I’ve read a few blogs by other mother bloggers recently about the challenges of finding simpatico mum friends in real life. The internet fills a big void – it’s one of the reasons I blog and one of the reasons I read other mum blogs. I’ve been lucky with our antenatal group, we still catch up periodically and we were a great source of support for each other last year. I’m grateful for that group, but we still have a “most neutral self presented” vibe, and we talk mainly about kid stuff. I am more honest on the internet than I would ever dare to be in person until a firm friendship had developed. Yet there are limits to the conversations had with childless friends. I wish mainly that some of my pre-existing close friends had children; instead almost all of them are overseas gallivanting.
There are lots of other mothers at my work, and we get on well, but they are a bit older. My pre-existing friends are unlikely to all end up having kids at the exact same age as each other, but I’m clearly going to remain an outlier. Sometimes when I mention that my younger brother is in Europe people respond “ah, that awesome period of life when you just travel and enjoy being a young adult”, and part of me feels wistful for what I never had. Another part of me knows that this is a petty first world problem, that I have no right to feel sad at not upping sticks and doing a big open-ended overseas trip before having a baby, that I’m lucky and shouldn’t complain and I’ve had more overseas travel in my life anyway than 95% of the world could ever hope for, and I should just shut up. But then it feels super rough when one of my closest friends is running marathons in Spain and I’m changing nappies and doing futile pelvic floor exercise in the knowledge that one day I’ll need corrective surgery and even then I probably won’t be able to take up long distance running again ever, and I used to love running before…
I try to remain philosophical – there are much worse things in life, people used to die in childbirth. But when my childless friends ask about the labour, I don’t know what to say. It was horrendous. It was absolutely horrendous. I still feel angry and hurt that Wellington hospital wouldn’t admit me sooner (I wasn’t dilated enough, despite having had contractions regularly for 14 hours), and that when they did admit me eventually (after 23 hours), they wouldn’t give me an epidural straight away because I still wasn’t far enough dilated. So my only pain relief option was pethidine, and if I didn’t want pethidine then I would have to go home again because (you guessed it) I wasn’t enough dilated. I had the pethidine, but then when the little dude was born and couldn’t breathe for himself, and had to be taken away from me to NICU, and hooked up to all the machines, I always wondered was the pethidine partly to blame? And when I eventually got the epidural, and had a bit of a rest, and then they finally decided to start me on syntocinon, and I thought – well fuck if I was going to be having an epidural and hurry up hormones anyway, couldn’t I have had this a day ago and spare me the misery? When it came time to push (33 hours), the epidural was still going too strong for me to feel the contractions and work with them, and the little dude’s head wasn’t at the right angle, and I couldn’t move around because my legs were out of action, and I wonder whether that was a factor in the pelvic floor strain? I wonder whether I would have needed such a whopping great big long episiotomy if I’d been able to move around and get gravity on my side instead of pushing with my feet in stirrups like something out of a movie about how bad childbirth is. Remembering all this still makes me sob. Remembering that when the little dude emerged (36 hours), I held him only glancingly before he was taken away, and then I had to wait and wait while they stitched me up, and I had my phone next to me and my husband rang because the nurses in NICU wanted to know whether I could come in and feed him or whether to give him formula. And my midwife made me eat a piece of toast before I could go.
All these things, I can write them here, that feels ok, but I haven’t said them to anyone apart from my husband. I haven’t said these things to my friends without kids because what could they possibly say in reply? I’ve alluded to some of it, but that’s all. I haven’t said these things to friends with kids because I don’t want them to pity me, and I don’t want to hear about their 6 hour labours and how they run to work every day.
So I say them to the internet, because somewhere out there, someone else feels the same. Somewhere there’s someone else who is 28 and wants to punch people in the face / burst out crying when they say how “having a baby young means that at least your body bounces back more quickly!”. Somewhere there’s someone else who knows that the joy of pregnancy with a second baby will be marred with the fear, the fear of how it’s all going to go next time. If I write this, I can imagine a reader, and I can imagine that if we ever met we would be firm firm friends.