Guest post: "I'm pregnant again after a long gap - this time, I'm ready to ask for help"
Victoria Smith (a.k.a Glosswitch) reflects on how her perspective on parenting has changed since she had her first child
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Posted on: Mon 06-Jul-15 15:23:42
(16 comments )
With my first two pregnancies I felt brittle and defensive, highly conscious of the fact that there were people who didn't see me as "the mothering type". I was too feminist, too idealistic, not to mention too unmarried. I was the kind of woman who would end up falling flat on her face, wailing "but why didn't anyone tell me how hard it would be?"
I resolved not to be that woman, first, by insisting to myself that the early days of motherhood would be the worst days EVER, and second, by deciding to adopt a serene, Kate Middleton-esque public face whenever people asked me how things were going. Ha! That would show them. You all expect me to fail, and indeed I might, but you won’t know a thing about it.
My sons are now six and seven. Over the years, what the writer Susan Maushart has called "the mask of motherhood" has occasionally slipped. Well, more than occasionally. I'm really not the mother I thought I would be. I am neither one of those reformed characters, whose whole life changed the moment she realised that her babies were all that mattered, nor am I one of those devil-may-care modern mummies, perfecting the art of not giving a toss about what anyone else thinks. I am genuinely ashamed of my poor housekeeping. I find playdates a source of immense, ill-defined social embarrassment. I still have moments when I sense my children are looking at me, seeing through the whole "mummy" act. But I am confident – or foolish – enough to be facing pregnancy and those early days of motherhood yet again.
In a society which finds endless ways to write off mothers – they are always too young or too old, too privileged or too poor, too conservative or too reckless – there is no point in trying to be the perfect exception.
Having got my sons this far – through breastfeeding , walking, talking, potty training, nursery, infant school – part of me cannot believe I am going back to square one. The idea that my third child will, for several months, be unable to so much as sit up seems utterly absurd to me. The thought that I might once again have to enthuse over that miserable cog-in-the-capitalist-machine Thomas the Tank Engine seems like a cruel joke. I am pretending that nursery fees – and bills in general – do not exist.
I fear I will be disappointed should my newborn baby prove to be less loquacious, witty and independent than his older brothers. Frankly, given that I've done this baby thing twice before, it seems unfair that I don't get the option of skipping the bits I didn't like. One could argue that you cannot appreciate the joys of motherhood without the heartache, but that's a risk I'd be willing to take.
Yet overall I feel more excited and positive as the due date creeps closer. I kind of know what I'm doing – kind of – but I'm also more relaxed about those parts where I'll just muddle through. I used to think of motherhood as deeply political, a performance of sorts, and in many ways it is. Women are judged on whether or not they have children, when they have children, how they give birth, whether they breast- or bottlefeed, whether they do paid work or not – the list continues. In labour with my second son, I remember feeling anxious about the pain not in and of itself, but because "people might think less of me" were I to have more pain relief than with my first son. I always had one eye on the audience. I'd entered a world in which everything I did had an additional meaning, defining me as good or bad, and I desperately wanted to know the secret to being good.
Of course, there isn't one. Instead, as a new mother you are expected to pick sides. I picked Team Saving Face. Show no vulnerabilities, crack lots of jokes. Don't be one of those women who complains about sleepless nights, boredom, exhaustion – hell, what did they expect? And don't be one of those women who gets all Mother Earth-y, preaching the virtues of female wisdom and natural birth – do they know how ridiculous they sound? For a feminist, I spent a lot of time adding other women to an imaginary list of "mothers who aren't anything like me." By the end of it I was on my own and none the wiser for it. In a society which finds endless ways to write off mothers – they are always too young or too old, too privileged or too poor, too conservative or too reckless – there is no point in trying to be the perfect exception. Our very diversity is used against us.
What I have gained this time around is trust, both in myself and in other women. What's more, I'm aware of how unfashionable that sounds and don't really care. At a time when work and family structures divide mothers more than ever, we do not need the ideological divides which make them feel unable to reveal their vulnerabilities.
It may be that starting my forties by having a third child is a terrible idea. I might need more support than ever. I hope that this time I'll have the nerve to ask for it, even if I'm flat on my face.
By Victoria Smith
Great post, good luck with your third baby.
Three's a charm My older two were 9 and 6 when dd3 was born. I bloody LOVED going back to the beginning. Except for potty training. I did not love that. Otherwise it's all good. Dh and I both found knowing this was our last baby was enormously liberating. We enjoyed it so much and now she's 8 we still enjoy it.
I was young when dd1 was born - 21 - and to be honest if I was now facing her going to uni and dd2 starting GCSEs with no third child bobbing along behind them, I'm pretty sure I would be feeling somewhat bereft. But as it is I'm fine with it all. You get the big child stuff and the little child stuff - at the same time! Fab
That's nice to hear, Northernlurker, and what I hope it will be like for me. Glosswitch, I am in the same boat as you and feel very much of what you're feeling. I'm nearly 40, my boys are 7 and 5, and my third arrives in three months' time. Enjoy every minute!
Do you think the type of parent you are changes with each child? I was such a martyr with my PFB no nursery, didn't even want a babysitter. With my second, I sorely missed not having any help and I gave up completely with kids activities for babies and toddlers as I couldn't stand them and thought they were such a waste for the children, instead opting for nursery at 2yrs. With my third, currently about 10 weeks preg, I'm planning to get a full time job and a nanny once they are about 6 months!
Great post and good luck with baby no3.
My 3rd and last child is nothing like my older two. Who were 7&9 when I had ds3 he's much more boisterous rough as a bull and advanced than my older children he has me run off my feet everyday a dunno how I coped when my eldest two were toddlers but saying that I wouldn't change any of it for the world
It sounds like you will actually be able to enjoy more this time - i found the first year with 3 hard but my 2nd was only 3 years ahead. Asking for help, accepting help and realising that people WANT to help has been an enormous relief. Enjoy what you can, and don't be afraid to talk about what you don't.
I have a 10 year gap between my two sons, now 6 and 16. Having DS2 made me feel my family was complete and knowing I was doing the rubbish bits (sleepless nights mainly) for the last time helped me cope better, but also has helped me not sweat the non-important stuff (no one is going to like me or my son better if his school shoes are polished) and enjoy the wonderful things more e.g. knowing that soon enough he won't want to hold my hand right down to the front door of the school, so I treasure those times rather than rush off to get to work.
I used to think of motherhood as political, a performance of sorts, and in many ways it is. I couldn't agree more and I think you have expressed this perfectly. I am convinced that experience counts for nothing when it comes to kids by the way, at least if mine are anything to go by, so don't be too surprised if #3 makes you feel like a rookie again
10 years between mine here too, I was 43 when I had my second child.
I definitely feel more bolshy this time around, I have found immense strength in my confidence.
The lessons learned first time round are etched deeply within my psyche, when I say lessons I mean mistakes, when I say psyche I mean scars.
I learned harsh lessons which led to pnd and anxiety.
I perceived unrealistic expectations to be law and assumed far too much.
I was blindfolded to it all and through it all.
Now, with my little chap, it saddens me to admit that I had no idea that being a parent could be like this. I had no idea of the immense joy and overwhelming adoration and happiness that I could/should be feeling with ds 1.
I/we missed out.
So, bolshy and confident in my choices and decisions has been liberating.
I just think to myself, fuck it, I'm a 45 year old woman, I have waited too long for this to be cornered or coerced by any one.
Needless to say, life is good as an older mum.
Interesting post. I had my first at 25. Now pregnant with my second at 35, there will be a ten year gap. Not sure I identify with all of this but my overridding feeling at the moment is I just feel very old!
After my first child (who was a delight pretty much from day 1 to the present day)I raised a number of foster children, some of them babies but mostly teenagers. I enjoyed most of fostering and was and am very proud with how many of them turned out. But I never expected to be raising another of my own. Well I say my own...because in every sense he is. He just happens to be adopted too. I raised him from 8 days old, at which point my first child was nearly 20 and at University. Like my first my second was a delight from the moment I set eyes on him and he remains a delight to this day when he is 23. I was definitely old to be starting out with a new baby, particularly one predicted to have considerable special needs. I was working part time after Adoption Leave but was lucky enough to have someone I knew well care for him at home when I was working and my husband and I boxed and coxed our working hours so I started late and he finished esrly so we were both able to be with the baby a good deal. I think in some ways my husband was a more relaxed and confident parent. I won't say I didn't wish to be younger and more athletic at times but I am sure I did a better job of fighting for his rights. ..specially to inclusive education. ..than I would have done 20 years ago.
Hi there not sure if this is the right post but here goes, Will last year I went to hospital to be tested for cancer and everything else, but I was all fine nothing wrong, We have a heat pump, I've noticed if its up to high I start coughing then start to cough up alittle blood, I was in Hospital for three days last year, Just to day it started again, im in Hamilton, and yes it starts of with a dry cough, Earlier on I was coughing up Blood not much just awee bit, Flemmy and stricky and Dark red, And we do have a very cold wind out side im going to my Drs tomorrow to get a check up.
I have a big age gap too. I was 19 and 20 when I had my boys, I divorced at 24 and now at 29 I am 37 weeks with a little girl. My youngest is due to turn 9 in a couple of months and the eldest will be 11 at the end of the year. I am looking forward to most of it (apart from the potty training, God I hate that!) and a little nervous of labour and actually looking after a small human again. It's my partners first baby too so he's looking to me for wisdom, I just hope I haven't forgotten what to do!
Haha! Been there, done that! DS and DD (1 yr gap), then 8yrs to youngest. I found that youngest had to be "portable" and "adaptable" as I was doing school run from when she was about 3 days old. She had to learn to wait and got used to being carted around to matches etc. She was happiest and brightest of all. Even ski holidays were do-able from when she was about 6months (DH & I took turns to ski with other 2). I was dreading the prospect of going back to nappies and sleepless nights, but it was easier with older siblings to fetch and carry. Relax and enjoy!
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