On Passively Negative Responses to my Pregnancy (or: aren't any of you happy you had children?!)

A few days ago, I read this beautiful post on Florence Finds. It is, in essence, yet another summary of 2014 but this one focuses on the things the writer, Rebecca, learned from her last six months of pregnancy and her first six months as a mother - you can see why this appealed to me, right?

(Incidentally, I'm trying to limit the pregnancy specific posts to one a week; Tuesdays feel appropriate to me because they're when I shift from one pregnancy week to the next)

Anyway, what I loved about this particular post was the focus on the positive. Rebecca doesn't pretend that she's got all this parenting stuff figured out or that it isn't challenging or that she's getting enough sleep but this post isn't about how hard being a mother is; it's about the parts she finds rewarding. And that's what I needed to read.

One of the things she mentions is the "passively negative" stories people told her when she was pregnant and that struck a chord with me. I've lost count of how many people greeted the news of my pregnancy with, "That's your life over for the next twenty years!" as though, with the birth of our child, Steve and I as people are going to cease to exist.

"Bet you hope it's not a girl," one man told Steve. "Don't you know they teach sex education to seven year olds these days?" As though primary school children are being taught the art of oral pleasure rather than what to expect from their periods.

More importantly: at this point, the kid's coming out no matter how terrified people manage to make us so why try to fill us with (ill-informed) fear?

But even when people aren't trying to be funny or frightening, all of the stories - all of the stories - we've been told have been wry warnings. People love to talk about how difficult parenting is - how little sleep they had; how traumatic the teething was; how far bodily fluids can spray; how stroppy toddlers are; how stroppy teenagers are; the cost of children's hobbies. Often the stories are hilarious - I'll be crying with laughter as they recall their disastrous first attempts to change a nappy - and I'm happy to hear them and I realise that people aren't trying to put us off at this inconveniently late stage of my pregnancy.

It's just that all the stories are about the hard stuff.

After a while, it starts to feel like we're being lectured, as though people think we're too naive to realise that it's going to be difficult - that it will test our patience and our relationship; that we will be exhausted; that we may sometimes wonder what we have done.

Or, if not that, it sounds depressingly like regret. All people tell us is how hard having children has made their lives. Nobody talks about the good bits.

But I know the good bits exist - I see them on Facebook. I see streams of them on Facebook. There are so many photos of other people's children making cupcakes.

Yet nobody seems to tell stories about the successes.

One of the reasons I didn't make any public goals for 2015 was an expectation of being shot down. I don't have big goals - I don't even have clear goals - but I do have hopes that by next Christmas we'll have a lot of the parenting basics figured out; that we'll have got through the early bits with minimal damage to our relationship; that we'll be a lot clearer about how we're going to divide up work and family commitments and bring in enough money to get by.

But I don't want to state that I will, for example, blog regularly or make an effort with my appearance or take on any freelance work or make it back to pilates because my experience of saying anything even vaguely optimistic about this coming year is being told, "You'll be too tired. You've no idea."

And perhaps I will be. I fully expect to be exhausted; I fully expect to have to set aside things which previously mattered to me; I fully expect this to be harder than I'm anticipating in so, so many ways.

But I've also seen many women go straight back to work after birth or set up businesses whilst on maternity leave or find time to maintain some sort of baby-free social life even through the early months; I may be one of those people. It's not impossible. I haven't ruled it out.

And I would love if other people would stop automatically ruling it out for me. Because, at this point, no matter what anybody else's experiences were or are, none of us really knows how this year is going to unfold in our household. And I'd like to go into it with some degree of bright eyed, hopeful enthusiasm intact.


Popular Posts