Wednesday, April 29

Pregnancy Diaries, Vol. III

I have read many letters to mums-to-be, and I’ve decided to stop.

They are shared on social media frequently, they are our society being honest and vulnerable about a transformative time in a woman’s life. They begin the same way, “you think that it’s going to be all love and snuggles when your baby arrives, and I’m here to tell you what I wish I’d been told.”

And then they share about the darkness of the earliest weeks, the parts that rocked them to their core, the bits they never expected. They let those of us exepecting oxytocin and bliss in on the truth which is never spoken about.

Except, it’s the truth I’ve heard a hundred times. A hundred scary times.

I will become shell of my former self, I will feel scared, and lonely, and pathetic. I’ll be breastfeeding in agony, and I will sob every hour. I will bleed, my baby will cry for hours, and I will not shower for days. I won’t sleep, and I will move through my days as a zombie, until a few months later I will emerge and climb into a sweeter rhythm.

I don’t discount a letter they write. I feel the honesty pouring off the page. I will probably write posts just as raw, emulating these cries of suffering, in five months times.

But I won’t write them especially for expectant mums. Because expectant mums are already expecting exactly that.

Ben was ready to take the plunge into parenthood, while I was stuck on just how lowly it sounded. I have felt the cruelty of insomnia, the daze of the following day. The loneliness of depression, the inability to leave the house. The struggle to take a shower, the pain that doesn’t resolve quickly. I was instructed there is nothing you can do to prepare, and so the information seemed to flood me with foreboding. I battled for 365 days straight over the question of whether I should dare to voluntarily go to this dark place. I was chewed up and spat out by my desire to mother and my realism about what was coming.

The letters do end with a beautiful promise that the love for the baby is overpowering and like nothing you can imagine. The trouble is that the only bit of the letter you can relate to from past experience is the suffering, because you can’t fathom that depth of love. So the suffering remains in your mind. You’re still left scared.

Occasionally I wondered if the warnings are like the marriage ones we received – how bad the first five years would be. I mused: is it remotely possible that motherhood could be like the last 4.5 years married to Ben, a blatant contrast to society’s predictions of doom?

On this one, I’m inclined to believe it may be as challenging as I’ve heard.

I am grateful that when the time comes that I have a newborn, and I am struggling to float, I will not feel as though I am experiencing lows uncommon to womankind. I will cling to the stories that the pain is normal, the pain is not forever.

But I wonder if the information could be shared not as early warning, but in a season of empathy. At the right time, these words will be a balm. 

We are warned of the agony of labour, the misery of early motherhood, the tiredness that will unhinge us, the expense of children, the end of freedom, the strain on our marriage. And we’re warned before hand, when there is nothing we can do but open ours eye wide in fright, or run the other way. We’re warned before the times when the information is a comforting ‘ah, you too’, and after the biological desire to reproduce has heavily hit us.

After all the warning, we are frightened. So encourage us.  

When we are drowning, then share how you were too, and how you swam to shore.

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