One of the biggest things to change in my life since embarking on this wonderfully wondrous parenthood journey is the sudden, powerful and quite overwhelming introduction of FEAR.
Before becoming pregnant, I – like most people – felt pretty immortal. I was young (ish!), healthy and happy. I had no real fears. I was a bit of a stress head, probably verged on being classed as a worrier, but I wouldn’t say I was massively SCARED of anything. I brushed off newspaper headline scaremongering and war threats, I took the chance and dashed across the road when the tram was looming, I smoked the odd cigarette and ate crap at weekends, the usual.
When I discovered I was pregnant, the feeling of immortality dropped off me like a stone into a river. And as my baby and my belly grew, I was suddenly scared of everything. Everything. As well as being occasionally crippled with fear that I’d eaten something forbidden or slept on my wrong side, I also felt really vulnerable for the first time in my life. I’d be overly careful when walking home from work to make sure I didn’t walk down any backstreets and I even felt slightly suspicious of any unsavoury looking characters in the city in case they wanted to do me (or mainly my baby) any harm. I hope I’m not sounding like a complete lunatic here! The rational side of my brain always kicked in and luckily my fears didn’t spill over too much so they affected my life, but even so – it was a strange new feeling to suddenly become untrusting of the world. As my baby wriggled and kicked inside me, I also knew in my bones that I would have done anything, absolutely anything to protect it.
My friends all told me that the feeling of love for your baby was incredibly beautiful and overwhelming – which was true – but nobody warned me about the fear which followed! Consequently, I’ve had conversations with many of my mummy friends who feel exactly the same way – one of them summed it up perfectly when she said that having a baby “made you take your heart out of your chest and wear it forever on your sleeve.”
When Little J was born, I did find the first few weeks pretty crazy. I loved it, absolutely loved it, and I loved him so so much right from the first second, but sometimes irrational fears would creep into my brain and I’d be extra extra careful when say, straightening my hair, just in case I dropped them and they somehow bounced up and touched the baby. I was far too scared to leave J sleeping in his Moses basket and go for a shower in case he cried or choked and I didn’t hear him. I also wanted one of us, myself or my husband, to be awake with the baby all the time, so I used to make poor Mr Muddle stay up until 4am with J so I could get a few hours sleep! I mentioned this to be health visitor and she told my husband to keep an eye on me as this could be one indicator that I may develop PND, but luckily I kicked myself into touch and the more irrational fears melted away eventually. I know not all mummies are so lucky so I’m very thankful for this.
As well as being more fearful (although I must say, this is improving and I’m beginning to feel slightly more back to normal), I also want to cry for the world most days. All of a sudden, homeless people aren’t just a bit sad to me, they are someone’s children. Someone lost at sea in the Pacific is somebody’s son. Any world tragedy affects babies. It’s cripplingly sad, it occasionally makes me want to run off with my family to a remote Scottish island with no internet connection or newspapers (although I think I’d miss Facebook too much 😉 ).
I think (well, I hope!) that these feelings are part and parcel of being a parent. I suppose the overwhelming love and incredible protective instincts towards our babies are part of our DNA and inbuilt into our genetic make-up since prehistoric times.
As my Little J nears his first birthday, I must say that life, and my brain, does feel more “normal” again – but I also know that my life has changed forever.
What about you mummies? Did you have similar thoughts or was your experience different? I’d be very interested to hear your perspectives…