Part of a creative writing and motherhood workshop that I took part in recently involved writing ourselves a letter, thinking about what we would say to our pregnant selves.
I’ve been really thinking about it since then. See, the thing is, I could tell myself all sorts of things about what being a mum has really been like, but I still don’t think I would have been prepared.
Nothing can truly prepare you for having a baby. And there are so many factors involved, so many emotions, so many hormones, so many ideals that just get shattered when you get home from the hospital and nothing is quite like you’d imagined it would be.
But, still, here are some things I would tell myself if I had the chance to go back to the time before my children were born.
It won’t come as easily as you think it will.
By ‘it’ I mean all of it. All of what motherhood entails. Just because you want it so badly doesn’t mean it will come easily. Breastfeeding will be hard. At first you’ll be terrified to dress the baby because you don’t know what you’re doing, and you feel like you’ll hurt him. The lack of sleep will be unlike anything you’ve experienced before, you’ll be so tired you’ll hallucinate at night, and just want to cry in the day.
It will get easier though.
You will find your feet. You’ll get some sleep, or at least adapt to getting less sleep. You will get to know your babies. You’ll learn how to do all the practical things and soon they’ll become second nature. You will drink a whole, hot cup of coffee again. You’ll learn to trust your instincts and to do what you know is right for you and your family.
You should really learn the lyrics to Calon Lan.
You’ll sing that song over and over again to both your children. It will have such special meaning to your family.
Hormones can make you all kinds of crazy.
You’ll feel so many emotions you won’t know what’s going on. Joy, despair, wonder, hopefulness, hopelessness, love (complete and utter, all-consuming love), anger, resentment, confusion. Anything goes. But knowing that this is normal can help you get through it. It can take months though, for your hormones to settle down, so be prepared for that!
You won’t be able to think straight.
The baby will be screaming. You’ll know it’s because he’s too hot. You’ll think as far as taking his clothes off and then have to call your husband to come home and help. He’ll immediately come in and open the windows and doors to cool the house down. You’ll burst into tears at not having thought of that for yourself.
There are moments of absolute joy and wonder.
The quiet moments where you just sit, with your baby sleeping on your chest. The wonderful moment you hear your child say ‘mummy’ for the first time, and know that they mean YOU. Every time they attempt a new skill, and again when they master it. The moment you realise that you can have an actual conversation with them. The little moments in the day when you just stop and gaze at them and it really is amazing that they’re here.
There are moments of absolute frustration and despair.
The quiet moments when you just sit, with your baby sleeping on your chest, and the tv remote, your phone and your drink are all out of reach but you don’t dare move because it’s the first time the baby’s slept all day and you’re so scared you’ll wake them up. The moment you hear your child call ‘mummy’ for the 100th time that hour and you desperately want them to mean someone else. When you have the same conversation with your 20 month old over and over and over again.
Being a mum is hard. Really bloody hard. We’re bombarded with conflicting advice and opinions. And internally we fight conflicting thoughts and emotions. We get tired and frustrated when the baby won’t sleep, then we feel guilty for feeling those things because there are women out there without children who would give anything to be in our shoes, then we feel overwhelmingly sad at that thought, then get a rush of love for the baby in our arms, then minutes later we’re back at frustration because they still won’t go to sleep.
You’d do it all over again.
When you strip it all back though, and get past all the fear, and despair, and utter exhaustion, at the very core of motherhood is love. Love that is messy and raw and all-consuming, but also beautiful and wonderful and life-changing.
Love like you’ve never known before.
Despite all the things I’ve written above about how hard it all is, having my children is still the most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I wouldn’t change them for the world. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world. With all the bad comes so, so much good. So many shining moments of joy that wipe away everything else.
So, when all is said and done, if I could go back to being my 27 year old pre-baby self, would I go around again?