Welcome to our new series, The Motherhood Diaries – a safe space for you to share your experiences, advice, hopes and heartbreaks. We’ll be hearing from industry experts giving practical advice alongside Capsule readers (You!) sharing your firsthand experiences. We’re looking at everything from fertility, trying to conceive, pregnancy, the fourth trimester, newborns, toddlers, raising children and teenagers and everything in between!
If you have a topic you’d like to discuss, share your thoughts, experience or advice about, drop a line to [email protected] with ‘Divorce’ in the subject line. All stories that are published will win a Dermalogica BioLumin-C Moisturiser, valued at $119!
When my growing belly made the leap from ‘potentially just bloated’ to ‘almost certainly pregnant’, the kind lady behind the till at my local dairy gave me a beaming smile when I got to the counter.
“Goodness me! Congratulations!” she said – clasping her hands together. “How far along are you?”
When I told her I was five months, she gave a slightly surprised (or maybe sympathetic?) look, but quickly followed it up with, “what a blessing. I’m so very happy for you.”
I was pretty sure part of her was just happy to know that I hadn’t become an alcoholic in recent months – I was sure she’d seen me throwing up in the rubbish bin outside a few times – but her excitement was very much appreciated.
Over the next couple of months, she’d smile when she saw me in the store and would ask how I was feeling, or how things were going, or if I knew what I was having. To just about everything, she would say “how precious!” and would often end our conversations with “what a blessing” or “how very exciting this is”.
But then a weird thing happened as I neared the end of my pregnancy. Not just at the dairy, but everywhere I went, people seemed to be less inclined to talk about the excitement of it all – and they certainly didn’t expect me to be brimming with excitement.
Nope, now we were at the nitty gritty end of it, where if I were to show signs of any being excited, apparently that was actually a sign that I was naive or just clearly had no idea of the absolute hell that was about to rain down on me and must be told so accordingly.
I’d heard these words occasionally over the course of my pregnancy, but now I had truly and officially entered the “oh, you just wait” phase.
This was a phase characterised by seeing (mostly female) parents exchange knowing little chuckles when I crossed paths with them, or being outrightly told, “Oooh, enjoy this time while you can!” and “God, you’re not going to know what’s hit you!’ and ‘you’re about to have your hands full!’ or ‘make sure you go on holiday now because it’ll be forever before you can leave the house,” and – one of my personal favourites, I heard at least 100 times – “sleep now while you can, believe me!”
Sometimes I’d have the energy to say something like, “Sleep?! What’s that again?” and let them know exactly how much sleep I’d been getting lately. How had all these women – and know-it-all males – forgotten what pregnancy is like? Or did they all somehow have dream pregnancies where, for months on end, they hadn’t been waking up multiple times in the night to pee, throw up, tend to a nosebleed or try to walk off hip and sciatica pain, or just lie there in absolute frustration, studying the ceiling thanks to pregnancy insomnia.
Even my beloved woman in the dairy said it when I hit around the eight months mark – “Make sure you sleep now! You will be missing it soon.”
Instead of happy claps, excitement and offers of congratulations, I was now in a different phase where the tone seemed to be more ‘oh, poor you’. It felt like if someone was to send me a greeting card during this phase, it was most likely to have been picked up from the condolences section.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, when it’s not as if you haven’t already experienced some anxiety to get to this point. The beginning of your pregnancy can be so filled with fear – a fear that unfortunately doesn’t really go away, but does subside a bit after that first trimester. But it seems you just barely get out of that deep early fear that you might lose your baby, before society wants you to feel a whole new fear – a sense of impending doom that being a new parent is going to be so overwhelmingly exhausting and hideous that you are going to be a cowering shell of your former self.
I mean, I get that there must be some people who think it’s all going to be sunshine and rainbows (like Instagram might lead you to believe) and must get a bit of a shock (I have a friend who says she was shell-shocked when she gave birth and they left the baby in her room at hospital – she assumed they’d be whisked off to a nursery and she’d be left to recover and sleep for a few days. She was even more horrified when she discovered that babies need feeding every two or hours or so – she figured it was more like six). So maybe there are some new parents who could benefit from a little bit of a glimpse (or an antenatal class) into the reality that awaits them. But do they really need to leave all their excitement behind them? And, really, for the majority of women – particularly when you’ve got a fair bit of life experience under your belt – do we really need this level of doomsaying and anxiety?
Why do so many parents feel the need to tell heavily pregnant women so many horror stories and fill them with fear?
It really hit home for me that the scales had tipped from excited to afraid, when I was on the couch with my fiancé one weekend, making a list of what was left to buy for our little one while we looked online for what stores we should visit the next day. “Man, this is so exciting,” he suddenly said, genuinely excited, as we scrolled through nursery furniture. I must have pulled some sort of face, because he said, “What, are you not? Do you not think this is exciting?”
I realised, no, I wasn’t feeling excited anymore – it felt like the clock was counting down to some sort of disaster.
Now, I’m ridiculously lucky because my partner is already a dad – and an amazing dad at that – and actually knows what it’s like to be in the newborn trenches, but also knows how incredibly special and rewarding it all is. So thankfully, I had someone who could pull me out of the fear – whilst still acknowledging that yes, there were going to be some challenging times – but could also remind me of the blessings of it all, and the fun we would have, and that I wouldn’t be doing it alone.
It was like being given permission to be excited again.
Still, by the Wednesday I’d got the “sleep now” reminder from two strangers and a “you just wait!” from a lady in the carpark – plus a work acquaintance who told me I was about to get one hell of a shock if I thought I could take less than a year off for maternity leave. But this time I just rolled my eyes, instead of getting frustrated – or worse, afraid.
Which is probably why, I got such a lovely fright when I stopped in at a random supermarket the next day (mainly because I had left my car in direct sunlight for an hour and the air con didn’t seem to be able to make up for it) where a woman came around the corner of the bread aisle and practically screamed, “HELLO MAMMA!”
I turned around, assuming she was talking to someone behind me, but no, we were alone, and she continued with, “You look FANTASTIC! My goodness, that is one very cute bump. How are you doing in this heat, Mamma?”
Was this woman… excited for me? I was so taken aback, I stumbled over my words, then said, “I’m ok! But I still have about five weeks to go, which, yes, feels like forever in this heat!”
“Five weeks? You look incredible for 35 weeks!! Go you! You’re doing such a good job, and those weeks will fly by, I promise you – you’ll have that sweet little darling in your arms in no time. It’s the best time of your life!! You just keep up the good work, Mamma!”
And with that, this magical fairy turned the corner and was gone and I made a mental note to one day be that over-familiar, over-the-top lady in the supermarket to someone nearing the end of their pregnancy. It was the exact kindness I needed, and I figure the world could do with a few more over-excited fairies. Because really, what lies ahead for these already sleep-deprived, sore and quite-over-it women, is a pretty amazing reward. And it’s bloody nice to remind them of that.