I love babies. I’m ridiculously excited when my friend are pregnant and even more so when the baby arrive. I fuss, I knit them blankets that take me 40 hours, I love the smell of babies so much that even milky newborn baby spew smells good to me.
But I on the whole I didn’t really enjoy having babies. Even though we dreamed of having 4 children, I couldn’t bare the thought of having more babies. I would adopt a child before I’d have another baby of my own.
Don’t get me wrong, of course I loved my own babies more than anything else in the world. I adored them. I cared for them. I spent every waking moment with them – and believe me, there were a lot of waking moments. And it wasn’t all bad, there was a lot of things I did like about having babies – not enough to want to repeat the experience, but I do have some fond memories!
But I’d still feel guilty that I wasn’t enjoying it enough. Every sweet older lady on the street would tell me “Cherish this time, it passes so quickly.” And I’d think – “Is that a promise?”
I wanted it to be over quickly.
And maybe one day I’ll look back and sigh and wish I hadn’t willed that time to pass – but right now my kids at 4 and 7 and I couldn’t be happier that those baby days are behind us.
It’s not the nappies, or the vomit, or the poonamis, or the ridiculous amount of stuff I had to cart everywhere I wen. Even the sleep deprivation was moderately okay.
It was feeling as though I only existed to keep them alive and to meet their never ending needs that got to me.
Anxiety played a role in not enjoying having babies, because “keeping them alive” isn’t just a figure of speech for me. Our son stopped breathing when he was 10 days old. So it was a very real fear that I would not succeed in getting my babies past their first birthday. SIDS was always lurking at the back of my mind and even now I check them both fairly regularly when they’re asleep out of habit.
That anxiety also made me feel as though I needed to be an exemplary mother. I do hold myself to impossible standards and babies already take up to much time, attention and energy – even if you’re not constantly flogging yourself, because you feel that nothing you do is ever good enough.
When our son was a baby I’d fantasise about stepping out into traffic, just to give myself something like a decently broken leg. I just wanted a few nights in hospital where I wouldn’t be responsible for him.
When our daughter was a baby it was a different fear. I was terrified of something happening to me, because from the time she was 3 months old she would scream if I wasn’t holding her. She barely tolerated her own father; she’d go weeks without letting him hold her. Or if I did force her into his arms so I could shower alone she would scream the whole time, and once she was big enough to wrestle herself free she’d stand at the bathroom door – howling – until I’d come out.
She did this for 2 years.
Leaving her was more hassle than it was worth and even my mother – bless her heart – told me she can see how hard things are for me and she wanted to help, so she would be happy to take our son any time (gee, thanks…. Though honestly I didn’t blame her!)
But last night I was mapping out my plans for the next few months on the calendar, making sure my partner was aware of when I’d be away, or going out and he said – “See, I told you you’d get to go out. You used to whine that you never got to go out and now you go out all the time.” (Note: all the time means about 6 times a year and I plan most things months in advance, but, same same.)
I realised how utterly grateful I am that I don’t have babies and that there are no more babies in my future. It’s over. And the further I get away from having had babies the more I’m relieved that it’s done.
It’s not just that I can leave them without guilt or worry, it’s we now have common interests – we can talk and play. I can read them books that I enjoy. They can tell ME stories. I LOVE having children. Which I guess is for the best, because they’re kids for so much longer than they are babies.
And maybe one day I’ll look back and sigh and wish I’d appreciated them more while they were little, but right now I’m just glad it’s over and I can adore their chubby cheeks and downy heads from the safe view of the thousands of photographs and videos I took knowing that one day I’d want to enjoy them retrospectively.