No matter how you try to prepare yourself, there is nothing you can do that will make you understand the struggle of being a parent. I knew this when we decided to start trying, I knew it when I was pregnant. Once the baby arrived I went through a series of phases that slowly transitioned from the initial ‘What the hell have I done?!’, through to ‘I want to run away from her and my husband’, to the ‘I want to run away WITH her, FROM my husband’ and arrived at the ‘I couldn’t live without them’.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter and my husband very much, and the emotional response to having a newborn in no way reflects my love for them. After the 9 months of constant PMS’ing, our daughter arrived screaming. She screamed for the first 14 hours of her life and I didn’t have an instant bonding moment with her that they tell you about in the romantic labour stories. Nor did I have any bonding what so ever with breastfeeding. After 3 days of trying to get my tiny-mouthed little screaming machine on my boob we were kicked out of the hospital to fend for ourselves.
That first night on our own was probably the moment that my husband and I realised just how ill equipped we were for taking on these roles as parents. Yes, we went to all the anti-natal classes and got the library books and phone apps to track our pregnancy and prepare for the chaos ahead, but when you have been awake for hours and the night seems to last forever, sanity disappears into a distant memory and bickering and confusion take centre stage. The following day we had the midwife arrive to say “yea, that’s normal”. Well if it’s so normal, why were we not told about the awful 5-hour cluster feed, the daytime night habits or the drastic reduction in breastmilk production while our hungry little munchkin never went back to sleep.
The first 11 months of my child’s life have probably been the hardest of mine. While approaching other mothers for some comforting “ah I know, its awful isn’t it” I was surprised to find so many women telling me how much they love it and how beautiful babies are and how they can’t wait to have the next one. On reflection, a woman’s guard will always be up and at its highest right after having a baby. And I don’t blame them really, after the crap that strangers think it is appropriate to say to them through their trying pregnancy. Opinions disguised as advice that is spewed from the mouths of people that were probably once really struggling themselves. They must forget how hard it can be once they are not in the thick of it themselves.
I am the honest type. I need people to tell me how it is, how it will be. That it’s normal to not enjoy it, even if you love your child to bits. So here I am, saying to any other mother or father that are challenged every day with their new role… don’t worry, you’re not the only ones. If that gives you any comfort at all. Otherwise, just keep on keeping on and at some point, you will drift through to this side of sanity and look back on your struggles slowly forgetting just how hard it was at the time. Hell, you might even consider having another kid!