Motherhood had never really been my thing but with my mid-30’s approaching, it was a case of now or never. I reluctantly agreed to ‘go for it’ and shockingly, one month later, I was pregnant.
We were gob-smacked!
It was one thing to say we’d try for a baby, but another for it to happen so quickly, even though I’d done the ‘sticking your legs in the air after sex’ thing to give it a helping hand. We still didn’t think it would happen, at least, not that quickly!
The youngest of four children, I have always been the ‘career’ one. My brother and sisters all got married and had children while I was busy enjoying my job, having boyfriend problems and fighting shy of commitment.
To me, having children would have been to sacrifice a happy, carefree, selfish life for nappies and sleepless nights. Not on your Nellie! I couldn’t see the attraction and when babies were ‘shown off’, I couldn’t understand why everyone got gooey-eyed. Apart from which, I’m allergic to pain and didn’t really fancy giving birth!
So, I couldn’t quite believe the pregnancy test was positive after years of avoiding the possibility. I was in a state of panic and fear, while my husband was in a state of satisfied superiority that all men seem to adopt when they get someone pregnant so quickly.
As the pregnancy progressed, we became oblivious to the impact that having a baby would have on our lives. Between a threatened miscarriage, studying for exams and renovating our house, we didn’t have much time to dwell on ‘life after birth’.
But at seven months, I was admitted to hospital. I went into panic mode after I had steroid injections to strengthen the baby’s lungs in case she decided to make an early entrance. I wasn’t quite ready for the birth experience, especially after I overheard an eerie, ear-piercing wail from somewhere down the hospital corridor.
Five weeks later, after a further four admissions into hospital and without the benefit of attending antenatal classes, our daughter arrived. She was three weeks early. I suffered hours of agonising labour (in my back) in the hospital before giving birth to an audience of my sister, mum and husband (he arrived at the hospital with an hour to spare).
After the birth, I was so elated it was all over that I went into shock.
It had been a difficult five weeks and birth; the hospital midwife didn’t realise I was in labour so only prescribed paracetemol, even though I was doubled over on the floor, unable to speak with the worst pain I have ever experienced. Not a bad thing as I can now boast a natural birth, despite it not being by choice.
I held my daughter only briefly before giving her to my husband and mum to look after and then proceeded to phone close family and friends from the hospital bed! I had switched off from the pain and having the baby. I viewed it as ‘job done – that was a piece of cake’.
Then it hit me over the next few days. Not just the pain, but also the overriding sense of responsibility that comes with having a baby.
Practical things like how do I stop her crying? How on earth do I get the vest on over her head? How do I bathe her? How much food should she have? Things I had not thought about before because we were so worried about her just arriving safely and being healthy.
But more important than that was the realisation that her whole outlook on life will be determined by how we bring her up: will she be well balanced and kind, wise, confident, sociable, respectful, independent, patient?
We will influence many of her characteristics. What a massive responsibility! Bigger than any financial services product launch or media campaign I’ve been involved with.
And I hadn’t bargained for the heart wrenching, overwhelming feelings of love, protection and tenderness, which I now feel for my daughter.
I go gooey-eyed when I see her. I look into her eyes and cry at her perfection and marvel at the miracle that can conceive a child. I am fascinated that I carried her, a little person growing inside me for so long.
I love it when she looks up at me with her deep blue eyes while I am feeding her, so innocent and placing all her trust in me. I have cried when she has cried, not wanting to see her in pain, and know I would give my life for her like a shot.
Yes, it’s sleepless nights, dirty nappies and a lifelong commitment. It’s singing nursery rhymes instead of pop songs and it’s total unselfishness (goodbye to long, leisurely soaks in the bath and spending an hour getting myself ready in the morning!).
But it’s also a raw, deep, all-consuming love which is worth any sacrifice.
(Written in 2003, after the birth of my first daughter).