“Nothing can prepare you for motherhood”
Becoming a parent is a life-changing event that has not stopped filling guest blogger Tegan Chapman with fear. This is her story.
My name is Tegan and I’m a mother.
I’m re-reading that sentence and it’s still not sinking in.
You’d think having just shy of 42 weeks to get used to the idea, I would be at least somewhat prepared to become a mother, but the truth is I’d not allowed myself to imagine the end result of pregnancy.
More specifically, my baby.
So sure I was that something would go wrong during pregnancy, that I’d not let myself contemplate the happy ending of holding my baby in my arms.
I had not imagined cooing over her, wondering which parent she most resembled, watching her grow up…
“Almost every decision you make in life, while maybe not reversible, can be changed. You’ve bought the wrong house? Sell it. Married the wrong person? Divorce them. But having a child is not something you can go back on. Ever.”
The fear of all the things that could go wrong overshadowed my mental preparation for motherhood so much that I spent the first month of my daughter Nola’s life in denial about being a parent. And utterly terrified at the daunting prospect of being responsible for a tiny human life that depends solely on me to survive.
The usual motherly fear of inadequacy seemed magnified as I stared at this little being that had apparently come from me.
I struggled to believe I had created life, and it was like I almost forgot I had ever been pregnant in the first place (and it was almost nine months of being continuously sick, so it’s not something you forget easily).
The fear of labour itself meant I was already in denial before she arrived, preferring instead to believe my baby might arrive via magical stork as opposed to the very real alternative – me actually giving birth. I’d not remotely prepared myself for labour, and so the ensuing three day nightmare and resultant failed induction and emergency C-section, proved that my body was in cahoots with my brain, and was also not ready for motherhood.
You would be forgiven for thinking I am a young teenager, naively looking at babies and thinking they look adorable without the realisation that they’re hard work and a lifetime commitment.
But I’m actually 32 years old and until Nola arrived, I’d like to think an intelligent human being. And yet here I am, terrified and still in shock that I’ve grown a little person who is now dominating my life. It’s a lot to take in, and it certainly takes some getting used to. But I refuse to believe I’m alone in this feeling.
Almost every decision you make in life, while maybe not reversible, can be changed. You’ve bought the wrong house? Sell it. Married the wrong person? Divorce them. But having a child is not something you can go back on.
For the rest of your life – not even just until they’re an adult, as I still need my mum just as much in my 30s (if not more) as I did as a child – you’re responsible for the life of someone else. And it’s a thought that rather naively didn’t really sink in until after she was here.
And there were times in those first few weeks as she screamed endlessly at me for reasons neither one of us could comprehend, that I wondered what on earth I had done and how I would cope with the rest of my life knowing I had a child relying on me.
So why did I not appreciate the enormity of bringing a child into the world? Purely and simply: fear.
You can read as many books and blogs as you like, but nothing can prepare you for motherhood.
From the moment I realised I was pregnant – naturally it was after a family-unfriendly trip to Chernobyl – I was just waiting for something to go devastatingly wrong. There was no reason for this fear other than statistics. I’d had no previous problems, no miscarriages, this was my first pregnancy and although it had taken a while to fall pregnant, there was no reason I shouldn’t have had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and baby. And I did. I realise I was very lucky. But the statistics tell you differently, and I was convinced I would be one of the unlucky ones. After all, someone had to be.
“It’s a lot to take in, and it certainly takes some getting used to. But I refuse to believe I’m alone in this feeling.”
We aren’t born fearing the world, fear is a learned behaviour. As I write this and my baby sleeps silently beside me (who am I kidding, her snores are louder than a fog horn), she has yet to develop any fears, rational or otherwise. She’s blissfully unaware that every time she snorts I’m filled with terror that she’s stopped breathing, or she’s suffocated herself on an invisible carrier bag.
This fear is something you have to live with. From my fertility fears to pregnancy fears to birthing fears- they are all valid concerns.
My own mother tells me the fear never goes away, it just changes as your child grows. She’s hoping my daughter puts me through the same worries I did her and takes up extreme sports in developing countries…
But despite this fear I am buoyed by one realisation. As my daughter develops, learns and grows week by week, so too do I. And together – we’ll get there.