Nothing ever really prepares you for first-time motherhood. In the weeks and months before the birth you listen to friends who are parents, and your own parents, telling you how having a baby will change your life and turn everything upside down. But you tell yourself, “Surely not? How can one small person have such a big impact? I won’t let that happen to me. Baby will have to fit in around how I live my life.” Now, the term ‘wishful thinking’ springs to mind.
Becoming a mum for the first time isn’t always helped by the many myths surrounding motherhood. The first, of course, are the myths surrounding the birth. Some people say women instantly forget all about it afterwards. Perhaps some do, but I still remember every moment!
Becoming a mum for the first time isn’t always helped by the many myths surrounding motherhood.”
There is also that work of fiction called ‘the Birth Plan’. Mine included, among other things, making herbal tea, taking a warm bath, and cooking myself a comforting pasta supper in the early stages of labour. Fat chance! It all happened so quickly I just about managed to get to the hospital in time. So if I had any advice for expectant first-time mums, it would be this: don’t plan too hard, because, in the end, you simply have to go with what happens. And, more importantly, remember it’s a natural process and your body will know what to do.
Then there are those discoveries you weren’t expecting to make…
There’s the body shock. Images of smiling, tummy-tucked celebrities leaving hospital looking svelte and immaculate led me to assume that once I’d had the baby I would instantly spring back to my pre-pregnancy shape. How wrong can a person be? Not only did I still look pregnant, but my arms and legs had swollen to balloon-like proportions. Something similar happened to my chest too.
Then there are the visitors. Just as you are feeling at your least attractive ever, suddenly the whole world is on your doorstep, desperate to see the new arrival. At its worst point, I was preparing a meal for 12 people, having had no sleep for three nights solid, and surging between massive adrenaline-bursts of joy and hormonal weepiness. That said, friends and relatives can be enormously helpful. I don’t know how I would have got through the first few weeks if it hadn’t been for my husband, mum and dad, and my in-laws, cooking and cleaning and maintaining some semblance of normality in my otherwise topsy-turvy world.
At the heart of it all, there’s a new baby, a new little life, demanding to be fed, changed, loved, cuddled and comforted. The first night after giving birth my little girl and I sat staring at one another, eyes wide open, both trying to get our heads around the amazing thing that had just happened. I don’t know which of us was most surprised!
The sheer amount of joy and love felt towards this new little person is immense. Having my daughter has been a revolution in my life, as it has helped me realise what love really is. It’s self-sacrificial and all-encompassing. It was something I hadn’t truly experienced before giving birth to my daughter.
I’m learning so much about the vital role we have as parents. Being a mum or dad involves giving your child the opportunity to be the best person they can be. A child also teaches you about love and compassion. My little daughter, who is not yet five months old, has a ready smile for anyone she meets. She has not yet learned to hate, or to fear, or to judge others by their age, skin colour or religion. So with every generation, we have a new opportunity – the values we give to our children are the values society will grow with. That is both an awesome and exciting responsibility.
When I look at my beautiful baby daughter – her perfectly-formed fingernails, her little eyelashes and her tiny toes – it’s impossible to think of her as anything other than a miracle. And yet I know, in my heart of hearts, that she is no more a miracle than any other person. Because everyone has value and everyone is precious.