Tag Archives: motherhood

Thinking about another baby…

For the first couple of months after Pip was born, my body and mind were on a spiritual high. My cells and my consciousness still could not quite believe what an incredible experience giving birth had been and for a very long time afterwards my body screamed at me “again, again, go again”. Every ounce of me wanted to have another baby straight away.

Nine months of sleep deprivation* beat that out of me and by that stage, the idea of having two small babies completely dependent on me filled me with horror. What if they both didn’t sleep? What if they woke each other all the time? What if I’m awake and dead on my feet for the rest of my life? My heart would palpitate just thinking about it. But the longing for another child was still there, just whispering in the background for a while.

Pip will be 18 months soon and I find that whisper starting to get a bit louder again. I seem to be surrounded by expecting mothers and tiny newborns at the moment and I can feel the strength of the oxytocin just swirling around trying to draw me in. What a wonderful stage of life! When everyone around you is on that exciting and magical journey of creating the next generation.

Blogpost: Thinking about another baby www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
lots of babies
photo credit: Raphael Goetter via photopin cc

But I find myself asking what exactly it is that I desire? Do I want to be pregnant again? Do I want to experience birthing a baby again? Do I want a nurseling? Do I want a small baby again? Do I want another child? Do I want a sibling for Pip?

I loved being pregnant I must say. Or maybe I eventually loved being pregnant. I found the first 12 weeks very difficult emotionally. Having waited so long to finally get pregnant, I was crippled with fear that I wouldn’t make it to the end of the first trimester. Even now, I find it hard to use the “m” word here when I’m writing as if I’m still holding on to some of that fear. Frankly, this is ridiculous because I was lucky enough to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy in the end when many don’t. Of course you can’t help what you feel, particularly when you’re stepping into the unknown and your body is changing and functioning on a completely new level.

I also had some pretty terrible morning sickness that I wished down on myself in those very early few weeks as a sign that I was definitely pregnant. Foolish me, it came in good time and stayed for longer than the books promised!

I would love to give birth again. Nothing prepared me for the life-changing, exhilarating intensity that was labouring and birthing my son. If I’m honest I think I could probably be pregnant and give birth far more times than the amount of children I’m prepared to raise. But you can’t have the first bit without the second bit…and there’s a world of difference between babies and children.

How many children do I want? Before, I firmly held the number four in my head, being one of four myself I suppose, and seemingly incapable of imagining life with less or more of us. My new philosophy – inspired by reality – is “one at a time” and we’ll see how it goes.

Yes, I want another child. At least two more, maybe (see above motto). I picture myself and my husband with our teenage children out for brunch in a local eatery somewhere chatting, laughing and solving the problems of the world (too Pollyanna?). At the very least I want to have a sibling for Pip. I fear for him as an only child smothered by the overwhelming and undivided love of his mama. I’ve also seen the burden of the only adult child when it comes to caring for ageing parents and I’d like to avoid that for him, if I can.

If, if. That’s the important word in all of this really. It was three years from when we decided to have a baby until we held one in our arms and we had to be helped along the way.

And one certainly doesn’t guarantee another but I am optimistic.

There’s plenty of time for dark thoughts when there’s definitely, absolutely no chance of another baby but even then, there’s no room for negativity. I’m already blessed with the most amazing, beautiful, loving, happy little boy and the memories of a great pregnancy and a magical birth. Everything else is gravy.

So it’s marrying the heart with the head. Who am I kidding? I’d love another baby, a child. My body has always known that, it’s just my mind that’s had to come around to the idea. I think it’s there now though.

*and the incredible power of Mother Nature. An exclusively breastfed baby who ate A LOT at regular intervals meant my cycle was definitely on hold so no extra babies for me, even if I wanted them!

A woman’s heart: Anna and Savita

Mothers have been very visible in the media in the last few days for all of the wrong reasons. They are devastating, heartbreaking and life changing reasons. I know many mothers who have gripped their babies tight with love and fear, crying and whispering “there but for the grace of God, go I“.

There is something so special and unique about mothering. Since I started on my mothering journey, which for me began when I realised I wanted to become one, I have realised what a spiritual, all encompassing, powerful life-force mothering is. My identity as a woman is now intrinsically linked to my mothering status. It does not define me but it is part of the core of my being. I will never not be a mother.

Being a mother is very different from being a parent. There are myriad aspects to being a parent that can be shared with many people of either gender in a child’s life but there are some things that only a mother knows.

Only a mother knows what it feels like to desperately want to carry a child in her body. Only a mother knows the untold joy of knowing there is a life growing inside her and the corresponding fear and burden of responsibility that comes with that. Only a mother knows what it’s like to labour and birth her baby into the world. Only a mother knows what it’s like to nourish a baby at the breast from her own body and watch her child grow and flourish before her eyes.

A woman's heart: Savita and Anna www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby Blog
Savita Halappanavar
Source. www.irishtimes.com

Only a mother knows what it’s like to discover that her body won’t let her carry the baby she desperately wants. Only a mother experiences the anguish and devastation of a pregnancy leaving her body too soon. Only a mother experiences the overwhelm of unexpected and taboo feelings during pregnancy like not feeling maternal, losing interest in her pregnancy and the longing for a daughter turning to the devastation of discovering that she’s carrying twin boys. Only a mother suffers through ante and post natal depression.

The other side of this coin is that only a father can one minute be the positive supporter and protector of his expectant partner and their unborn child to the next minute experiencing the life changing and scarring loss of not just the mother of his children but those children too and all of the feelings of helplessness and despair that accompany that. It is the father who is left behind and alone to cope with the consequences and to try to move forward with his life without the one person he usually turns to in his hour of need.

I would guess that there is not a heart in the land that has not been moved by the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year old woman expecting her first baby who died of septicaemia following the three day miscarriage of her 17 week pregnancy.

I would also guess that it is impossible not to be moved by the heartbreaking death of Anna Byrne, a 35 year old mother of two boys who fell to her death during the 38th week of her third pregnancy while carrying twin boys.

A woman's heart: Savita and Anna
Anna Byrne
Source: Garda Press Office via Journal.ie

My heart goes out to the husbands of both women who have been left behind and who are currently being tossed around by the media like playthings at this appalling, difficult time when they should be left alone to grief the loss of their wives and their children and to try and find some way to start walking down this new darker unchartered path that was not part of their happy plans for their future.

There are joys and sorrows that only a woman as a mother can feel. There are raptures and anguishes that only a man as a father can feel. This week fathers and mothers are holding each other and their children as they cry as a nation for these terrible, unnecessary losses that no family should have to bare.

I hope the media remembers this part as they clamour to sell newspapers and advertising space.

A case for child-free womanhood

I spent all of my teens and early twenties being horrified at the concept of motherhood. The idea of getting pregnant and having a child was alien to me. Alien enough, that when I was in college I always had enough money set aside to make a trip to England just in case such a scenario should arise. I know that’s probably upsetting to a lot of people but it’s the truth. Motherhood was so alien to me that I fleetingly contemplated the idea of getting my tubes tied while I was still sensible and clearheaded and not overrun with irrational hormones and the relentless quickening tick of my biological clock. Of course this was ridiculous youthful, inexperienced idiocy at its best but it provides a good example of where my thinking was.

A case for child-free womanhood www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog
photo credit: Lori Greig via photo pin cc

At some stage my opinion changed where having a baby didn’t seem so unreasonable but that was for other people and I lived my life is a child free zone, interested solely in reaping life’s benefits for myself, living one hedonistic, free-spirited day to the next, not particularly interested in the future outside of trying to climb up the career ladder. (Incidentally, I’ve misplaced my ladder. Have you seen it?).

Then one day I wanted a baby, and boy did I really want one. I couldn’t and can’t explain the overwhelming desire, a need almost, to have a baby. This eventually turned to desperation as months went by without any success. My daily life and my decision making was deeply affected by this waiting and wondering as to why nothing was happening.

It took us exactly two years to conceive, a passage of time that was long enough for us as a couple to think about, discuss and make important decisions for where our life would go if it turned out we couldn’t have children unassisted or indeed at all. One of the light bulb moments for me was realising that if we weren’t going to have children, then I needed to radically change my life.

I looked at my job and where my career seemed to be headed. I looked at where we lived, how we spent our free time, what our ambitions and dreams were, the choices we had made and thought, well if there aren’t going to be any children in this picture, life has to get damn well more exciting and full and satisfying and meaningful then it is right now because right now, life wasn’t good enough. If there won’t be any children, then these…compromises, let’s call them…that we’ve made to faciliate starting and having children need to go. And that’s what they were, compromises. A lot of life and living is compromised and sacrified when you have children. Listen, when I did finally get pregnant, I was more than happy to compromise and sacrifice – and would have compromised and scarificed a very great deal more – but that doesn’t downplay that you do have to make trade offs when you have children. You have to limit yourself to create a limitless world for your babies.

Since I have become a mother, my life has been enriched and I have felt love and received love in ways I never thought possible. It has been the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. But at the same time, it is the hardest thing I have ever done, or will do, in my life. I wanted it more than anything and still it has at times pushed me to the edge of reason. This experience all by itself has convinced me that motherhood is most definitely not for everyone. If I suspended two years of my life and put literally everything on hold while we tried to make a baby and still struggle with the challenges of mothering and parenting my son, what must it be like for a woman who finds herself with a baby when she never wanted to be a mother in the first place or circumstances have prevailed where she felt pressured to have a family?

Given the stage of life that we’re at now, with a toddler and moving in social circles with other people who have small children or babies on the way, myself and my husband often find ourselves engaged in conversations about responsible or acceptable fathering with horror stories of men’s reactions to having children and their adaptation to their new life. Stories of selfish, self absorbed, hands off, unsupportive fathers are regularly churned through rumour mills and usually end with “some men just aren’t cut out to be fathers” as if that’s a pefectly acceptable reason for a man to shirk his responsibilities. We NEVER hear the same phrase being used about women. Women are not allowed to be described as “not cut out” to be mothers. It’s like we believe that every women has an inevitable destiny to be come a mother. Because she has the biological potential, it must be realised unless something physiological prevents it. Society does not allow a woman to not be a mother because she doesn’t want to and yet the many reasons not to be are vast. Who can deny that the world is your oyster if you don’t have children? You can pursue any dream, goal, career, passion, adventure, fantasy, anything that you like without having to take anyone else into consideration. There is nothing holding you back. This is a very attractive option for your life.

If it is acknowledged that some men are not meant to be fathers and we know that there are incredible fathers in all walks of life also, surely we can deduce that some element of fatherhood is personality based? A man can have a personality and a set of morals and values that are inclined towards or inclined against being a father. Obviously, it’s the same for women. Our own experiences, our communities, our families, society and the media tell us that there are many mothers out there who should never have become mothers and have done unspeakable harm to their children because of it. One of my mottos for life – of which I have quite a few – is “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” This can apply to almost anything. Just pick something that you able to do, and ask yourself if it’s the right thing to do. All women can be mothers, be it biological or otherwise. There’s compelling reasons for many not to be.

I admire women who look into themselves, recognise that motherhood is not for them and choose not to be a mother. Maybe more women need to do this and know that it’s okay to make that decision. I applaud women who are brave enough to tell people that they don’t want any children because we certainly don’t make that easy for any woman. We tell her she’ll change her mind when she meets the right man. We tell her that her biological clock will ring too loudly in her ears and she’ll come around. We call her selfish. We assume she’s infertile and must secretly be dying to have a baby.

She doesn’t want a baby. She’s knows herself well enough to know that having children and being a mother isn’t for her. Being a mother is a life choice, as legitimate as any other choice, like getting a mortgage or travelling the world for a few years. Let women make their choice and then leave them alone.

The sisterhood of motherhood

It begins before you even know it. You know you’re pregnant but no one else does. But then you think you catch a knowing look from a woman on the corridor at work or one of your female colleagues almost imperceptively glances at your belly mid-conversation and you wonder fleetingly, do they know? No, sure how could they?

The sisterhood of motherhood www.mindthebaby.ie Mind The Baby blog Then when the time is right, you break the news of your impending arrival and to a chorus of hand clapping and cries of “I knew it“, you find that you have suddenly become a member of the most ancient and secret society in the world: the sisterhood of motherhood. It’s a lovely, warm, supportive, open and welcoming place, the sisterhood, but its members only grant you access once you have crossed the threshold into pregnancy. There are women I have worked with for years who completely changed our relationship once they found out I was pregnant. Conversations took on a new tone; stories were exchanged, tips offered, sympathetic ears, eyes, faces came forth and new friendships were formed purely and solely on the basis of extending and sharing experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. I was delighted actually. My working relationships improved nearly overnight, as if I had learned a secret handshake which opened up a network of membership privileges and insider knowledge.

As my pregnancy continued and my bump was obvious to everyone, I began to notice the sisterhood was not exclusive to my mothering work colleagues. In fact neighbours who I’d never exchanged a word with began to stop for a chat as they passed by the front garden and some even called to the door to ask after me and the approaching big day and to offer their help and their stories. Chance meetings with acquaintences would descend into excited, hushed whispers and the sharing of delightful, intimate tales. When Baby S arrived, this loveliness continued.

Mothers are so nice to other mothers.* It’s like an instant “knowingness” and recognition, a universal empathy that doesn’t need to be verbalised. Mothers know what it is to be a mother and regardless of different philosophies or opinions on the A-Z of childrearing, every mother knows what it feels like to be a mother, the very essence of it, at whatever stage of the journey you may be on. It’s almost cellular.

One of the beautiful things I have loved since my mothering journey began is the new friendships that I have developed. The friendships began because we became mothers at the same time but have endured and matured into strong, important relationships that have subsumed and transcended our shared mother-status. These friendships have enriched my life at a stage when I pretty much thought I had a full complement of friendships. They are unique in that we just jumped right in at the deep end, straight into the heavy stuff, no messing. I remember in some of our first meetings talking about perineal massage, incontinence, stitches, piles, cracked nipples, sex – and not a red face in the house. We talk about the profound emotional, psychological, physical and physiological changes and feelings we have experienced and are experiencing – our hopes, our fears, our worries and always the humour that follow us on this journey. It’s amazing. They have added such value to my life.

As a fully fledged member of the sisterhood of motherhood, I have found myself extending out the hand of “knowingness” and support to other women coming up behind me. I find I can’t control it actually. I see the pregnant woman and I want to reach out. I don’t mean overshare and burden with my own experience but I do feel a desire to let them know that I know. And that I’d be delighted to help with anything at all. Does that make any sense?

It’s such a wonderful secret society to be a part of. I think what would make it even better is if it wasn’t a secret society. I was blissfully unaware of it’s existence pre-pregnancy. I’m fairly sure I would have scoffed at the idea of it too and dismissed the perceived smugness of it all. Now, I can only imagine all the good it would do, if women grew up in a world where this sharing of motherhood was a wisdom we all had from birth. I think it would empower women and they could make better, more informed choices about motherhood and where it may or may not fit into their lives.

Then maybe things wouldn’t come as such a shock. And maybe women would be nicer to each other.

*You might have spotted my asterisk there. The caveat I’m including is “except online”. Sometimes some mothers can be very mean to other mothers online because they are emboldened by the anonymity of the Internet. That’s just not cool. I have no problem when people disagree with people to their face or disagree with them completely behind their backs because there’s no harm done there, but there’s no need for the cowardly anonymous attacking.