Deciding to start a family and getting pregnant is only the start of a crazy journey that no one really talks about enough (or they certainly didn’t to me anyway!). I wouldn’t say I was particularly ‘maternal’ before starting our family, but I knew I wanted to be a mum at some point in life, if I was lucky enough to do so.
After getting married in 2015 we decided to try for a family, the ‘trying’ didn’t last long (much to my husband’s annoyance) and a month later I was pregnant with my first daughter, Evie.
I liked being pregnant, I don’t have that many things to complain about to be honest. Of course, I had the obviously things such as back pain, lack of sleep etc but overall, I really liked it. It was interesting to see my body change and adapt to growing a human and we marvelled at how much the baby developed every week, watching the app to see which fruit related baby I was growing. When it came to ‘birth prep’ my only preference was that I wanted it to be as natural as possible and a water birth if that option was available at the time. We did a (ridiculously expensive) hypnobirthing 6-week course in the lead up and I felt as ‘ready’ as I thought I could. I never really feared the birth, which was maybe down to the hypnobirthing course, or just naivety.
I went into labour around 11pm, spent a couple of hours at home before waking a sleeping husband and informing him it was ‘time’ (not that I really knew what that meant). The labour was long, tiring and emotionally draining but all very normal for a first birth I was told so I just went with it. By the time she was born, at 9am, I was exhausted, an exhaustion I have never felt before.
What I say next is probably not going to score me many ‘Mum of the Year’ awards, but it is honest, and that’s what we’re here for, right?
I remember them putting her on my chest and thinking ‘what is this?’, ‘Who’s baby is this?’, I didn’t feel that instant connection, if anything I felt slight rejection. It sounds awful and makes me very sad just thinking about it, but it is the truth. From the moment she was born I found the first 2-3 months extremely difficult.
Don’t get me wrong, there were moments when I looked at her and marvelled at the fact that we had produced a mini version (literally) of myself, but it certainly wasn’t love at first sight, and I think that’s okay. I found the transition from 0-1 (I now have 3) the most difficult change of my life. You couldn’t just do what you liked anymore, you were ruled by a very small (but very demanding) human who needed you at every moment of the day and night.
Having a baby abroad, away from family, did make that transition even harder. You don’t have the support system you usually would if you were to have your baby at ‘home’ which puts a lot of pressure on your husband or the people closest to you at the time.
The nights were the hardest, it was an odd feeling that when sunset hit, my anxiety heightened. Maybe it was the thought of having gone the whole day and knowing that the night would be spent feeding, rocking or crying (mostly my tears) but as soon as it started to get close to sunset it was a very difficult feeling to get my head around.
People would message me saying things like ‘Don’t you just love her so much?’ ‘You must stare at her all the time’. I did, but I often wanted to respond saying ‘Actually, no. I’m finding this really hard. Is it meant to feel like this? Should I feel sad? Do I cry too much?’ but I didn’t and mostly just responded with a simple ‘Yes, it’s amazing!’.
There is a big difference between Post Natal Depression and Baby Blues I’m told, but honestly, it was a fine line. Looking back, I wish I had been more open about how I was feeling at the time.
With time things got better, she slept more, and I started to feel more like ‘me’ but I think it has left some longer-term anxiety that I am only just getting used to now. I can’t hear small babies cry, no matter where they are – in person or on TV/Radio, just the noise makes me feel very anxious. I have been known (on more than one occasion) to seek out a crying baby in a mall to see if I can help.
All of this is completely normal, and it’s okay to talk about not loving every second of the newborn bubble. Once you open about it, I think you will discover you aren’t alone. The best thing we can do is be more open and talk about what we are really feeling.
If you aren’t ready to talk to friends or more openly there are a lot more options and resources that allow you to talk in a more private environment.