As a first timer in my last pregnancy I had no fears.
That is a bit odd considering every book you read often starts with ‘you probably have a few fears’ blah blah.
I had no fears because I had absolutely no idea what I had got myself in to.
I remember friends of ours saying ‘nothing can prepare you for the night feeds and the lack of sleep’.
Not even that prepared me. They literally said it exactly as it is and I still didn’t get it.
The place where I experienced the fear was in labour. Now that was true terror because I had used all the wrong resources in preparation for it. The ‘Active Management’ resources.
This time round, though, I know exactly what to expect. I know how hard it is.
Hard, yet rewarding. Although, I think you don’t truly start reaping those rewards until you have a wild and wonderful toddler showing you what life is really about.
Before that- it’s just really feckin’ hard not being self-centred anymore.
And I don’t mean self-centered in an egotistical or narcissistic way, just in a reality way. We are all self-centered until we become parents when the self if pushed aside for a while.
My guess is that since my self is already set aside this next baby won’t hit us as hard.
Hopefully… (Insert nail biting wide eyed cartoon here)
This time I have a real fear because I know that I have a good pragmatic reason to be afraid this time.
Mainly the thought of the lack of sleep and then getting up early and trying to a nice person to my toddler. That is my biggest fear.
But there is more to it than fear.
No book ever talks about subsequent children and about parental guilt.
I am not one to dwell on guilt. It is a usless emotion.
But I am big on being self responsible, acknowledging mistakes and apologising when necessary so that is why I don’t carry much of it around.
The thing about parental guilt is that it usually is completely irrational and a simple apology won’t make it go away.
Here is an example of some thoughts I have had that have led to awful guilt- the kind that can’t be healed because it is so irrational:
Breastfeeding If I breastfeed this baby long term then I will spend more time doing night feeds, night ‘bonding’ and the baby will most likely spend longer in the bedroom with us than Elf. Elf breastfed for two weeks before I gave up. Then switched to bottles which meant she slept through the night from 8 weeks. Also, I was so anxious, stressed and angry after my awful labour that I couldn’t handle night feeds. There was NO bonding. There was alot of ‘STOOOOPPPP CRYINNNNGGGG and GOO BACK TO SLEEEEEEP’, slamming of doors, threats to throw myself out the window etc. It devastates me to think that now that I know what to expect I will handle it a lot better therefore this baby will have a lovely first few weeks of cooing and lovey dovey night feeds. Whilst Elf will have had the worst of it all.
Sleeping I was so worried that the baby would end up in the bed with me that I used to stress myself and Elf by putting her back in to her crib in the very early days. She was distraught and only wanted to sleep on our chest. In hindsight, I wish I had of known that a couple of weeks of this was not a problem and that she would settle in her crib once she was over the birth and settled into her new life. Now, I know that chest sleeping is an option and it devastates me to think that this baby will have these intimacy needs met while Elf was shoved into the crib and begged to just go back asleep. F*cking Gina Ford and her fear mongering. I feel both angry and guilty on this one.
Presence As some of you may know, I have published my birth story elsewhere and on podcast. I have never linked it to the blog- I struggle to give that access to you because I am still so broken over it. I have let go of what happened (or didn’t happen). I have let go of anger toward certain caregivers. Where I am broken is that I struggle to let go of the part of it that happened to Elf. How she came into this world… How this world welcomed her… How I welcomed her. I was in shock. I was numb. I didn’t recognise her when they brought her over to me. That hospital experience had left me with two years of postnatal anxiety and trauma- I was not present. It was like I was there in body but my spirit lingered outside of it. I can’t remember the first year with Elf. I really can’t remember it. One day, last April 2013, when Elf was nearly 2, I woke up. I was out walking and it just hit me- it was if in that moment my spirit arrived back in to my body. I realised that I hadn’t been myself for these two years. That I was anxious, stressed and angry. That I needed to heal and get my old self back. This baby is due in April. I am glad to think that I have had a year of it with Elf. Despite this, it devastates me that this new baby will have me from the beginning while Elf had to wait for it. When I think of this, I feel crippled.
At night, when I am in bed with Elf settling her, we chat. We talk about the day. If it was a rough day full of tantrums we talk about ‘big feelings’ and how she is learning to control them, how it’s ok to lose it some days and that one day she will be able to manage herself better. We say the same thing if I had lost it that day. We talk about Montessori and things that happen there. The other night I talked to her about how she came in to the world. How do I tell all of the above to a two year old? I couldn’t. But somehow I managed to tell her how sorry I was that I couldn’t have been a better mother at the start. She didn’t get it, I don’t think, but she rubbed my face so I guess that little wise part of herself recognised something. I feel it’s silly apologising for something I was powerless over. That is what I mean by it’s the kind of guilt that will never go away because I had no control over the cause.
Trauma aside, I think this realisation can be used for all first timers that feel like a failure once they have a second child and realise that they hadn’t got a clue the first time round. It can often be joked about how the first child is the experiment.
As always, though, there is light at the end of this type of post. I know that the reason I feel this level of guilt is simply a reflection of how much I utterly bare my entire being onto Elf. At the moment, this new baby hasn’t really materialised yet. So, when I compare the two of them and see that Elf got the harder deal- it is just because at the moment I have just one child. Once this baby is born, I will have to let go of these comparisons and try to use the lessons from before to ensure that at least one of my children get a good start. Saying that, Elf is a well rounded child and Robotman often tells me about myself in the first year. He remembers. He says I was a good Mam. I am so glad there was someone else around to remember this and help me realise that this issue is 98% mine.
I think, at the end of the day, all traumas can be healed. Even newborn traumatic memories that go forgotten by the conscious mind but still lingers on in the primal memory somewhere can be healed. They can be healed by love. And even though this post is haunted by parental guilt and devastation at the foreseen inequality of my babies’ early infancy, that guilt is just driven by the intense love that comes with it all.
I tell Elf that when she was born Holy God gave me an extra heart. That that heart overflows with love just for her. It is this heart that breaks at the imperfection of her life. But that is reality. Her life will be imperfect. This is a fact that comes with the human condition. There will be bumps, potholes and earthquakes. That is life. I can’t control her experiences. All I can control is myself and how much love I bestow on her. All I can do is walk with her on her journey through life but I can’t walk it for her.
Same goes for this baby. Even if they have their gentlebirth, cooing night feeds, successful breastfeeding and a present mother- that makes no difference to the fact that life is life and sh*t happens.
It makes no difference, for when this baby is born Spirit will gift me with another heart reserved just for this child and I will spend my life pouring the love from these hearts into both my children equally.