I’ve just had one of those conversations that will come back to haunt me. You know the ones. The ones you have with expectant mothers. Who then whinge later that ‘nobody told them how hard it would be’.
We talked about her plans for a water birth. And how she’s going to be back at work five minutes after the baby is born because ‘newborns sleep, like, 17 hours, right?’. Even as we’re talking, I’m remembering my birth plan which, while not featuring candles and crystals, didn’t really take into consideration a 33-hour labour, complications, and an emergency C-section under general anaesthetic.
So, what did I say to her?
I said: “Don’t get too wed to one way of doing things. Babies have a way of dictating terms.”
I did not add: “By the way, get used to it, your life will no longer be your own.”
Even so, she looked at me as if to say “yeah, well, you just didn’t do it right”.
When we got to the work bit, I told her most sincerely that working around a baby from home wasn’t really going to be do-able for at least three months. “You’ll be so tired,” I said.
I tried to share how difficult everything becomes with a newborn. How you’re supposed to sleep when they sleep, but then you find yourself fretting about whether they’ve slept too long, and are they breathing, and shouldn’t I do the washing up, clean the bathroom and dust the skirting boards to ensure an allergy-free zone for my new beloved?
I lost her completely when I got to the bit about how getting out of the house can take two hours and by then you’re wondering why you wanted to go in the first place.
She gave me that ‘loser’ look and told me she was ‘very organised’.
I tried gently to explain that breastfeeding can take up eight hours of your day – easy. How you need to change nappies at least six to eight times a day. How trying to wrestle a newborn into a Wondersuit can take days for the uninitiated. How she’ll be sitting there at the end of the day, exhausted, wondering where the time went and why she’s still in her pyjamas.
Then I realised that I needed to stop. Because I didn’t want to be that woman who sits there going ‘just you wait’ while the glowing pregnant woman looks at her like she’s just out to ruin a good time.
So what did I say? I said “it’ll work itself out”, “you’ll get through it” and “women do this every day”. Most importantly, I said “call me anytime” because I reckon when you’re a new mum the biggest sanity saver of all is a calm voice on the phone saying “it all sounds normal to me, you’ll be fine, do you need me to take the baby for a walk?”.
No doubt she’ll come up for air six months down the track and rail against me for not telling her “what it’s really like”. All I can say is I tried. But seriously, who’d believe me? Particularly given that I got through the first one and then went back AGAIN.
Collective amnesia. It’s the defining characteristic of a group of mums. And, in the end, we wouldn’t have it any other way.