Inspired by this piece from The Telegraph this week, I’ve been having more than a moment’s thought for the pre-mother in me. My favourite bit says,
Motherhood is hard because there is an assumption that it will instantly take away all your demons and make an honest woman out of you, and then it doesn’t – and the guilt is endless. I sometimes think that the reason the newborn stage is so difficult has nothing to do with the newborn (whom you will always end up looking after on autopilot), and everything to do with the supposed loss of the old you.
Yes! Yes! I found the newborn stage hard in some ways because I could feel the old me sneaking out the back door and leaving the new me to it. Before I was pregnant it was one of my biggest fears because, in the five years previous to it, I’d finally grown to really like the old me, her achievements, her body, her job, her habits.
So, I found it hard to let her out of the back door, and, like the lady mentioned at the start of the article, I had a fair few ‘bottom of the garden’ moments myself. These were always triggered by our daughter’s reflux attacks and the witching hour period where I’d emerge from upstairs with curdled milk and tears soaking through my clothes and into my confidence. More than once, I walked straight out of the house from the nursery and hit up the corner shop for a can of Magners and a packet of ten, and sat like Eeyore in the middle of our decked patio, head drooping against the guilt, hugging the old me tight, wishing I was in the pub with my friends.
But I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. 15 months on, a lot of changes later, I’ve got the old me on toddler reins and I’ve completely supernannied her. It doesn’t mean I don’t love her any less. In fact I love her more for making me the mum I am. But I keep her in check and let her out when the going’s good. And I know that I’m a competent, loving, reliable mum.
Social society, on a superficial level at least, seems to have an obsession with ‘being fake’. Terrible example, but Big Brother viewers this season may have noticed that contestant’s get the most upset when accused by the housemates and public alike of ‘not being real’. A young girl out on the town this weekend may sport a nest of synthetic hair, chicken fillets in her bra, a biscuity stench of fake tan, and eyelashes like crispy fried spiders, but she’d get most upset if she was labelled fake in the toilets by a passing clubber.
So, why should I fake it as well? The old me had some bad habits and some good times, some incredible friends and some really big plans. I’m not going to cover her up, especially because she did me the biggest favour ever, and got me pregnant in the first place.
Moving to a new city and making new friends at the same time as making the personal and practical transition into motherhood has been another journey in itself. There are lots of folk who never knew me before I had the pushchair, the extra weight and the minimal evening plans. But when they see me, wilted from a terrible night’s sleep, or sweaty from yet another Bristol hill-climb with a buggy, it’s the old me they never met that got me there, not just the mother.