Oh January. How full of hope you begin and how drunk and belligerent you end.
January brings change, no matter what anyone wants. Because we’ve all got to start writing a ‘7’ instead of a ‘6’ now which is a challenge that will stay with us until about November this year and just when we finally write it automatically it’ll be January again and we’ll be drunk and belligerent that we’re still in the same damn job and we’ll still be writing ‘7’ instead of an ‘8’ well into November again.
But anyhoo. Change.
Change is HARD.
Last year we had a full twelve months of change: a change we felt our lives needed and would be all the better for. Did we relish that? Embrace the chaos and unpredictability? Did we love the much smaller, much more detail oriented routines we found ourselves in?
We complained our asses off. All. The. Time.
When we were trying for Baby Bee, our lives were on permanently on hold for five very long and hard years – will this be the month??? It never was. There were a few false starts – four miscarriages where I got a break for up to four months but caused me to live in such a state of permanent fear and anxiety that when the last miscarriage was confirmed I was actually happy.
Plenty of months where I wore a moon cup to eliminate leakage (because sperms don’t know where to go when they’re fired up into the lady part apparently, and just fall out if there isn’t some kind of small plastic bowl wedged up in there to keep them on the right path). I probably wee’d on a thousand sticks (no exaggeration, I once wee’d on two of them just because my monthly bumper pack of 25 had arrived and I felt like ‘what the hell’ even though we’d not even hit ovulation that month – there’s something inexplicably addictive about watching that wet line pass up the blank white face and hoping and hoping and hoping …). I googled stuff that would make any woman cross their arms and go ‘oh honey, no’ – is implantation bleeding like a really heavy period? Negative tests and a period – could I still be pregnant? (btw – there’s always a woman on some forum somewhere who has a cousin who’s had whatever nuts you’re googling happen to her) I got caught feeling my boobs too many times at work for people not to start thinking there was something wrong with me.
And always. ALWAYS. That nagging, endless, yawning pain of failure. All. Of. The. Time.
And then, after ridiculous amounts of fertility treatments and a decision that I never thought I’d make, we had our Baby Bee.
Cue end titles.
Because we had our fairy tale ending, didn’t we? All that was needed was a blissful shot of R, me and Baby Bee snuggled up together fading into a love-heart.
Except wanting a baby and having a baby are two very different things. Imaginary baby sleeps, feeds, poos and cries in conjunction with your schedule and in a hazy yellow light in a house ten times bigger than you’ll ever be able to afford. You are romantically tired – hanging out in the kitchen at 3am with oozing boobs and a mum-bun, warm and cosy and edibly in love with this rosebud lipped delight. Real baby does not like to be held when he cries. Real baby will not latch and starves himself. Real baby’s eyes don’t smile adoringly back when you finally get a bottle into his mouth: they narrow while he judges you. Honestly: there is no more stab-you-in-the-gut moment than the look on a six week old’s face when you meet any of his needs. It wasn’t the crying that did it for me. It was the constant withering looks of eternal disappointment. He never looked at me with love. He looked at me with eyes that said ‘Man. Of all the mothers in all the world …’ That kind of thing.
A friend of mine said she felt like her baby hated her for a really long time. I totally get that. I was sure that Baby Bee would rather have had any other mother than me.
And the fact that I felt so utterly inept and hopeless at what everyone else seemed to relish made me feel even worse. I know that everyone finds it tough, but the mothers I knew seemed to find a kind of bleary-eyed bliss in the chaotic changes they were facing . But I didn’t. I found the change almost impossible. I didn’t blossom in my new role, this coveted place that I dreamed and dreamed of being in. I became totally panicked; keening for my own time and space like an addict. I didn’t find that being a mother changed me into anything other than this really selfish, grumpy, lazy person who JUST WANTS TO LIE DOWN AND NEVER GET UP AGAIN. I didn’t feel complete. I didn’t feel a magical energy between me and my little munchkin. I felt a sense of duty; a sense of responsibility; a sense of I WILL NEVER GO OUT AGAIN.
It took me a long time to know that I loved him and to enjoy him; to move beyond pure routine. It wasn’t instant – he was a little stranger who came into my life and ripped up everything I knew and made me feel like the new girl who’d accidentally turned up to assembly without any clothes on. I resented his neediness. His ingratitude (in this house we say THANK YOU when someone finds our dummy at 2.30am). His absolute insistence that he was the centre of everyone’s universe.
But I do love him. I always did. And now I can watch him toddle around, throwing duplo at the dog and chewing on a bit of kindling and think ‘he’s such a dude’. It was always there, buried beneath the shock and the horror at how, after five years and at the age of 40, the thing that I thought I’d always wanted was nothing like the dream. That it was really hard work. Like REALLY hard work. Not like working down mine. Or trench warfare. But a daily psychological battle between the person I had been – creative, flexible, upbeat, funny, good at what I did – to the person I needed to become – a mother.
The change happened whilst we were belly-aching about it – we shifted from being frightened chimps shrieking in the treetops at this monster stomping all over our jungle and are now, without even realising it, kicking back on a rock, gently guiding our offspring as he tries moment-by-moment to kill himself in the most inventive of ways whilst having a cup of tea and talking about the possibility of one day really going to the cinema.
Which brings me round to the change for 2017. Because what we like to do is really push ourselves and, in the midst of all the ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS?’ we got drunk, I let R get his funk on because he was right, it had been eighteen months and we weren’t dead, and we got magically, and statistically incomprehensibly, knocked up.
Our second miracle baby is due at the beginning of April and Baby Bee will be nineteen months old. And while I’m currently wavering between utter terror – the kind that leaves your throat just a teeny-tiny hole where only vomit can come up and no air can get in – and hormonal giddiness, the change I’m making for 2017 is to be prepared: be prepared to not fall instantly in love – no, friends who texted me and should’ve known better, it isn’t the most amazing feeling in the world, I’m lost and I could really do with someone saying ‘are you okay’? but whatever -, be prepared to stare at the walls wondering what the fuck we’ve done. Be prepared to find it boring and relentless. Be prepared that it might take time to understand what I need to do and how to do it and that whatever I do, as long as the baby stays alive, it’s okay.
Because becoming a parent is life-changing. Not in a gooey, love-heart eyed way but in a dirty, guts on the floor, hysterical WHERE’S THE EXIT kind of way. Nothing prepares you for life after that moment when you’ve shut the front door behind you and the car seat is hanging from your arm and the baby starts to stir and you suddenly realise that no-one else is going to come in and sort it out for you.
So the change for 2017: don’t sugar coat. Don’t pretend. Don’t hide it. Name the feelings. Be prepared to hate it. Be prepared to be angry and miserable. Be prepared to fall in love slowly. Be prepared that it gets better. Be prepared for that moment when your little monkey spots you across the room and his face lights up and his arms reach for you and he hugs himself into you because for all the fuck-ups and the times you’ve pretended you couldn’t hear him crying, he forgives you and actually really quite likes you.
2017: be prepared to be okay with just being okay.
And also that children are raised by villages not rabid lone she-wolves. But more on that another time.