I am not a fan of little babies. I am not one of those women who have the irrepressible urge to pick up any and all babies, gushing over how cute they are. The first time I ever held a new-born was about three months before my eldest was born and even that was involuntary; the woman who had handed me her baby must have mistakenly assumed that all pregnant women want to hold small babies. Despite the fact that I am the eldest daughter of four, I had never changed a diaper before my own children were born.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised that I hated being pregnant. But I was. Both times. There seems to be some this idea that a woman who is not maternal and motherly and gushing over other people’s babies is hard and unwomanly. Even in this day and age, many pregnant women all over the world are left to feel such immense guilt when they are not over-the-moon-happy and glowing with pregnancy. For some reason, we are made to believe that once you fall pregnant, your maternal instincts will ignite and you will just be maternal and if they don’t you are somehow less than a woman. For me, they didn’t. I wanted the babies at the end of the nine months, but I really, really did not want to be pregnant.
Things didn’t make sense to me. I mean, I wanted to have a baby, I had planned for it after all, but I hated, really hated being pregnant! Things just didn’t compute…
With my first pregnancy, we decided to stop contraception and see what happened. I had only just sent the thought out into the universe and I was pregnant! It came as a bit of shock as I was expecting to, erm, well, actually I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t to be expecting so soon! I remember walking out of the Doctor’s office after that first scan where you see the little heartbeat and instead of feeling happy and excited, all I felt was dread. I broke into tears and all I could utter was: “I don’t want to be pregnant…” Nothing in me felt like I was ready to be a mother and because my husband had wanted a child so badly, the guilt of not being able to be happy was worse than anything else.
And since then, I have come across many, many women who felt the same. The reasons for not being as excited as you ought to be vary, but the end result is the same: guilt, shame and sadness that could easily end up in full-blown depression if you are left to believe that there is something the matter with you as a woman. And that is simply not true!
My emotions were up and down throughout the pregnancy, but the first few months were the worst. I refused to buy any baby things, look at any baby things; I flatly refused to discuss it at all. I was in and out of denial until that baby boy was born and even as they placed him in my arms, my first thought was: “Oh hell, what on earth do I do with it now?”
And as if the emotional turmoil wasn’t enough on it’s own, I had morning-, noon and evening sickness for the first 20 weeks of both my pregnancies. I wasn’t just feeling a little queezy. I was sick; I spent half my day hanging over the toilet bowl. And it seemed that the minute the nausea abated, I had constant heartburn for the duration of the 40 weeks.
However, I am an organiser and a planner and intelligent enough to know that there was no way out of this but forward! So I was at least academically prepared for what was to come. I read books, blogs, websites, research papers and then some. I had very firm ideas about what I wanted; a natural, drug-free birth with the accompaniment of a doula. And surprisingly enough, that was how it went down in round one.
They say (whomever the hell, “they” are) that once that baby is born, and you stare into his or her eyes, you forget about pregnancy and birth. They say that that love for your child is so overwhelming that you instantly think it was all worthwhile. This too, is not true. I remember. I remember it all too vividly. That is why, for round two, I thought I would be better prepared! This time, I decided I would enjoy being pregnant as I already knew that the end result would be worth it. It did not work.
Apart from the headaches, the vomiting and the eternal exhaustion, I gained more weight than I ever thought possible! By week 30, I was gaining 3 kg in one week, then 5 kg in a week. And my feet and legs were swollen to the extent that I seriously worried that they might actually burst! Toward the end, I was walking around on things that resembled tree stumps and had gained 30 kg (more than half of my entire body weight!) I was so swollen I couldn’t breathe properly and kept waking up from my own snoring!
At first we thought it was just normal hormonal changes, but by my 34-week checkup, my blood pressure had also sky-rocketed. Hello preeclampsia!
In addition to all the physical discomfort (to put it mildly), I became deeply concerned that I would simply not be able to take care of two children, or that I had maybe been in too much of a hurry to get all the baby-stuff out of the way and my children were now too closely spaced together! Would I be able to take care of the little one and still have enough energy to see to all the needs of my still-very-young-son?
All the confusion came flooding back, but this time it made even less sense! I mean, I knew that I was a good mother – my son was a pretty decent little boy…but still the doubts and the emotional upheaval filled all my headspace and all I could think was how awful it was to be pregnant- again! Plus, there is no amount of reading in the world that can prepare you to be the parent of a premature baby!
On Friday I had worked my last day as my doctor had advised early maternity leave so I could spend a month resting before the baby was born. On Saturday we celebrated my son’s 2nd birthday. On Monday I was checked into hospital and on Friday, instead of spending the day at a “Mommy spa” having massages and pedicures as planned, I was in labour!