If you’ve ever been to the movies, you will have learned that when you have a baby, you will scream very loudly (because screaming = funny), you might sweat a tiny bit (not enough to ruin your makeup of course) and after a few minutes a nurse will place a very clean, neatly wrapped four-month old child on your chest.
You will instantly lose your sweaty sheen, your hair will look perfect, you will forget all the pain and you will immediately fall in love with your flawless looking child as all the medical staff disappear off screen…..
It can be a bit of a shock when you discover it doesn’t happen like that at all in real life.Yes there will be screaming but it won’t be even a little bit humorous. You might sweat but it’s far more likely you’ll turn beetroot red from all the straining and pushing and it’s possible your partner will mention at some point in the future that your pushing face isn’t your prettiest. It will probably take more than a few minutes. It could possibly take hours and you might end up in tears because it won’t bloody END.
Eventually that baby will come out. And whether it has to be cut from your guts or ripped from your vajayjay, it will most likely be brutal. There’s no gentle way for it to happen. The child they throw at you will be mucky and they will be much tinier and much more squashed looking than the heifers they use in the movies.
Then there’s the placenta. There’s a reason it has never made an appearance on the silver screen. That shit is fucked up. If you can avoid seeing this bag of gore, you should try.
While you’re taking in your first few moments with your gloopy, squashed up, screaming baby, there will likely be a few medical professionals continuing to work on you. Don’t worry, they probably won’t be paying much attention to your face…
After you’ve been packed up and moved along, you’ll be all alone with your slightly less grubby child (where does all that stuff go? It just seems to disappear) and you’ll need to try and feed it.
Don’t let them tell you it shouldn’t hurt. If I had a dollar for every nurse who told me “if you’re doing it right, it shouldn’t hurt”… I’m sorry, but unless you’re a former dominatrix or you’ve just stepped off shift as a dairy cow, your nipples are not used to that much action. It will hurt. It stops hurting eventually, but while you’re in hospital, trying to come to terms with what has just happened to your bottom half, you’re being savaged up top by a tiny, merciless sucker who is desperately trying to eek one tiny drop of goodness out of your useless boobs. It’s hard to feel all earth-mother when your nipples are being shredded to pieces with what feels like the love bite of the damned.
Don’t even get me started on the sleep situation. Unless of course you never really enjoyed sleeping and regularly hop out of bed with gusto after napping in 30 minute fits all night long.
Oh, and has anyone told you about going to the toilet for the first time after pushing a child out of your hoohaa? *shudder*
So, is it any wonder that a lot of women feel a distinct lack of wonder, love and awe in those first few days with their child? Is it any wonder that women frequently lose their shit completely on the third day as they’re driving home with this tiny mystery strapped into their car? Is it so surprising that a lot of women feel overwhelmed and numb instead of dreamy-eyed and ecstatic?
Why do we insist on this image of love and rapture? Why can’t we just tell women it will be the most full-on thing you’ll ever go through, your body will be torn apart, your hormones will turn on you in a horrific way and on top of it all, you’ll be totally in charge of keeping a tiny human alive while you try to recover. Totes easy, right?
Of course, some women do give birth and enter that dreamy, loved-up phase immediately and that’s great for them. I don’t know many of those women. Most women I know are from the “I went numb with shock and didn’t know which way was up” camp.
It may take a day or two, it may take weeks before they can say, “yep, I’m totally in love and so happy.” AND THAT’S OK. That doesn’t make you a bad mother. That doesn’t mean you don’t love your child. It just means you are healing and trying to deal with all the hormones.
For some women, it can take a lot longer to recover from the total assault on the body and mind that is having a baby.
I mean, this is not for the faint hearted. This shit is for real.
Everyone deals with this monumental change of life differently. Some people will keep going like nothing has changed, some will find the challenge exhilarating, some people will barely scrape by. Some will plunge into depression and some will experience anxiety.
In Australia 1 in 10 mums and 1 in 20 dads struggle with anxiety or depression during pregnancy. This rises to 1 in 7 mums and 1 in 10 dads after birth, with many parents suffering in silence.
This is the story of Kelli Angwin:
“I am 43 years old and a GP, and I never thought this would happen to me. When I gave birth to my daughter, my little boy was almost 3. Not long after she was born I began to feel anxious and very flat, even whilst still in hospital. I was familiar with ‘baby blues’, but this was different. She was an unsettled baby and cried a lot which I am sure didn’t help my state of mind. I was caring for my baby’s needs, but I was struggling to have an emotional connection with her.
I spiraled into a deep depression. I was tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I was avoiding social contact because it was too hard to pretend that I was okay. I wasn’t eating and started losing a lot of weight. I felt very detached from my life and those around me. I was lethargic, irritable and consumed with suicidal ideation. With the help of my GP and psychiatrist I was able to receive the treatment and counselling that I desperately needed.
It was a long road to recovery, but I got there! It probably took 2 years to get back on track and I could not have done it on my own. In hindsight, I wish I had reached out to others earlier, I wish I had asked for more help. To know there really is a light at the end of the tunnel, that it really does get better!”
It’s Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness week. If you know a new parent, take a moment this week to check in with them and ask how they are going. Parenthood can be really tough and parents need to know that it’s ok to reach out for help. For support, please call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST or visit www.panda.org.au #bePNDAaware #itsnotallBandW
I feel strongly that we shouldn’t make new mums and dads feel weird for not feeling that all-consuming love the first second they see their new baby. It’s completely normal! How did you feel when you first held your baby? I felt…. overwhelmed. I think I was in shock.