The decision to have kids was one that my husband and I had made years before we got married.
It wasn’t a decision as such, more of an agreement on what we had always wanted for our lives together – to raise a family and live happily ever after. So when we decided to start trying for a baby and then fell pregnant straight away, I couldn’t believe how perfectly things had gone for us. When I say ‘I couldn’t believe it…’ I mean that quite literally – I couldn’t accept that things had happened so easily and I convinced myself that the pregnancy would fail. It wasn’t all in my head – there were worrying signs that the pregnancy may not progress, and as these continued and the weeks went on I resigned myself to miscarriage in an effort to prepare myself for a loss. I was worried, sad, and miserable, and felt unable to take any joy in what was meant to be one of the most exciting stages of my married life. I found these early months of the pregnancy very difficult, and I wish we had sought the support and warmth of My Midwives earlier than we did.
And so I couldn’t believe the image on the monitor when we went for our 12-week scan – a perfectly formed baby that kicked and wiggled about. Wow, I really was going to have a baby! I loved every minute of the remainder of my pregnancy, and relished the excitement and anticipation that my husband and I shared.
Things continued well for us with the birth of our daughter. We had a healthy little girl who fed and slept well, was loved by many and seemed happy and content. She is what most people would call an ‘easy’ baby, although I wonder how many first-time mothers actually use this term. Of all the advice I was given when pregnant (and there was plenty!) the comment I was most grateful for in those early weeks was this: “Remember, even if you have an ‘easy’ baby, it’s still okay to find it hard.” I have somewhat of a short tether, and I’ve always worried that my tendency to become easily frustrated would be a major shortcoming in my abilities as a mother. I can’t remember how old my baby was the first time that I yelled at her when she wouldn’t stop crying, but I do remember the shocked look on her little face. I quickly put her in her bassinette and walked into the lounge room and sat down and cried. My fears were confirmed – I couldn’t handle caring for a baby. How was I going to cope when she was a toddler? What about when I had more than one child to care for? The disappointment I felt in myself was matched only by my guilt for what I had done. I wish I could say I never lost my temper and yelled at her again, but I’m sure in the haze of those sleep-deprived early weeks it happened more than once.
Everyone said that things would get easier, and gradually they have. I know that I feel more like myself now; however I know that fundamentally I am forever changed. It’s not a piece of my heart that is attached to my daughter – it feels more like a piece of my gut, my core. It’s hard to describe, but I live in a whole different world now, and she is at its centre.
I realise now that of all the expectations I had of how life as a mother would be, what I wasn’t prepared for was the love. Nothing can prepare you for that. It sort of snuck up on me until I realised it one day when she smiled gently at me from her cot. The love grows with each grasp of her little hand, gazes from big blue eyes that look up at me while she feeds, and smiles that transform her little face. Each gummy grin she bestows makes my eyes water with tears. She has been smiling for weeks, and I am still afflicted with my misty-eyed condition! How long does this last for? Surely I can endure a smile dry-eyed one day?
The best part is that I know it’s going to keep getting even better. I know the challenging times aren’t over, and I know that in some ways, it is the love that will make things really hard sometimes. But I think that it’s the love that will get us through, too.