6 Things Non-Maternal Moms Will Experience
This is a bit of a strange topic to write about for a parenting website. But, the fact is: not all women are maternally-inclined. And, I was one of them.
I was probably the person who scowled at you if I thought you were ‘buggy barging’ in Dundrum Town Centre. Someone who rolled their eyes, knocked back a good, hard mouthful of Pinot Grigio and thought to themselves: “Why are they in here?”, when your children made too much noise in a restaurant.
I could barely disguise my utter boredom when you chatted happily about your kids, or worse, told me in minute detail of how they came into the world. My life was a place where contented adults dwelled in happy (child-free) land.
Don’t get me wrong, I had nephews and a niece, all of whom I loved dearly, but as the old saying goes: 'It’s great when you can hand them back at the end of the day'.
Then came the pregnancy tests; four to be exact. Lots of water (to keep the tests going one after the other), disbelief, text to husband, terrified acceptance. My life was over. I had no idea what it was going to be like. I knew I would have children, but it was always something I put off in a hazy future.
How was it going to impact my career? I work as an editor; I was used to a vaguely charmed life - launches, prosecco, a good circle of friends - how would a child fit into that? There was the (sudden feminist) resentment every woman feels whose biological clock's ticking. The age-old question: why do women always have to suffer, and get no thanks for it? Then again, there was this primal realisation that if I didn’t have children I might regret it. It was a ‘damned if you do / damned if you don’t scenario'.
If you’re reading this, pregnant, in your mid(ish)-thirties, scared to death that your comfortable, sociable life is going to change irrevocably, realise this: it is. But, not in a bad way. Please believe me!
Right now you’re going to be hit with the ‘advice squad’ on the web: breastfeeding activists (albeit, they’re right!), natural birth hippies (personally - I don’t agree with them, an epidural is wonderful!), people who delight in telling you that you’ll never bother wearing make-up again (they particularly annoy me!) - and the list goes on. I would urge the non-maternal prospective mother not to read too much advice, stick with well-grounded websites. Develop a radar for annoying pregnancy and birth tales from stress-inducing individuals and avoid them like the clappers. Having a baby should never change who you are or increase your guilt / anxiety levels - your hormones affect your moods enough as it is!
Here’s my guide to what you’ll experience as the quintessential non-maternal type:
The birth aside, when the baby is born and this tiny little thing is lying on your chest you'll feel overwhelming shock. While you’re so relieved that it’s all over and you’ve actually completed this incredible feat of human engineering, you’re left with a - baby!? I spent the whole night staring at her. I found it all incredibly weird.
Suddenly, you’re in charge of this little creature; this tiny human being. Perhaps maternally-inclined women who’ve been planning their parenting for years (painting nurseries - that kind of lark) aren’t filled with the level of terror someone who’s been thrust into childrearing feels. The weight of responsibility on your shoulders is incredible - especially if you’ve managed to dodge being too responsible for most of your life! You start imagining frightening situations where your bundle of joy is in danger. Go with it, even if, at your tiredest (and you will be tired) you’re thinking weird thoughts. It’s literally your protective instinct kicking in. You'll be fine.
People will be incredibly kind. Even individuals you don’t know. I received presents from neighbours of my mother-in-law. The kindness and generosity of people will be so random, it will stun you. And, suddenly you realise that people wanted you to have children because they knew how lovely it would be for you. I hated listening to the “So, any news?” comments from relatives, but it wasn’t out of any badness; I realise that now.
You’re going to be really, really happy. There is nothing like having a little baby. Especially when you see them growing and changing. When they start to hug you back, the happiness it gives you is astounding. The love you feel for them is crazy. It’s like your heart is crumpling.
5. It Will Be Tough
But nothing you can’t handle. You’ve got instincts for a reason, trust them. Your baby (even a newborn) will tell you a lot if you listen to them.
6. Don’t Freak Out
You will be able to do the things you did in your former life: I’m not going to lie, the first three months will be a blur. After that it will get infinitely better. Try to get out of the house on your own, or as a couple, regularly. Pull in help from wherever you can get it. Don’t ever feel guilty, children are wonderful but they leave home eventually and if you’ve dumped your old life and possibly friends - for some well-meaning idea that you need to be with your children ALL of the time - you will regret it. Your children won’t respect that choice when they're older, they'll want you to have friends and a social life.
You're now probably thinking: 'she’s a bit smug'. That’s what I would have thought reading this article last year, when it all seemed daunting.
Exactly a year on, I’m calm, happy and delighted that I have been lucky enough to experience what I have. You might think differently too when you decide that it’s time to put the wine away for a little while - but never forever!