, you vanish quickly then I’m left feeling alone again, abandoned without your face.
Before my children were born, I lived in a world of ignorant bliss. My idealistic views of Motherhood stemmed from American Soap Operas and Chick Flicks. They were, in truth, Disney influenced.
It took me three weeks to fully adjust to Motherhood. That was, three weeks of making myself Ill with torture. Don’t get me wrong, and I know you’ll understand me, I LOVED my babies. I loved them so much that my heart would literally beat outside of my chest. The worry and anxiety I felt was all BECAUSE I loved them more that I’d ever known possible. The pressure I put on myself was all because I wanted to be the very best for them. It took me three weeks to learn that these feelings were normal, that many new mothers feel exactly that same as I did. It’s taken me a full year to say this out loud. And even now, I know there’ll be some who judge me. Some who will never understand because they never felt that way. I envy them but only for their ‘perfect’ transition. A full year on and I’m confident in my abilities. I hold my head high (even throughout the tantrums) and KNOW that I’m good. My children are happy, they’re blessed with a loving home. Their laughter and smiles reassure me that I’m on track and…eventually…I can say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’.