Throwing the baby out with the bath water …

I did this post back in June for http://www.moomie.co.za and I must confess to feeling quite proud of this piece.  I like the ones that are real and honest, and this was one of those.

I totally forgot about the post, and then this morning Nayeela asked me for a copy, so thanks Nayeela for reminding me about this post.  I hope those who have read it on moomie will forgive me and not mind re-reading it.

I’ve often wondered why we do not tell new moms about the hell that follows once they arrive home with their new baby.

There seems to be this unwritten law that we should not scare them too much.  Or possibly it is that they will not believe it until it starts to happen to them.  Of late I have started to believe the latter.

The hell I am referring to is the emotional trauma and the screaming that you and your partner/husband/supplier of sperm/supporter of pregnancy/nearest and dearest will go through around week six to eight of your new baby being home.

It might start on day one, it might not start for several weeks, but it will start (insert Dr Evil’s laugh here).

Pregnancy is much like your honeymoon. The two of you are aglow with the wonders of what your loins have done. You have affirmed your lineage will continue. Your partner is elated that his sperm has proved to be virile, you are a bask in the glow of pregnancy.

You feel that you have single-handedly saved the entire human race.  Here in your uterus sits the off-spring that could find a cure of cancer or at the very least a system for not losing the remote control on the couch.

Ah it is glorious heady stuff.  You are invincible, you are pregnant.

Your energies are focused on the birth of the baby.  Where partner will stand, who will hold the camera, whether you will ask for some homeopathic meds or sell you soul for one prick of the anesthetist’s epidural needle.   From about month five every waking (and sleeping moment) is  consumed with all this planning.

You have various scenarios in your mind, but the one that stands out for you, is that picture of you, the picture of the perfect you.  You, still wearing mascara, and a touch of lip-gloss, cuddling your bundle, while your partner stares at you longing as if you are the original mother mary.

Intoxicating  days these.

You survive child-birth.  You survive the medical staff and you make it home.  You are smiling and coo’ing and everyone has agreed that this is the sweetest baby ever to bless the earth.

You and your partner are so pleased with yourselves right now.  You might even cure leprosy later on in the afternoon, nothing is beyond you right now.

The visitors go home, the medication and euphoria starts to wear off.  You are starting to ache.

You really love your baby, but have deciced that you no longer love your baby between 2 and 6am.  You are sleep deprived, your nipples feel like you have been cast in a low-budget porn movie, you are not feeling your best as you have been in your bathrobe since last Monday.

Brushing your teeth has become the highlight of your day – you do not even try to floss, as really there is not enough time and this often requires two hands, which you seldom have the luxury of right now.

Partner kisses you on the forehead and skips off to work.  At some point you stand there – usually in the middle of the kitchen, still in your grubby bathrobe, and ask yourself  “What exactly happened here … this is not how I pictured it…and why is that shmuck not with me in this?”

You can’t say it out loud as the baby has finally fallen asleep and you need to sort of rock him to-and-fro, to-and-fro or he is going to start screaming again, but you think it.  Yes, you think it, and think it and think it.

You now glance over at the kitchen clock and start counting the hours down for husband (you have dropped the dear part) to come home.  By the time he arrives home, you pretty much shove the baby into his arms, scream at him about being late.

Then scream at him about something unrelated and stomp off in a furore.  You are waiting for baby to start crying, because now husband can get an earful of what you have had to put up with all day …

But nothing … you listen … and there is nothing.  So you sneak quietly down to the lounge … and there he is … baby propped on his shoulder … not a care in the world … he has a beer in the other hand and he is watching Super Sport … and looks at you like: “ This isn’t hard, what are you complaining about!”

This is where the cracks start.

Late at night as you wake to go and feed the baby you look over at your partner who is fast asleep and you wonder if you can stab him the shoulder with a fork!  You know you can, but you wonder if you can do deep tissue damage with just one fork stab, or whether you will need to do it numerous times.

Partner does not move while you feed, burp, and quiet baby.  You shlepp down the passage, put baby down and return to bed.  Right now the warm-even breathing of your partner is making you so angry you want to smother him.  Instead you roll over, being sure to jab him with your elbow in his back and then you eventually doze off.  Only to be awoken 5 minutes later by baby who needs to feed…..

You repeat the cycle, each time hating your partner for the fact that he has undisturbed sleep.

Next morning you wake up and he is getting ready for work.  He smiles at you, all happy, as if he has let you sleep in – never mind that in total since 1am, you have had about 45 minutes sleep.  He gets his clean clothes on, kisses you on the forehead (because you have not brushed your teeth) and goes off to work.

And now your mild dislike has turned to hate.

It is actually his fault that this has all happened, and now he gets to go to work, talk to adults, surf Facebook and drink hot cups of coffee all day.  You hate him for every hour he is away.  The problem is when he drags his sorry arse in the door after work, you hate him for every hour he is home as well.

He has no idea what you go through, he does not realise that you have been crying for 6 hour straight.  He has no idea that you are so exhausted right now, you would swap places with a vagrant to get some sleep.

He has no idea that what is happening to you now does not gel with the picture you had in your head of this entire process. You love your baby – but right now, you really do not love being with him.

The right thing to say is that “this is the best thing in the world…” but maybe it isn’t.  Maybe it is really hard and maybe you are really struggling.  The thing you can’t understand is that no one has really told you how difficult it is going to be, and now you are really struggling.

Your partner does not understand, actually he has no clue what is going on. You are angry and upset and the person who is going to take the brunt of it is the poor sap who comes whistling through the front door at about 17h30 each day.

You start fighting with him because he goes to work.  You fight with him because he is at work.  You fight with him because he is at home.  You fight with him because he can’t change the baby the way you want him to do it.   You fight with him because he does not know which babygrower to use … well basically you fight with him because he exists (don’t even start with me about the fact that he has to breath so damn loud!).

Husband is starting to wonder if this having a baby was such a good idea, and at some point will make a statement of the sort.

This will be a bit like throwing gasoline on a fire, and you will unfortunately start saying some things you wish you had not said.  He is so annoyed as he does not know his wife anymore, and instead has this hormone soaked creature to deal with, so he will retaliate with something else, and you will have a come back which is akin to kicking him in the gonads.

And from there the situation will turn ugly.

But believe it or not  ….  you eventually start to get saner and realise that you (and him) are living through what feels like the apocalypse.  It does take a while before you realise that you and your partner are actually in this together.  You need to rely and lean on each other to get through this, rather than taking pot shots at each other as you run across the minefield.

You also start to wonder “why do couples who are in distress think having a baby is going to bring them closer?” when good sense tells us that a baby is the most strain you can subject on a relationship.

Don’t worry I wonder the same thing.

When my friends, who are young and in-love, have baby-showers I really want to give them vouchers for sessions of couple counseling.  Unfortunately decorum gets the better of me, and I buy them bibs and baby shoes like everyone else, and try not make them feel less invincible than they do right then.

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25 Comments

  1. Nazeeda Kors

     /  November 7, 2010

    Hi there, you have put into words every single one of my emotions and experiences since the birth of my beautiful son, Danyal!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  November 7, 2010

      If it makes you feel any better, it was what I experienced and what other moms experienced as well … this was my experience and I had just had my THIRD child ….

      Reply
  2. Natasha

     /  November 1, 2010

    OMG! I’m pregnant with my first kid, and am terrified of what it will do to my relationship with my husband. I think reading this, in some strange way, makes my terror feel normal and realistic rather than completely paranoid. Thank you!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  November 1, 2010

      Hey Natasha – get him to read this post now. Print it out and then re-read when baby is 8 weeks old, at about the time you are sobbing uncontrollably in the bathroom at 2am!!! Good luck – I really want to say “it’s not that bad” – but it is … but we survive, some how, some way, most of us do xxx

      Reply
  3. Absolutely brilliant post.
    I have forwarded it to all the naive pregnant fairies in my life who believe that they will live happily ever after with their quiet, sleeping baba and fit right back into their skinny jeans 5 minutes after the birth.

    Reply
  4. suestuart

     /  October 27, 2010

    Wow I thought I was the only one who found the first few months that hard, ‘cos no-one talks about it! Oh I could happily have killed hubby a time or two. Especially since, as well as work, he plays sport 2 nights a week and Saturday mornings, and didn’t think anything about leaving me alone! Not to mention the business trips and long hours. At times I felt like I could have been a single mom, and it certainly gave me a new respect for them!

    Reply
  5. Charms

     /  October 25, 2010

    Such a good post – thanks!

    I had the added bonus of being a single mom 🙂 I was staying with my parents at the time. My best story was when my darling father walks into my room at 3am (after daughter had been wailing for hours) and starts questioning me “have you tried this? have you tried that?” I mean really!! He was only trying to help, but I had to tell him to make some tea or leave me alone!

    I’m going to share your blog with a friend (unfortunately no one can really relate until they’ve lived through the post birth mayhem).

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  October 25, 2010

      Yes, it is the list of “have you given your child enough food” “have you changed them..” and so on …. like thanks idiot, I am not sure why I had not thought about that one before.

      When the only advise you want is: “here let me take the baby, and I will walk him/her around the room for 56 km, you go and have a relaxing shower/bath/bowel movement, and a cup of tea – no, don’t worry about us, off you go” – funny how no one ever says that!!

      Reply
      • reluctantmom

         /  October 25, 2010

        Oh, and when you rip their head off for their stupid suggestion they go “sorry, I was just asking/trying to help!”

        Reply
  6. Sue

     /  October 25, 2010

    My husband, (now ex for obvious reasons), came up with the brilliant idea that I should sleep in the guest bedroom with the baby in the bed with me, with all interleading doors closed. That way “we could all get some sleep”. (Said with look of concern and kindness on his face) Hah!

    I must say that I think certain friends did try to explain how hard it is/can be, but to be fair, at that stage you actually aren’t interested in hearing it. Your mind simply won’t let you hear it. I think if we knew the truth we would all simply internally combust and the human race would die out within a year!

    But well done for saying it anyway. You wrote it exactly how it is!

    Reply
  7. Hilary

     /  October 25, 2010

    This is totally true. Its insane that many woman have this exact experience yet no one speaks about it. I remember the clock watching, waiting for DH to get home. The relief when he does and then the resentment. Urgh. Why does no one warn you about that so you can at least prepare? Its like some damn X-files conspiracy I tell you.

    Reply
  8. I read this originally on moomie and it is so true. Especially the swapping with the vagrant for sleep! I remember that feeling so well.

    Also the first day dh returned to work, looking down at the baby and thinking now what? WTF am I supposed to do with this now? 6 months later and not much has changed I just hide it better!!

    Reply
  9. I honestly believe that more books should be published like THIS post!

    It will do many things – like prevent more pregnancies that mothers saying don’t have sex AND it will prevent many women suffering from stress due to unrealistic expectations!

    If you spend 9 months preparing realistically you are more likely to cope realistically!

    Reply
  10. pamiejane

     /  October 22, 2010

    This is a fantastic post and so true. Except in my case my husband did actually get up at night…. to close the interleading door if I had inadvertantly left it open on my way to the baby!!! He complained that he could hear her crying. He does not know how close to death he came.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  October 22, 2010

      I am wiping the tears of laughter off my face …. that was so funny, thanks.

      Reply
  11. Brilliant. I completely identify. I think the reason we don’t tell anyone how hectic it is – in my case at least – is because inevitably your second is the easiest baby in the world. You think back. Could it have been that bad? (yes.) Everyone always tells you to try to chill and enjoy your baby, and you never can, with your first. But maybe if we keep quiet about how hectic it is the one woman out there who is able to, will actually listen to the advice and just relax with her first born. As if…

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  October 22, 2010

      I am not sure if it is the case that the first is hard and they get easier. I wrote this when I had just had Isabelle, and she was my third.
      The anger, resentment and total amazement was still there for me – even third time around, even though I knew it was coming, even though I was so prepared – it still seemed to hit me on my arse – and leave me crying in the bathroom at 2am!

      Reply
  12. Sharon

     /  October 22, 2010

    Hahahahahahahahaha! Totally classic! Totally true! Have two glowing pregnant fairies in my office… wondering if it would be cruel to send them this link? Bwahahahahahaha…

    Reply
    • Nayeela

       /  October 22, 2010

      Lol!

      I sent it to every pregnant soul I know 🙂 Lol! At least I can then say: I told you so 🙂 Lol!

      Reply
      • reluctantmom

         /  October 22, 2010

        I can see your invitations to baby showers being withdrawn as we speak. I also sent it along to two friends I know who are pregnant.

        Reply
  13. Nayeela

     /  October 22, 2010

    Hey Celeste!

    Thanks for re-posting this. I could have written that 16 months ago. Thats exactly what I went through and I also wondered if I was the only one that was going through the apocalypse 🙂

    Reply
  14. Lauren

     /  October 22, 2010

    This post captivated me in June and has done so again. Its like you were in my head when you wrote this.

    It really is true how nobody tells you about the negetive aspect. The terror that fills your heart and soul the minute your husband walks out the door to go back to work.

    It blew my mind away how I would tell my DH every minute of the day that he needed to come home because baby wouldnt stop crying, screaming, moaning etc but as soon as DH walked thorugh the door, there was a completely different baby there… one that stared and smiled and drooled and sat contently.

    Reply
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