The first time a woman falls pregnant is pretty special; a time full of joy and wonder at all that’s ahead… Until you begin to share your joyful news, and horror stories are gleefully dispensed. Excitement turns to fear, until you find yourself inexplicably pregnant and asking the question ‘how hard is being a mum?’.
It starts so positively: you pee on that stick, and wait for the excruciatingly g-r-a-d-u-a-l result to emerge: pregnant. And even though this new life was planned, and no matter how (very) much wanted – it is still a shock of substantial magnitude. Suffice to say I felt the blood drain from my face.
Keeping my teeny tiny baby company in my tummy was an enigmatic cocktail of hormones and emotions.
My husband and I had planned to wait a few days before taking the test together; but early one morning I woke up with a vague feeling that I may be pregnant. And I couldn’t wait. I told myself I was being silly, but it was no good – I wasn’t going back to sleep until I’d seen the result. Even though I thought realistically it was:
- Too soon for me to have fallen;
- Too early for a positive result, even if I had fallen;
- Not exactly fair for me to do the test alone. Just. In. Case.
However, I also knew it was an inevitability I was taking that damn test. Alone. Immediately.
Mind made up, I snuck out of the bedroom. I was fully expecting to casually mention my folly to hubby over breakfast later. Only when I checked the test after three loooong minutes – it was positive.
Overwhelming Wonder of Pregnancy
Sitting on the bed in the spare room at silly o’clock in the morning, holding a pee-covered stick, I was awed already by the amalgam of micro entities enjoying a shindig in my abdomen.
I marched into our bedroom and switched the overhead bedroom light on, eliciting protests of ‘What in the name of all that’s holy… That’s brighter than the sun!’ etcetera. I delivered the news that would change both our lives forever, and we proceeded with the only acceptable reaction to such information: we both turned white and took a reverent moment of silence. And then jumped up and down on the bed and squealed a lot.
At which point we decided to grow up and go and buy a book to explain just exactly what we were letting ourselves in for…
Reality Sets In: How Hard Is Being a Mum?
Over the following few months we encountered many and varied a reaction to our news. But some common responses went something along these lines:
- ‘It’s SO hard.’
- ‘You’re mad.’
- ‘Just you wait…’
- ‘I hope you know what you’re doing.’
Not exactly supportive – particularly when delivered in an arguably menacing tone.
It was getting me down to such a degree that my default opening in most conversations was to vocalise my growing irritation, thereby thwarting any opportunity to panic me further. I let it be known that since it was too late to change our minds(!), I needed to be reminded of the positive reasons that we’d made this life-altering decision.
Because frankly, I wasn’t just pregnant and scared – I was becoming bloody terrified.
Is It Really That Hard to Be a Mum?
New parents are basically doing to mums-to-be the equivalent of telling small children Santa isn’t real. Essentially, in anticipation of early motherhood being difficult, they are sullying parenthood and tarnishing the transcendent experience of pregnancy. Which achieves precisely nothing – apart from the opportunity for a good moan, of course.
I recently bumped into a pal who told me that she now makes sure to let her pregnant friends know just how tough it is. She explained her noble intention of disabusing them of their misconceptions; yet went on to say that NOTHING can prepare you for the laborious undertaking of nurturing a baby. I didn’t want to appear provocative, so I simply smiled benignly.
Because I do get it. Of course I do – I’ve done it; I’m doing it.
But I quietly noted the contradiction in her words. And since it’s the only thing I can do in support of any blissfully naive and innocent women, I felt compelled to write this post.
Redressing the Balance, Because You Shouldn’t Be Pregnant and Scared
So, pregnant and terrified ladies, just how hard is being a mum? Amidst all the unhelpful prattle, here is what you actually need to be reminded of and look forward to at this vulnerable time:
- That baby smell. It’s like nothing else. Even their mustard poos smell divine;
- Those feelings elicited by their tiny fist curled around your finger;
- The wisdom in their eyes as they bore into your soul;
- The way the whisper of a puff escaping from their peachy little bottom makes your breath catch;
- ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ has never been truer: take half of you and half of the man you love, put them together and you create…one tiny miracle;
- No matter how many times you hold that little person, you will never quite comprehend the magic of your body having grown another human being;
- The overwhelming, all-consuming love that has lain dormant your whole life, just waiting for the moment that you become a mother;
- The strength of character you don’t yet know is within you. That which will see you through childbirth, sleep-deprivation, the tedium of nursery rhymes, the humiliation of supermarket meltdowns;
- The capacity they hold within one smile to thaw your frustrations and soothe your soul;
- The fact that you would kill for them or die for them, in a heartbeat. You won’t truly believe the extent of this truth until you experience it – or the feelings evoked, hopefully not actual murder or death;
- The way in which seeing your partner and baby having a precious moment can spontaneously bring you to tears.
These are just some of the reasons that becoming a mother is totally worth everything else that goes along with the most important job you will ever do. The instantaneous support network that springs up around new mums is pretty awesome too. A friend best described it as akin to a secret club to which you suddenly gain access. ‘Tis true.
And remember – many women go on to have more babies. So it can’t be that awful, after all. (Literally as I sit writing this post, I’ve just interrupted my flow to exchange words with a new mum of a two-week old baby boy, whose sleepy face twisted my insides into an approximation of broodiness. Yet this would shock anyone who read the post I recently wrote about baby sleep!)
I implore my fellow new parents to join me and refrain from distressing the naïve. The rest can wait to be bestowed in the form of that support network I mentioned – after the baby has arrived.
Besides which, unless mums-to-be have been living under a rock, I dare say they have a fair idea of it not being all hearts and flowers, and glamorous mornings filled with coffee and cake. (Though, in my experience, there are a lot of unglamorous coffee and cake mornings. And afternoons. And lunches. Essentially, when you’re breastfeeding, cake is acceptable at any and all times of the day.
So I say – let the unsuspecting retain their innocence while they can. I shan’t lie to those who ask, but I shall endeavour not to burden those who don’t.
Blissful ignorance is a gift to be treasured for as long as possible. It’s one of the loveliest and most magical aspects of the entire process of having your first baby: those virtuous hopes and dreams you have for the future.
Have you encountered a lack of consideration to your happy news, or have you experienced more thoughtful reactions?