The very moment your first child is placed on your chest and you feel your now empty stomach ripple like an 80’s waterbed, you realise three things.
Firstly it dawns on you that this is in fact what has been living inside of you for the last nine months, twisting and turning your insides, pushing the food up your neck, making you go to the bathroom every fifteen seconds and giving you an insatiable hunger that no amount of cake can satisfy. And even though this is of course blatantly obvious, it shocks you to your core as you try to equate bump to baby.
Secondly, as you feel that first burst of love you become aware that your life will never ever be the same again and you promise in that rush of post birth bliss to endeavour to always love, praise and nurture this being with every fibre of your soul.
And thirdly as you look down at what was once was your body, it hits you like a bolt of lightning that you may never look the same again.
I was ill prepared for the first week of Motherhood.
It had taken nine months to build this HUGE baby. Nine months of two rounds of egg sandwiches at lunch, cake and copious amounts of orange juice resulted in a baby girl, born two days early and weighing in at 9lbs 8oz to my 5′ 3″ frame. I had given her quite the head start in life and she emerged half reared with legs so long that we had to chop the feet out of her ‘Up to 7lbs’ Babygro.
The birth itself was totally pain free, I mean I felt NOTHING and when the midwife patiently asked me to push, I am sure that I was in fact just squeezing my eyes tightly together and hoping for the best.
All too soon after the main event and after the most relished tea and toast has been devoured like Henry the VIII eating a leg of lamb, swiftly barfed back out, and the anaesthetic has begun to wear off, it is safe to say…
I have never felt worse in my entire life.
You have climbed the steps of the hospital in your grey tracksuit pants (which are now dark grey in patches as your waters have burst in the car and it looks like you have done a mammoth wee in your pants), you have deposited your dignity at reception, told the hospital porter eighteen times that you will be having the epidural and can he just make sure everyone knows, you have sucked back the gas, signed the waiver that you may never walk again, stayed so still as the giant needle is inserted in your back, conquered the terrifying birthing process and marvelled at your beautiful infant, to realise…
that it has all only just begun!
Suddenly your legs don’t work, you try with all your might to hoist each one upwards only to look down to clock that there is a tube attached to you somewhere and a giant bag of wee wee beside you. Your once perfectly rounded, stuffed with baby bump feels like someone has attached metal hooks and dangled boulders from it, your feet have no shape whatsoever and look like blown up surgical gloves attached to a pair of man’s legs. You have a giant mattress tucked into your paper knickers, a stinging like someone has poured nail varnish remover into your eye and oh yes you now have a giant baby.
Mother of God.
Because no one really tells you the truth. It is like the sisterhood of motherhood pact of silence.
‘Say nothing now Mary, you don’t want to tell her that the down below will be like a Californian spaghetti junction, and for Christ’s sake don’t mention the episcopalian procedure’
Ah yes the episiotomy. My least favourite word. The moment I saw the scissors coming at me with confusion and thinking now was not the time to trim my fringe only to realise that something had been cut but I had no idea what was happening under the blue sheet.
The junior mid wife continually ran an ice cube up and down my burgeoning form to determine if the epidural was still working. Obviously it is, they have just cut into me with scissors Margaret so I’m not terribly concerned about the cold on my belly!
Anyway I digress.
Suffice to say the whole experience, while wonderful, is like being dipped in and out of a giant pot of freezing water such is the shock. At the same time as wondering where this beautiful creation has come from you are wondering does everyone feel this? It not accurately described in ‘What to expect when you are expecting.’
You should in fact expect this..
1. You are everyone’s mother.
Matter of fact nurse whips back the curtain like… ‘Here’s Johnny’…when you have finally managed to feed the baby, put the nappy on backwards, popper buttons out of sequence and close your eyes for a moments rest to…
‘Wakey, wakey Mum (I’m not your mum), let’s get you out of the bed and moving and into the shower.’
Eh I can’t actually walk. My feet flop upside down as I try to place them on the ground. I drag my temporarily paralysed body, gown open at the back and giant mattress flapping about behind me, from the bed.
‘Now Mum I need you to do a great big wee wee for me in this grey paper trilby hat and show me when you are done’
What??? I’m not showing you my wee wee. That’s weird, but as I look down and discover that the wee wee is not in fact wee wee, I scream. Someone has poured a bottle of Chablis into the grey trilby hat and now I have to show the nurse. Morto. I have failed the wee wee test, how can I be a mother?
Assuring me that I did a great job and to run the tap the next time, (What the hell is going on here?) she then pushes me toward the shower with my draggy feet and tells me (most degrading moment of all time), to give it a great big-wash down there. Oh my god. This is worse than the birth bit. I slowly get into the shower careful of the boulders hanging by metal from my flaccid belly and think there must be someone else in the shower with me as the body I just washed is most definitely not my own.
2. You will have a hunger like you have been on a desert island for many many moons.
Shower ordeal over and I must credit Nurse Johnny, I feel refreshed, yet exhausted and I am once again hungry like the wolf. Perfect baby is slumbering away and you smugly consider that you are the 1% of the world population that has managed to create a wonderfully cooperative easy baby.
You look about desperately for something to eat, a barley sugar stick, a wet wipe, anything and finally the dinner is here and you stare down with disappointment as there are more than four unidentified meats on the plate and you wonder are they secretly feeding you your placenta but you devour it anyway.
3. You are not special.
Baby wakes up. You didn’t get cooperative baby after all.
4. You can’t keep it inside forever.
I’m sorry but I need to say it. 1st poop. Perhaps worse than child birth; you try for days to avoid it only for risk of dying from toxins you head into the bathroom, scream for 10 minutes and emerge feeling like you have run a marathon.
5. You are food source
Milk. Oh my God. I didn’t breast feed but my boobs are on fire and no amount of Savoy cabbage (I do not like cabbage nor natural remedies) cooking away for the day tucked inside my jersey maternity parachute bra with straps thicker than a seatbelt is going to quench the fire. (I will never forgot the moment that I went to take my bra off and the cabbage was so cooked that it had shrivelled to the size of a two Euro coin – I can cook after all!) I am human slow cooker and not famous fashion model.
6. You have a long way to go.
Five days post birth and not really understanding the weight gain I had suffered, I head into Mr. Benn’s wardrobe to emerge as yummy mummy to realise that I can’t even get my jeans over my feet and I sit on the ground and sob for all the fashions that will perish inside the wardrobe never getting out on day release again.
Looking back now as ‘smug mother of three’ I can but laugh at my first time naiveté. I was so green. But for all the horrors of the birth and the anomalies that followed, I was totally in love with my little girl and of course I would go through it all again in a heartbeat (sure I did twice) as there is one thing that Mary and Margaret are right about,
‘It’ll all be worth it in the end.’
In the fieriness of youth, I would often accuse The Mothership of preferring Sister 1 to the rest of us. She would always tell me the same, ‘I love you all the same but for different reasons.’ Which is of course true of my own kids. They are so unique and wonderful in their own way but there is something incredibly special about your first experience of Motherhood and I have the fondest of memories of when it was just me and her.
We were a little team ensconced in our shiny bubble. She was the novelty child amongst my friends as the first born and I had no end of babysitting offers (until I messed it up one night, got carried away and rolled in at 4am to see my friend just stand up without saying anything to me and walk out of the house. Oops.)
And although motherhood is in no way easy, I was young, full of energy and I loved it. I loved her. She was the missing piece that I never knew was lost. Of course she remembers very little from our adventures together, except what I tell her; things like as soon as I would put on the Lionel Richie CD in the car she would fall fast asleep, we walked every day, played for hours and got ourselves all dressed up with no place to go!
All my kids make my chest swell with pride and I have special memories tucked inside of them all but this little ground breaker girl is growing up fast and lately I am feeling very nostalgic.
She had her great big Confirmation last week and when I look at her in the dress I can’t help but think that my life is disappearing before my eyes. As it was a dress of mine she chose to wear and a very special dress at that.
Following the initial weeks of childbirth and realising that I had a mountain to climb to get back in shape, I shot into action. I couldn’t afford a brand new wardrobe, I wanted to wear my treasures and I refused to buy anything four sizes bigger than normal.
This time the hill was different, the mantra was different but the determination was the same.
‘I will be a yummy mummy’… ‘I will be a yummy mummy’, I repeated as I walked pushing my extortionately priced Bugaboo system up a sharp hill.
I wanted to prove that I could still be me and a mum. I could have my cake (ok, bad analogy) and eat it. I walked every single day. I ate right. I did sit ups every single day and slowly, very slowly it started to show and ten months later I was hopping on and off the scales again, baby in arms for the craic.
At the time, my friend (she had by then forgiven me for the babysitting debacle) had a very ahead of its time boutique of treasures in Carlow (although it would have been more suited to Soho NY) and armed with money for my 27th birthday, I took the trip to see if I could find the thing that would turn me from scummy to yummy.
And there it was.
Holding my breath, I zipped the zip, emerged from the changing room, she clapped, I bought and we went for cake! I still remember the night I wore that dress and soaked in everyone’s surprise that I had a baby. (If you could just quickly say that into my recording device so I can play it on repeat please.)
I came across that dress recently in wardrobe B. She tried it on and it was beautiful.
It’s just a dress.
But to me it’s more. It’s my precious baby in a little piece of our history. It’s the little girl that I wished for, turning into a beautiful young lady.
It’s the fear that I am about to lose her.
It’s the Jaysus state of her room, the cheek she sometimes gives me, the silly things she does that make me remember she’s still a little girl in a grown up shell.
It’s the astonishment I feel that I made this person and the look of confusion I wear when she says something beyond her years that makes me remember she is growing up fast.
It’s the shock I have that she is a competitive swimmer, amazing at sport, a beautiful singer, a good friend, a good sister; it’s the laughs we have as she has my exact sense of humour and the faces she pulls that are mine.
It’s the fear that she will for a spell temporarily hate me, that she will someday temporarily disappoint me. I won’t always agree with what she wears, who she is friends with, who she dates or how she chooses to live her life.
It’s the fear I have, that life won’t always go her way. That someday some asshole will kick her when she’s down, try to steal her sunshine and that I won’t always be there to kick them in the balls. It’s the decision I will have to make to step back and let her try (and sometimes fail and sometimes conquer) and to believe that she may actually know best how to live her life.
It’s the fear that I might fail her.
It’s the fear that I will someday need to let go.
Twelve years later my baby wore the dress that I worked so hard to get into to make me feel like me again. A dress that was a symbol of being a mother and being a young woman. A symbol that you can be Mother and Person.
Twelve years later when I asked my little girl what Confirmation name she was taking and she told me, I had to turn away and pretend to chop an onion as my eyes welled up and my chest filled with pride. I wish her the most exciting life imaginable. Filled with mistakes and triumphs and love.
No matter what happens, she will always be my baby, but I look forward to her own journey and to ALWAYS cheering her name from the side line. I’ll be cheering…
GO Martha-Lily Judy!!!!
This blog is dedicated to Martha. You are the one thing in my life that went the way it should have, you are the one person that made me feel like I was always doing something right. Thanks for making me a mum, thanks for being you.