Why didn’t anyone tell me?

I have this friend who I love dearly – she really is one of my best friends.

There is about a 7 year age difference between us – she is younger than me.  We get on like a house on fire, and she makes me laugh so much that it makes my soul smile.  She is one of the most beautiful and vibrant people I know.

She got married about four years ago and had a baby recently.

I recall chatting to her when she was pregnant.  There were several moments where I really wanted to “bring her down” and discuss the “someone should tell you the reality of pregnancy, birth and the thereafter…” but I felt she was so happy and optimistic, and maybe it would be different for her …. maybe. 

I decided to leave it, and only tell her something if she asked specifically.

She knew I chatted on forums and she knew I wrote a blog because I found all things motherhood a challenge. For me it was lonely and I did not really have someone who was telling me the “real stuff” or again maybe I was not listening.

At the time my biggest lament was “why did no one tell me that it was going to be like this….”

But that being said,  I was not going to be a downer on someone else’s rather happy parade. 

If they are all excited and optimistic about it, and prefer not to hear, then I am quite happy to smile pleasantly and let them remain happy.

She kept saying “I know it will be hard but thousands of women do it and I will be fine…”

And though I really felt I wanted to put my hand up and go “I really need to tell you what you are letting yourself in for ..” I resisted and instead opted  to take the high road and say little or nothing. 

<I really had to chew the inside of my cheek, as saying nothing is not part of my natural makeup.>

Fekn hell.

She had a natural birth that included screaming, tearing, baby getting stuck at the shoulder, baby being suctioned, OBGYN screaming (screaming) I NEED HELP HERE, OGBYN doing purl-plain-purl-plain to put her back together again, and and and …. (listen, I think she is a super hero for making it through, really, I might have stood up and said “Okay that is about as far as I am going here – someone give me gas or general anasthetic, and someone get this frikkn baby out …. because I am done!!”)

When I visited her later on “birth day” she had that far-away look like when someone sees something horrific.  It was as if she had survived something huge, but had seen the dark side and was now had a haunted look about her.

But we laughed and I patted her hand, and listened to her talk about her going home and how that was going to be …and I patted her hand a bit more, because she did not appear to be worried.

Again I felt an overriding urge to go “er…….” but I didn’t.  She seemed happy, she seemed confident, and that was enough to keep me quiet, and for hells sake she had just been through Hades.

She got home and unfortunately that is really where the fun started.

Baby is struggling to latch, she is stressed and upset and clearly not sleeping, and is making nearly daily trips to the clinic – I really really feel sorry for her.  When I speak to her I can feel her pain, and I want to cry with her.

Why can I feel her pain?  Because I was there.

And so were most (if not all) first time mothers. 

We have lived that hell of arriving home with your new born.   You are about 5km from that Linus blanket that is the nurses red button, and suddenly that sleepy little fresh smelling baby is screaming and you do not have a clue how to cope.  You are hormonally overloaded, your body is exhausted and nothing is working like it says it will in the books.

Nothing.

She is trying to breastfeed and its fkn difficult and it is not working.  But she has all this pressure that she must and she is weeping and wondering if it makes her a bad mother if she does not breastfeed!

Oh my heavens, my heart bleeds for her. I wish I could tell her that it will be better tomorrow, but we all know that first 6 – 8 weeks is like a slow ride to Danté’s hell without coins to pay the ferryman to get out of it.

And then she says: “Why did no one tell me that it was going to be like this…?” with a sort of hysterical note in her voice.

I love this girl – I really do!!

The short answer is, no one tells you because no one listens.

Everyone thinks that they are going to have this miracle pregnancy and this “soft light and roses” birth, followed by  the new little family skipping off into the sunset.  It is all going to be heaven and soft milky baby burps from here on in.

As sorry as I do feel for her – and I do – part of me smiles – not because I am a mean person – and quite possibly because I am – but because sh&t we all go through this, and I remember it, not fondly, I just remember it.

<but I do hope for her that this 6 weeks passes quickly, she regains her sanity and that this is a small bump on her road with her new baby …. I really do>

Gawd help you if you try to tell a pregnant first time mom about the “big bad world” because she will raise her perfectly plucked eyebrow and place her left hand – so you can see the glint of her wedding ring –  gently onto her perfect bump, and tell you in no uncertain terms that you are sorely mistaken, she has this under control.

And that is why when I see a really happy pregnant first time mom, I smile, take a really large sip of my Chenin Blanc, lean over and go: “So how’s it all going?” with a slightly evil glint in my eye.

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28 Comments

  1. Talia

     /  April 1, 2011

    I’m 32 weeks pregnant, and hoping for a natural birth at a birthing centre rather than a hospital (it’s the hippy in me). I’ve had a really easy pregnancy so far, so my husbabd piped up in company last night that I should have a very easy birth too. “It’s all in the physiology” he said, “so there’s no reason why she should feel vulnerable during the birth.” (This after a lovely lady tried to warn him that labouring women may feel rather vulnerable.) I sat there withmy jaw on my lap, suddenly feeling this weird pressure to pop the baby out with gentle and screamless decorum, then effortlessly transition into the perfect mother. I try to bury my fear just in case I jinx myself and the horrors I imagine come true, but clearly that’s backfired if I’m hoping for a supportive husband who’ll try to understand what’s happening! Anyway, my long convoluted point is that I know I must come across as an arrogant first timer when all my friends who have the T-Shirt try to warn me, but I’m trying to maintain the happy headspace for as long as I can. Preferably without killing my beloved husband…

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      Thanks for putting this here ….. its nice to hear from first time moms, the fact that you read this blog – even if it is just this one, sort of tells me that you are looking behind the curtain though …. good luck for the last 32 weeks!! Maybe you can do a guest post “the realities of the first 8 weeks – the real ones, not the crap that reluctant mom tells you…”

      xxx

      Reply
  2. Anna F

     /  April 1, 2011

    Briljant! That was BRILLIANT writing!! Dankie, ek het nou vreeslik lekker gelag, maybe it is because of my own four childbirths thet I had gone through..

    Reply
  3. Scaredmom

     /  April 1, 2011

    RM you are such a good friend not spoiling the fun of telling her what it is really about, I think If we all knew we would not have children.

    Reply
  4. LoriF

     /  April 1, 2011

    Spot on as usual RM. Nature is weird though. I remember thinking during those first 6 weeks “why, why on earth would one have another child after the first one” But even when we know and better then someone having told you so, you have actually LIVED the horror which childcare can sometimes be, you still end up wanting another one!!!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      Exactly and you do choose to do it again, and maybe again … but at least if you know that you are going to be punched in the face, you can choose to either duck, or at the very least prepare for the blow, else all that is happening is that you are getting hammered and can’t quite understand why ….

      Reply
  5. Elaine

     /  April 1, 2011

    This is the reason why I read your blog! I used to feel that I was abnormal going through all the different stages of being a mommy, but thanks to you I really start to feel normal! I always thought “Why didn’t any one tell me?” and thought that I was the only dysfunctional person on this earth!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      Thanks Elaine, that is exactly why I started writing the blog …. because I thought I was the only dysfunctional person on the planet …. and no one was like me …. and everywhere I looked there were happy normal moms. I am glad forums and blogs give us the space to vent and cry and at the same time go “yes, me too, me too!” xx

      Reply
  6. julz

     /  April 1, 2011

    RM I don’t even know your friend, but I am in tears here. Partially because it seems she had a traumatic birth and while mom’s like herself and myself say we are fine, such a birth is a trauma plain and simple and you are not fine at all and then dealing with baby afterwards is so much harder. Not only do you have to deal with the baby, but with your own inner damage. She can probably still hear the gynae shouting that he needs help! Sadly the first two weeks depite trauma etc are fine. The 6-8 week mark not so much.

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      She will be fine …. she will be fine ….. she sounded a bit better today …..

      Reply
  7. joanne

     /  April 1, 2011

    My dearest friend in all the world is preggy with her first (at the age of 38) and o the excitement and elation!!

    She is currently 34 weeks and phoned me earlier this week , her opening line was “Why didn’t you tell me?!” I knew immediately what she meant and my reply was “i did, why didn’t you listen?

    I reminded her of a conversation we had early one morning sometime in my last trimester (last year this time) when she called me in the middle of one of my snot fests. I sobbed about the lack of sleep, the aching joints, swollen feet and all the joys. I bemoaned the fact that pregnancy was only romantic to those that had not experienced it or had forgotten that the only reason pregnant women glo is cos they don’t know any better!

    She remembered the conversation and also admitted that things are so different when you experience them first hand. (she thought – it can’t be that bad, else other women would have complained too)

    I didn’t remind her that as a second time mom, I was inconsolable during that conversation. And while she was saying all the right things I was going on with “and to top it all off none of it will be better when baby is born, cos then it will be leaky boobs, sanitary pads, hormones, panic, no sleep AND a new born”

    I expect many more similar calls in the weeks to come. And yip the truth is . . . you just didn’t listen . . . but i’ll be here and I love her all the more for her optimism

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      I think new-soon-to-be-moms need to be assigned a honesty friend, someone who keeps reminding them of the reality ….. keeps reminding them ….. but still pats thier hand when they are sobbing in the middle of the night …..

      Reply
  8. The friend that made you do this

     /  April 1, 2011

    Reading this post and then thinking back to your first pregnancy, the only one for which I was around, I have to apologise for not being the one to remove your blindfold.

    As a friend I failed you if you didn’t know how tough it was. It was certainly never my intention to make it appear anything less than as tough as it was. I think I was still at the stage where I believed that I was not normal for finding it all hard. There were times after Matt where I felt so bleak and so alone but I had nowhere to turn either. Eventually I learnt to wear a mask and just get through each day as best I could. Would you have believed me anyway, being the strong-willed person that you are, or would you have been like every other first-time mom who thinks “that won’t happen to me, I’ll be different”?

    Reply
  9. Sue Stuart

     /  April 1, 2011

    My first is 14 months old and so far I still have no desire for number 2! The first few months were dreadful, and now that I am (mostly) enjoying motherhood, I just can’t imagine it with more than 1 kiddywink! Besides, I’m now 40 so I think that’s a good enough excuse not to have another 🙂

    Reply
  10. Amy

     /  April 1, 2011

    Hi There

    My name is Amy and I’m a lurker. / gasp. (I mainly don’t comment because I’m not a mom or pregnant and would feel like an absolute ass since I don’t have any experience with the topics you post about. LOVE your blog though. I check it 365 days a year for new posts.

    Anyway, I plan on having kids when I’m 27/28 (I’m 24 now) and i gotta say, your blog has me scared shitless…sometimes I wonder if i even ever want to do this to myself! (have children) I’m assuming you wouldn’t trade your children for anything in the world though, right…?

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      Amy I hope that once you wipe the fear-spittle off your chin, you will go “thanks Reluctant Mom for my making me street smart..” – listen I am not going to tell you that you will not be crying in the bathroom at 2am while wearing your less than clean bathrobe, but now at least when you are doing it, you will realise that this is “normal” and almost a rite of passage, and maybe not feel so alone like I did.

      I think the issue is that motherhood was hard for me – but what made it harder was that no one told me REALLY about the real stuff.

      I hope my blog (and other blogs) do not scare you into not procreating, but I hope that it gives you a window that you go through stuff, some of us deal with it better, but there is always stuff – and if you know there is stuff, then when the stuff hits you in the face, at least you are not crying that you are a “not good enough mother” but that you can just cry because it is rough.

      I am not sure if that is making any sense. I did it three times and will do it a fourth time if Kennith would let me – but at least each time I go into it now I go into it knowing that the punches are coming, and then I know which to duck for and which I need to take in the face. Knowing the punches are coming is much better than walking into a ring blind folded and then suddenly getting punched in the face …. and then you stand up and get punched in the face …

      See this as me removing the blind fold for you …. punches are still coming, but now you can see them coming and then deal with them better.

      Reply
      • Amy

         /  April 1, 2011

        Good way of putting it 🙂 I guess I have to thank you then for preparing me 🙂

        Reply
        • reluctantmom

           /  April 1, 2011

          Yes, that or scaring you sh*tless, no doubt some days you will swing between the two ….. xx

          Reply
  11. This is exactly why I love your blogs to bits Celeste! Well said

    Reply
  12. I think it’s really true that no one listens. I didn’t!! I was convinced my baby was going to be the baby from heaven, and I was going to be the perfect, coping, energetic mom!! Well for about a year after and even still (21 months later) I sometimes ask myself had i known, would I have wanted a baby so much. But in reality, yes! However, I eat a piece or 3 of humble pie every day. I take my hat off to the world of mothers, especially those who have more than one. My mom had 4 of us and honestly, I can’t figure how she’s still alive!! I would love another child, and yes, go through the whole thing again, but a big part of me is absolutely terrified. I’m still exhausted from number one.
    I feel too that as mum’s we can be supportive of the new perhaps naive mom-to-be, realise that she’s going to go through a huge, life changing experience, and in those dark days, let her know that there are baby kisses and moments of joy in store, till baby get’s tired at least!!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      I do think the first is without a doubt the hardest – the trauma of it and the fact that it comes and kicks you up the arse and leaves you on the floor weeping.

      Baby two and subsequent you definitely go in with an air of “well this might not go as well as planned” – and I think a healthy scepticism, which I find keeps you sane. That being said, even with baby number two I was sitting on the bathroom floor in my old blue bathrobe crying. And oh joy with baby number three, I got to do the same again.

      So no matter what it hits you like a fother mucker, but at least with baby 2 and 3 your brain goes “hey I remember this…” and then there is a chance you adjust a little bit better. A chance, not a certainty!

      Reply
  13. I feel so sorry for new moms… but the thing is, I can’t scare them at all while they’re pregnant. They’re not going to listen really anyway because it’s so foreign… and they’re too concerned with everyone telling them the scary preggy stories anyway

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      True, but there is also that sense of invicincibility (my spelling might be off) that almost-new moms feel….. and then there is that moment before it all comes crashing down.

      Reply
  14. Sharon

     /  March 31, 2011

    I’ve written a number of posts about this very topic as well. My first 9 weeks with my new baby were sheer hell and I felt like a complete and utter failure while going through it, because, you know, millions of women before us have done it so why the hell can’t I? But it was only when I got to the otherside that I realized, every first time mom goes through that hell, we either don’t talk about it, or we choose not to listen.
    But yes, it is hell! I’m terrified of the facing the first 6 – 9 weeks again!

    Reply
    • reluctantmom

       /  April 1, 2011

      If it helps, the second time you face the 6 – 9 weeks, it is not any better, but, and here is the but ….. your brain does at some point go “hey, I remember this…” and then you start to handle it in a slightly less panicked situation. What makes the first time so bad is that you literally feel ambushed and so confused, and you keep going “but the book didn’t say this….” by the second one you can just go “fkn book got it wrong again ……” and move on with your day.

      Still in your jammies without having time to brush your teeth mind you …… but at least a tad wiser.

      Reply
  15. I love this! I am so chuffed (yes, I’m INSANE) to be doing it all over again, this time with the sense of reality that is only installed in one’s brain after one has had one’s first child. I hop things get better for your sweet friend!

    Reply
  16. A lot of the blogs I read are by moms, and even though I’m not a mom – or even a mom-to-be – yet I enjoy the posts that are about the topics you wrote about. I can’t help, but think that if more moms-to-be read posts like yours then fewer people would be saying no one told me. People shouldn’t have to tell you, when you do something new be prepared, read up about it, chat with those who’ve gone through it. Or is that just me?

    Reply

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