I remember when the little dude was around 7 months old, feeling like I was still waiting for my family to happen.
Does that sound bizarre? I mentioned it to my mum and dad at the time and they looked nonplussed. I tried to explain that I’d imagined myself as the mother of an older child, or more than one child, not of a single baby. They stared blankly. No, they don’t remember feeling like that with me when I was a baby. No, they weren’t sure even what I meant really. Of course children start as babies. They were busy being parents to a baby.
Maybe they never felt like that, but maybe they forgot. I’ll probably forget that feeling by the time the little dude is my age. I only barely remember it now! It goes without saying now that this is my family. Ah, my boy is so delightful at the moment and we have our nice little routines and everything is running smoothly. When the little dude was in the bath last night I started vaguely thinking about the new baby and how the new baby would fit into our life, and I realised that I almost never think about the bit when the baby arrives and I stop being pregnant. I’m only thinking ahead as far as “feet get even more swollen and varicose vein gets even more painful and afternoons with the little dude become even more dependant on youtube videos to see me through to the arrival of husband to do active play” (this means thinking ahead as far as the next day). The new baby is peripheral. There’s neither eager anticipation nor trepidation about the disruption, it’s as though some part of my mind has decided that we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it and there’s no point spending energy considering what might be. There are a few things in a list on my phone that we need to get done before the baby arrives – sort baby clothes, install car seat, buy some fenugreek, stock up on giant sanitary pads, etc – but that’s about the extent of the forward thinking.
This pregnancy has been very similar to my first, but has felt so different. The newness isn’t there, and that makes it a totally disimilar experience. Lying on my back, I notice my belly is lopsided, the baby is skewed on one side, and I remember that with the little dude. I remember that exactly. Sometimes I feel like I’m not pregnant with another baby, I’m glimpsing back at when I was pregnant with the little dude, a brief opportunity to revisit from the vantage of knowing what comes next.
I was thinking about this in relation to the back catalogue of this blog. I haven’t gone back and looked at it for ages. While I’m writing, it’s an outlet, but once I finish a piece it’s a message in a bottle to other mums. One of the reasons I like to record my impressions of the early years for anyone to read on the internet is that there are so many thoughts bouncing around in my head, but they don’t seem to stay there for very long. Life moves on way too fast. Writing it down is like trying to get a photo of the scenery on the bank of a river while white water rafting.
I know writing it as I go conveys more than a retrospective remembrance ever could. This always hits me when I talk to mothers of older kids – they retain the major impressions and a few details, and things come back when something jolts their memory, but it’s all so long ago. I think it’s important to put these thoughts out there, because while my experience of motherhood is among the most privileged in the history of the world, motherhood generally remains a silenced experience. It’s often presented through a male interpretive lens, and women also often present their experiences of motherhood in a way that generously accommodates male power (acculturation or self preservation?). For example, someone saying how lucky she is that her husband earns enough for her to stay home with the kids. And while that might be a genuine acknowledgement of privilege, it’s also as interesting statement. Maybe he’s lucky that you enable him to build his career? Maybe society is lucky that there are women willing to do crucial unpaid work? Maybe the kids are lucky that you’re there for them? Etc.
It’s interesting too when friends talk about the content of these blogs being very personal. It is personal in a way, but also, what does that mean? We have only our own experiences, our own stories. Women’s stories of pregnancy and birth and childcare are no more personal than any other stories. If anything, they must surely be more universal. Every person who ever lived started out being carried in a pregnant belly. We were all birthed, we all began our existence as tiny bundles of needs.