“Earning your stripes as a mum starts now”
* This post has been sitting in my drafts for a while now, but I finally decided to publish. *
“Unplanned and unexpected, but certainly not unwanted.”
These were the words Nick said to me either the day or the day after we found out we were expecting.
He was teetering on an old pair of ladders that were covered in dried plaster and attempting to do a final coat of white paint on the bathroom ceiling. I was sat on the floor between our bedroom-to-be and the landing, trying to stay warm by the heater and simultaneously trying to avoid being splashed. Nick is, by admission, a messy painter.
I say that I can’t remember what day it was, and that’s because I honestly can’t. The first few days passed in an hazy blur or trying to process this news. Remaining calm and composed on the inside while my insides were screaming “holy crap!” and hello why does no one else seem to care?? Even though nobody else knew, of course.
Even after a good month or two of feeling nauseous and just generally “off”, now was the time I suddenly became aware of how rubbish I was feeling. And far from feeling relieved that I finally knew why, I still felt a little lost.
I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel. When being a mum is something you’ve always seen yourself doing – as it has been for me – you expect things to go absolutely according to plan and that the moment it hits you will be full of smiles, laughter, belly rubbing and bonding, and plenty of kisses and hugs. But for the majority of people, this isn’t reality.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and, as I write this post, we are four days away from our first appointment. It’s not a scan. Just a regular old midwife appointment at a children’s centre in Preston, with no idea what to expect.
And I don’t feel as joyful, blossoming and glowing as I feel I should feel.
In fact, I pretty much feel the opposite of that.
For the past two months since early December 2017, I had been suffering from a cough. This ended up being a chest infection and, coupled with a bout of conjunctivitis on New Years’ Eve/Day, it meant my birthday/Christmas and start to 2018 was not the best. I did not get a kiss at midnight and felt extremely sorry for myself on December 31st. From two months of repeated coughing, I ended up straining my intercostal muscles pretty badly. Every movement hurt, coughing hurt, lying on my side hurt, hell, even breathing hurt.
Once I found out we were expecting, the nausea only seemed to intensify. It has reached a point where, no word of a lie, sounds can make my stomach turn. I’m off certain foods and forget chocolate or anything sweet – I’ve got no desire for the stuff whatsoever – it seems that all this baba wants is savoury.
It’s been a struggle. In between the sickness and chest pain – and being unable to take anything stronger than paracetamol – I burst into tears one night in front of Nick. Nothing new to him I assure you as I am a bit of a softie, but he knew these ones were different.
I cried about how miserable I was, and how I was struggling to take the pain any longer. The only time I felt any relief from the sickness or chest pain was when I was asleep. I started to dread going into work in the morning, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because I knew I would be sitting at my desk with nowhere to turn, no way to relieve the sickness and no one to talk to.
I wailed to him that this was supposed to be a happy time. Where the two of us would grow even closer and, when I did trot to the bathroom to have a neat throw up before getting on with the rest of my day – he would be there to hold my hair back. The reality I’m sorry to say is that you don’t want your partner anywhere near you because it’s mostly just unattractive retching noises and a runny nose.
And it was at this time that he said something that has really resonated with me.
“Earning your stripes as a mum starts now.”
Our journey as new parents has already started. For me it’s turning into a little house for a jelly bean-sized human, and dealing with all the horrible symptoms that come with it. For Nick it’s picking up the extra responsibilities, and the extra weight as my mum has banned me from lifting anything heavier than a potato. Not to mention dealing with the emotional fallout that could arise from anything as small as watching a video of old cars being crushed (true story) or that my body is changing a lot (also true).
So, as we creep slowly closer to the end of the first trimester (at the time of writing we’re midway through 9 weeks) and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m holding onto that second set of words he said to me. I may be desperate for certain foods then as soon as I get them want to throw them away. I’m constantly nauseous. I’m knackered. My back and ribs ache. My boobs hurt and I have a permanent pie tummy.
But holding onto those words is a like a lovely little good luck charm that reminds me it’s all going to be worth it in the end.