I have just read this article on the BBC. You can click on it to read it if you wish.
Why maternity leave can be harder and lonelier than you imagine.
I am going to rewind a few years as it made me think a little about the past.
I discovered I was pregnant very early on in our relationship. A long few weeks in a to be exact. Long because we ate and drank, drank and ate (and smoked) whilst we put the world to rights and were honest about what we both wanted for the future. We both worked together for a short period of time and after 5 days I moved in with Mr H. I won’t lie when I say that we were fairly spangled on a few occasions where we discussed our plans and next year rings in 20 years since that whirlwind craziness…
A whirlwind but that is how I am. I am impulsive but I don’t give up easily. When we made a decision I knew that we would stick to it. Almost 20 years later we can still tell the tales of the hostile responses from friends and family that it would never work. Even on our wedding day we were told that people had bets on it lasting. After all in the space of 18 months we had had a baby, then christened it, planned and made our wedding and honeymoon oh and sold my house and bought another. On paper it was looking manic! Looking back we had 3 house moves in the first 4 years, 2 cats, several dogs and not to mention the 2 babies in the first 3 years…
The one thing I think made it work is that we didn’t really know each other. We sort of floated along and made the best of everything. It was a learning curve but almost like an arranged marriage, we had to work very very hard. I was young and no one I knew had a baby or was planning on it. I had gone from working and partying to staying at home. The minute I gave birth I told Mr H that I could not do it. I could no go back to work. I could not leave that little thing. He says that he knew it would always be an issue. I took my maternity pay and company car and the pay off for not coming back. Back then maternity leave was just under 3 months; unthinkable now.
Now there is the social media and apps such as ‘peanut’ to allow people (specifically mums) to connect. Back then our son was born in a wing of the Royal London Hospital where we had a 5 minute warning to allow the Muslim ladies to don their burkas. I felt truly lost and very alone. We had no family close by and in my early 20’s I had an overwhelming urge to hold that boy and never ever let him go!
What no one tells you is how you will feel. Everyone has advice on letting the baby cry. I could not do that and that almost broke me. I carried him everywhere I went even lying him on the floor of the bathroom when I needed the toilet. Thank god I listened to my Portuguese Grandmother when we took him to Portugal aged 3 months! I always wondered why I never saw many pushchairs out there. Pavements aside it’s because they carried them. So we subsequently became inseparable and my left arm is stronger in testament to those years.
But when that front door shuts and the partner goes back to work and you can’t piss without it burning and your baby is screaming and you feel alone you question is everyone feeling like this or is there something wrong with me. No one tells you what it feels like to get the milk kicking in. I could not walk past a crying child in the street without leaking like a tap. I gave up caring that my clothes were always damp and thanked the winter for needing a coat to cover it. No one tells you that your nipples will crack like a land filled with drought and may then require some random cream to sooth them. I cannot thank that lovely lady for telling my mother in the chemist that day about kamillosan; it saved me! No one tells you that your ‘old’ clothes won’t fit for months (in my case a year after putting on 5 stone) or that your large barnet of hair starts dropping like leaves after giving birth.
People used say maybe your depressed if you can’t leave the baby. I used to say that no I am simply over tired and over whelmed. If you can’t cope with a lack of sleep a baby can push every bloody button! The crying is constant (the first baby was!) and all he wanted to do was hang off my tits! No one tells you about the resentment you will feel when your partner goes back to work and later walks through the door exhausted as they have been at work all day.. surely we have been working all day too?!
Eventually I made the decision and went back to work for Mr H. It was short lived and part time because the day the nanny told me that he had stood up for the first time was the last time I worked for another 10 years. That day was the hardest yes but looking back the easiest!
Having a baby changes everything. Romantically, financially and emotionally not to mention what it does to your body, but what every woman needs to know is that everyone out there goes through the same shit and that the 6 week honeymoon period (when all they do is sleep all day) does start to fade that you continue to get out there! You need to find some virtual sellotape to hold it all together. Don’t just rely on apps and phones. Find a toddler group. As they get more mobile you you will meet other people who you may instantly loathe but you will also meet other people who are open to discussing their feelings and want to go out and get drunk and dance just like you did before having a baby. Those groups can also be a wonderful place where toddlers can paint and make things which can ensure that you don’t do as much of this in your home!
You should never be ashamed to say that you find being alone with the baby hard or that you don’t cherish every single moment like its’ your last. It’s OK to say your having a shit time and that it’s boring and that you HATE big pants!
Always remember you are human and that life is not what you see on line after having the baby. It is more like shitty clothes and trainers, poo under your nails, sick down your shoulder, meals cooked with one hand only (because if your lucky like me the baby will be propped against one hip and swinging from the same arm) and with more muslin cloths lying around than you know what to do with!