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.