Wednesday 27 April 2005

reality check

Elizabeth asked me in my comments about feeling overwhelmed, scared, and anxious about the concept of motherhood. The short answer is, before Jack was born, I was too excited about/consumed by everything I was experiencing in pregnancy to think about what would happen after he was born. After he made his debut, reality hit and that's when my palms started getting sweaty.

When Jack and I came home from hospital, there were days when panic swept over me and I couldn't fathom how I was going to adapt to life (albeit temporarily) as a stay at home mum. The thought of attending mother/baby groups depressed me (why would I want to sit around and talk about babies with other mothers?). I felt doomed to an existence of family restaurants, only going to places called "playlands" with large rooms full of multicoloured plastic balls, hosting birthday parties with 30 screaming children, and spending my days wondering what the hell I was going to do to fill my time and keep my brain cells from packing their bags and moving into the head of a woman without children. I mourned the loss of freedom; of being unable to go off on a holiday whenever and wherever we wanted, and going to restaurants without worrying if their bathrooms have a changing table. I was paralysed at the reality of being responsible for the life of a helpless newborn. I had no confidence about leaving the house with Jack, and envied women who seemed to tote their tots around effortlessly, everywhere and anywhere. I felt like a Bad Mother. Why did I feel so incompetent and why was I having these negative feelings when everyone else seemed so happy and adept in their new roles?

Now, I look forward to taking Jack places and I cannot wait until he's old enough to enjoy a day out. I have learned that you don't have to succumb to the world of McDonald's and Chuck E Cheese; you can take your child somewhere enjoyable for you too (which gives me a great excuse to finally visit the London Aquarium). Although I'm still unsure about some of the mother/baby groups (maybe I'll "get it" when Jack gets a bit older), I thoroughly enjoy speaking to other mum friends about our shared experiences and have gained a wealth of useful information. There are lots of things that fill my days, and it's a wonderful feeling knowing that a) you can get things done on weekdays and b) Sundays are relaxing when you don't have to go to work the next day. Most importantly, I don't feel like a useless goob. Most of the time.

The truth is, being pregnant, giving birth, and becoming a parent is a big deal. How could we not go through this without feeling like we're undertaking something much bigger than we are? Raising a tiny human being who is totally dependent on you is an overwhelming concept. In reality, it's still rather scary at first, but you're probably going to be too busy to fret about it too much. By the time you do get a chance to think about it, you've settled into your new life and motherhood isn't quite as terrifying. And if you still feel like running away and screaming some days, you're not a Bad Mother - you're human. And we've all been there.

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