Thursday, April 10, 2008

introspective at 13-and-a-bit months (must change that ticker)

A whole year has gone by. Has motherhood changed me? What a ridiculous question, of course it has. The real question is: how has motherhood changed me, and what have I learnt about myself?

First of all, I’ve changed physically; I mean, could my boobs hang any lower? With no bra on (walking around the house dressed only in a sarong- something that hasn’t changed one bit) I can put my index finger in my belly button and my thumb on my nipple. I haven’t really lost any more of my baby fat than I had in the first few months: after a rumour started doing the rounds of ICU I had to publish a denial in the most recent department newsletter that I am not pregnant! My feet are still flat and wide, but I can now find shoes to fit, mostly.

On the good side, my upper arms are as strong as when I was young and fit. I’ve finally ditched the ‘long and straight’ hair. I can function on many more levels when sleep-deprived.

Emotionally, well. Where to start?

I learned pretty quickly in my undergrad days that the most difficult psych patients to deal with are not those with frank psychoses. The most troublesome- on many levels- are those with personality disorders. Reading DSM you go through this “oh, I’ve got that…and that… and that…"

I know I’m pretty hard to live with. I get very moody and can be depressed and can get very, very nasty. But I always thought that I was reasonably insightful. And generous. But I have realised through motherhood just how self-centred and superficial I can be. My world no longer revolves around me, and that was pretty damn’ hard to come to terms with initially. As the Stones say “You caint always get what you wa-ant, but you can always git whatcha neeed”. I want a neat, ordered life. I want to have days off to sew and read and go sea kayaking. I want to go to sleep early and wake up late. I want to travel. I can’t do all those things anymore, and, no, it’s nobody’s fault, but my own for wanting them in the first place. Seemingly a long time ago, but probably only two or three years ago if people asked me if I had any kids I would answer on the lines of ‘no, I’m too selfish for that’ and thought I was kinda joking. Turns out I wasn’t, it was actually true. Teenagers often express their wish to have a baby as a desire to have someone who will love them truly. Man alive, that’s so way off track. Babies just seem to take take take take take. And then take some more, then a bit more, and then, just to totally screw you over, take a little more and then poo on it. Christ almighty. It’s that self-giving that I wasn’t prepared for. It seems to never stop. I feel opened, like a wound that will never heal; the irrevocable change that comes with your body affects also your soul. Someone said to Torrie that having a child is like having your heart walking around on the outside, and isn’t that so true. The range and passion of the emotions I feel is just so far outside of the intensity of any I have ever felt before. I mean, I thought my exam was hard. Be-freaking-jawsus. Comes nowhere close to the emotional rollercoaster of the first year of parenthood. Do all parents feel this? Wow. It seems so very, very pretentious to say it to people without children, but you really, really cannot describe it until it happens to you.

Other things that surprised me:

*I thought when Patrick was born I would know what he looked like. Instead he was a little stranger who wanted to invade my life and took over my boobs. Even now, his dear little face changes and grows every day, and I find myself thinking “I wonder what he’ll look like as a man?”. The one thing that has stayed with me- and probably will for life- is that soon after he was born- within the first minute or two I noticed he had a whorl of hair right on his forehead; it still directs how his hair hangs down his face, and I still stroke the scalp where the whorl splits the hair direction to left and right.

*I didn’t know that cuddling and snuggling was a developmental stage. I was beginning to worry that Patrick didn’t like me as he never really clung to me or responded to my snuggling. In the last two or three months, however, he is really starting to become very physical in his affections- I noticed first in the showers at the pool when I was rinsing off the pool water he would cling tightly to me as the water splashed his head. Then I noticed he won’t let just anyone give him a kiss but if I do it he will not only lean in but present his lips to me. Ok, and occasionally a tongue, but for a baby that’s still cute and not at all weird. Now he does full-on ‘climb over mummy and bury my face in her neck when I want a nap’. I feel like my heart wants to just leap out of my chest and bounce down the street with love. I’m beginning to realise just how much PND robbed me of the pleasures of a new baby (well, maybe not brand new, but the first few months at least) and the treatment robbed me of the intensity of these feelings.

*How secondary my (paid) job feels. Actually one of the ICU specialists whose wife is my GP- and a friend- said to me the other day “You can only have one job and one career per family” and I think he’s absolutely right. Right now, my ‘career’ as such is on hold as I meander through part-time training. MrT works full-time and is in the throes of establishing his practice in his registrarship: our roles have changed- he now has the career, I have the Job.

*Just how little good quality advice there is about how to deal with all this emotionally. Most of the baby books I read in my pregnancy were very lah-de-dah how wonderful and ‘natural’ and goddess-like motherhood is. Crap crap crap crap crap. It is only ‘natural’ in the sense that dirt and sticky egg whites and worm casts are natural- that is, it’s an organic and physical process. It’s like less “earth mother” and more “get your hands dirty mother”. It’s hard- and God only knows the number of times I have said this, but it is just so true- the hardest thing I have ever done, bar none- not specialist exams, not Med School, not climbing mountains, not brain surgery, not rocket science, not paediatric anaesthesia comes even close. Not even a distant second. It’s like that “If the sun were this basketball, then the earth would be three blocks away” kind of distance. And anyone who tells you any different is either a liar or has no children.

*The way my relationship with MrT has changed. I knew it would, but I wasn’t sure how. It has been tested to the limits, that’s for sure. Half the time I can’t stand myself, let alone know why he would want to. It’s stronger, different. We’re no longer just kind of two people who love each other and live together. He’s the other genetic half of my baby. He’s the only other person who knows Patrick as a complete and utter pride and joy. He is the most amazing and special man I have ever known and will ever know.

*You know how when you look into a mirror and how weird it is that that person looking back at you is… well, you… It’s nothing compared to the weirdness of looking into the eyes of another person and seeing exactly the same colour eyes looking back at you- but it not being you.

Right. Now that’s off my chest I promise to post nothing but fluff for the next three years.

3 Comments:

Blogger E, M, and the Little Man said...

I like your observations. I've been thinking along the same lines. I don't think I've ever had the urge to travel as much as I do RIGHT NOW, or go to a cafe and read RIGHT NOW - because I can't. The grass is always greener, right? Remember when we just wanted a baby RIGHT NOW! :) Well, that's how it was for me anyway...

It's amazing the intensity we love them even though they are all "take,take,take"

12/4/08 18:27  
OpenID thetwinkle said...

1. ok, so you *can* walk around the house touching your nipple and your bellybutton at the same time... but does that mean you *do*?
2. "man alive" - that's an expression i usually only hear on the iron chef.
3. hooray for the snuggling developmental stage. i love it. even if it means the twinkle cuddles her blue star cushion more than she cuddles us, at least we know she has the capacity for affection.
4. the career/job questions are hard. k and i thought we would both continue our careers as per before, but both reducing our hours to part time. but we're realising things like part time work isn't that easy to come by; part time work isn't usually available in higher paid positions so career promotions are unlikely if we want to stay part time; people expect "the mother" to give up work and "the father" to keep working full time and supporting the whole family and we just can't work that way; there is too much washing building up for us to be working full time; there are some exciting career opportunities i'd like to explore, same with k, but it's going to be only one of us who does that for now... etc.
4. you should write a book about "what to expect in your head when you're expecting a bundle of joy and you don't get one". there really is a need for that book.

13/4/08 15:12  
Blogger Jelly said...

5. i can't count.

13/4/08 15:14  

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