I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. The sheer joy that overtook me. The readiness with which I accepted a future of morning sickness, dietary restrictions (I’m looking at you paté, soft cheeses and runny egg yolks – you are missed), heartburn, the excruciating pain of labour, and consequent sleepless nights.
I am so blessed to have this baby growing inside of me.
Right now, there are ten little fingers, and ten little toes inside of me. A baby who, when wriggling to get comfortable and go back to sleep, as we watched in grainy black and white, looked identical to his/her father. A profile like his or her brother. And a personality all of their own.
Inside me are two hearts beating. The second of which I hope, every day, continues to beat.
I have worried more than you could imagine. I know you are in there, baby, but I can’t see if you’re okay. I can’t hold you like your brother. Even though I may question myself at times with him – am I good enough? – I simply don’t know if I’m doing a good job with you.
You remain a secret to me.
I know I already love you. In a different way. Almost like my heart is slowly growing every day and I feel it must be too big for me now, the amount of love it has to hold.
But the truth is, I haven’t enjoyed pregnancy so far. And for that I feel so guilty.
I think, as a mother, you are constantly reminded of the things you should do, think, or feel. The word ‘grateful’ is mentioned a lot.
But it’s all relative parenting. I do not get as much time with my son, perhaps compared to the average. So for me, time away from him is painful, raw and incomplete. But, for you, maybe a small blessing. A chance to recuperate.
Our experiences are as different as we are people.
And, for me, I am finding this really hard.
I am not used to not being able to devote myself to things. Especially my son. I don’t like that I have to save up my energy, expel it with all of the enthusiasm I can muster, and then the wind is knocked from my sails before he’s even begun to enjoy me.
This weekend I tried really hard. We got out his craft box. He painted – a rather morbid looking cave. I tried to teach him to draw people. He was so nervous that he might get it wrong but giggled as I guided his hand. He’s left-handed, as is Mark, something that always makes me smile.
But it felt like it was over in a heartbeat. And then I was on the sofa, and calmly he understood and said: “Would you like to cuddle me under the blanket, Mama?” And I did very much.
But I felt so guilty. I felt like, already, this little baby was taking me away from my last moments with my big, little baby. I was mad that I had nothing left to give. And I was mad that everyone else could do so much more with him. And I was slipping to the back of the line when it came to the most exciting person in his life.
And it’s not just him. It’s the pressure of wanting to be as good as usual at work. And knowing that I’m not. Knowing that concentrating is harder when I’m willing the nausea to go away. Or feeling bad that I yawn in someone’s face. Again.
The guilt of knowing that I should be eating fruit and vegetables. And drinking lots of water. When all I can stomach are things that would normally be labelled as ‘bad’. Spending time in the kitchen, preparing a stew. Beef, carrots, onions, potatoes, mushrooms and swede. Cooking it for hours. And then throwing it all up hours later, for the first time in weeks. And crying your eyes out because it seems like the only thing to do at the time. Afterwards, sitting shakily at the other end of the sofa, worried that you smell of sick and embarrassed because you probably do.
It’s the emotions that you can’t control. The stress of getting this building work finished – something that shouldn’t bother me so much. The way Elsa (our cat) annoys me when she knocks over my mirror when I’m trying to get ready, because she wants food or affection, or a combination of the two. The panic I feel when I have five minutes to get Bill dressed and in the car, while trying my best to not forget everything he’ll need. The insecurity I feel as I stand next to Mark and feel like he looks as wonderful as always, and I seem so very big now. The isolation I feel because you do feel like you’re going through it alone. Even though millions of women have experienced it before you.
I chose all of this. And I am so lucky that I’m able to be in this position. So to say I’m finding it hard is a difficult thing to admit. Because I’m torn between wanting people to understand, and wanting people to accept me. To approve of me. And to tell me I’m doing a good job. Especially when part of me feels a little like I’m failing.
But then I feel a flutter. Hear a heartbeat. Or look at that scan photograph. Or at the three year-old boy who I endured it all for first, so I could hold him in my arms.
And of course it’s worth every second. It really is the first sacrifice a mother makes for her child. I know every symptom I have, means my baby is growing stronger. And then I want to say: “Take it, take everything you need.”
Can you be grateful for something? But also find it hard?