Growing, giving birth to and taking care of a tiny human are challenging beyond anything you can possibly imagine when you see those two little pink lines on that little white stick for the first time in your life. Seriously, we have NO FREAKING IDEA! And clever minx that Mother Nature is, she gives us no prior clue – not the faintest – about what we’re about to endure over the ensuing months as said tiny human incubates.
Is it all worth it? I wouldn’t dream of speaking for all women, but, for me, the answer to that question is an unequivocal and resounding YES in big shouty letters. The love I have for my children is so enormous it feels almost other worldly and, though I have always been a determined and driven individual, as a mother that determination has become steely and resolute. I will do whatever it takes to provide for them and keep them safe.
HOWEVER (more shouty letters necessary), there were times – many, many, many, many times when I did not want to hear how ‘worth it’ they would be. When you’ve got your head down the toilet bowl for the 17th time in a day, you really don’t want to hear it. As in, really really. Really, you can feck right off with your ‘it will all be worth its’.
By no means exhaustive, here is a list of some of the things that were ‘worth it’ for me over the course of my pregnancies and the boys’ early years.
1. The aforementioned ‘morning’ sickness, or, more accurately ‘all day’ (particularly in the presence of cat food) sickness and associated fatigue.
Well-meaning friend: ‘Oh babe, it’s awful I know. But it should only be for another couple of months. And it’s so worth it.'
Me: Say that again and our friendship is over. And also – WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘SHOULD’?
2. Those final few weeks when it feels like you’ve been pregnant for at least ten years, your shoes don’t fit because your feet are like blimps and it requires five solid minutes of manoeuvring to turn over in bed at night. Don’t tell me to ‘hang in there.’ Don’t say ‘any day now.’ Don’t ask me if I’m ‘still here?’ Just bring me chocolate, clean the bathroom, and let me whinge.
3. The Syntocinon drip. Because my body is contrary and the NHS fears a woman without her waters intact, both my labours have been induced. With baby number one, I hadn’t the faintest notion what this would involve, merrily believing it was just about giving my body a gentle nudge in order to ‘speed things along a little’.
Look up the antonym for ‘gentle’ in the dictionary and you get Syntocinon.
‘Shall we talk about pain relief?’ the midwife asked me.
‘Oh no, I’ve been doing hypnobirthing, so no pain relief, thanks.’
Sweet Jesus on a stick (copyright Marian Keyes) – the naivety! Why did nobody tell me? Much like R2D2 in Star Wars - A New Hope, your pregnancy test should come programmed with a hologram to deliver this important message:
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BREATHE YOUR WAY THROUGH AN INDUCED LABOUR.
In the end I had ALL the drugs. All of them. And I didn’t want to hear the word ‘worth’ in any sentence uttered by any of the six medical professionals in that delivery room. Just. Don’t. Even.
4. The haemorrhoids. No explanation needed. For info, nothing the doctors gave me worked but this stuff was amazing. I’m still traumatised. Let’s move on.
5. The so-immense-there-are-no-words-to-describe-it exhaustion. When I was in the grim depths of post-natal depression, a well-meaning friend encouraged me to ‘cherish’ the sleepless nights because, all too quickly, they’d be over and just like that the most precious tiny baby days would be gone. It served only to amplify to the power of a million the guilt I was already feeling at not having bonded with my baby. I would drift in and out of anxious sleep as baby happily chowed down for the tenth time that night, berating myself for the fact that I couldn’t stay awake; if I wasn’t careful I was going to let go and he’d fall out of the bed and land on his head; and far from being precious, this was nothing short of hell. In the paraphrased words of the late great Father Jack. ‘Cherish’ my arse.
In summation: Pregnancy can be tough. Childbirth can be traumatic. In those first few months you may wonder what sane person would voluntarily subject themselves to this absolute (and seemingly never-ending) madness. And then that tiny human you have grown inside your very own self will curl his tiny finger around yours, stare at you with eyes that you’ll swear have seen it all before, and you’ll know with every fibre of your being that worth it doesn’t even come close.