Well Baby Flat is almost 6 weeks old and I can’t believe how much life has changed! He seems to be doing really well, considering his terrifying entry into this world.
I’m afraid this post and future posts will probably be full of clichés. I sort of hate myself a little for coming out with all the “I can’t remember life before him” lines (for the record, I most definitely can, but I’ve found that people don’t appreciate it when they say “I bet you can’t remember life before him?” and you respond “Yes, I can. It was only 6 weeks ago”). What I will say, is that my “old life” of only 6 weeks ago seems like a distant memory.
So yes, as the cliché goes, having a baby has changed my life and I will never be the same person again.
Firstly, with regard to my career, I have always been incredibly ambitious and hard working. I wanted to make something of myself and never have to rely on a partner, my parents or the state. I wanted to be one of the best people in my chosen field.
Now I think back only a few weeks to the 5:30am starts and 3+ hour commutes. To working all the hours under the sun to prove myself to an employer, who then turned around and reduced my pay and denied me a bonus simply because I made the error of falling pregnant. I now realise that none of that matters in quite the same way any more. My priorities have changed. I will go back to the awful employer, simply because I cannot lose my maternity pay (I have to pay back the enhanced part, being 3 months’ full salary, if I hand in my notice within 6 months of returning) and also because I want to stay “in the game” so that later down the line I don’t have to start from the bottom again. Ultimately though, if they sack me and I am left jobless, it certainly won’t be the end of the world. I could stay at home with Baby Flat and spend my days doing activities to help his development. After all, because of the ridiculously high childcare costs in this country, along with my expensive commute, I will almost be paying to go back to work!!! (More accurately, the amount I earn per day will cover almost pound for pound the daily cost of childcare and my commute, but I will also slowly be paying off my student loan and will be paying into my pension, so while I will have no take home pay I will be paying off my debts and will be saving towards my pension.)
Secondly, with regard to my body, I am much more forgiving of myself. Over the course of TTC and my pregnancy I gained around 5 and a half stone (75lbs to be precise). Since having Baby Flat I have lost 2 stone to date (28lbs), but my body is still horrific. Not only do I have a long way to go on the weight-loss front, but my body is covered in stretch marks. They are awful. I have them on my tummy, my love handles and then really badly on my legs. They seemed to only appear in the last week or so of pregnancy, and the ones on my boobs only appeared post-pregnancy as my boobs got swollen with the breast milk! On top of that, I still have very bad bruising from the difficult c section (although the bruising will eventually go).
It is the weight gain that really bothers me. In my teens I had a range of eating disorders and it took me years to get to some version of healthy. Even when I was healthy (the weight I was pre-TTC) I felt heavy and really did not like my body. When I gained weight when we were trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby I felt particularly low about my body. Then when I finally fell pregnant I worried about how rapidly I gained weight. Throughout that time though, I told myself that I could sort it out once Baby Flat arrived and I could start working out again. Then of course the awful birth happened and I was advised to do no exercise for a minimum of 12 weeks, which means I cannot start doing proper exercise until January 2017. I feel very low about my weight, but I remind myself on a daily basis that I would rather be in this position than the position I was in a year ago. A year ago I would have happily gained 10 stone to be able to have a healthy baby!
What annoys me though, is I “check myself” all the time and remind myself how lucky I am. Every time I feel down, I remember that there are women out there with bodies as battered and scarred and swollen as mine, but who never got to take their babies home. I try to be good at forgiving myself and being kind to myself about the way I look, as I have just been through a huge ordeal physically and emotionally.
Then someone feels the need to say something and make me feel like I shouldn’t feel this way and that focusing on my body should be my priority right now, instead of taking care of Baby Flat. Just this weekend I was at a party and someone felt the need to comment, and it has made me feel much worse about my body (again) and also really angry that society values post-baby weight loss so strongly. (As an aside, it angers me that weight is what we judge and value women on and not their kindness, intelligence, ambition etc.)
To cut a very
dull long story short, I arrived at a party with my cousin (“E”) who had given birth two weeks after me. She is naturally extremely skinny, to the point where people who don’t know her assume she is ill. During her pregnancies she gained almost no weight, and the doctors were worried about the health of her babies due to how skinny she remained. Since giving birth she has (rightly) done no exercise at all, but is already back to her (incredibly low) pre-pregnancy weight. When we turned up, this woman (who knows the trouble we had getting pregnant and how traumatic my labour was) made a point of gushing about how “amazing” E looked and how she was “so slim already”. She then looked me up and down and walked off. I just felt so awful about myself as I stood next to E, wearing a frumpy maternity dress and weighing double what E weighs. Since I’ve gained so much weight I haven’t wanted to be seen in public, but I have made it out on two occasions post-birth for parties of people who are extremely important to me. Both times I have felt incredibly self-conscious, so incidents like this make me feel even worse about myself and make me not want to leave the house!
Anyway, this lady had clearly seen my face drop when she said this as she later came over and gave me a pep talk about how I could be back in my jeans by Christmas (yeh – maybe I’ll be back in my maternity jeans by then!). She kept saying “Don’t worry, I know you’re breastfeeding so the weight will drop off” (erm, I never said I’m worried. I never even mentioned my weight to you. Also, it’s been almost 6 weeks of breastfeeding and no it hasn’t. Plus, I don’t think breastfeeding makes you lose 75lbs!!!). She then started saying about how “with a bit of exercise you’ll be back to a size 10 by Christmas” (erm, as you know, I sustained injuries during the labour which mean I cannot exercise until January at the earliest). She clearly thought that everything I said was just an excuse.
The whole thing has made me incredibly angry. Since Baby Flat was born, I have spent almost all day every day doing things for him. If I am not playing with him (and yes, it’s limited what you can do with a newborn!) I am feeding him, changing his nappy, expressing, sterilising bottles, soothing him when he cries, doing tummy time, dealing with baby admin (registering births/looking at nurseries/trying to get information on bank accounts for children) etc. In the few minutes I get to myself, I’m grateful if I can brush my teeth and have a shower! Not to mention there are so many non-baby chores, especially with Christmas coming up. I wouldn’t change any of this for the world and I am really enjoying it so, even if I were medically fit to exercise right now, prioritising my body at the moment would mean sacrificing one or more of the many things I need to do for Baby Flat. While he’s so small, I just don’t want to dump him in a crèche for an hour or so while I go to the gym (ignoring the fact I can’t drive until January 2017 so can’t even make it to the gym!). In due course, when both he and I are ready, then I can’t wait to get back into exercise.
It just makes me so sad that we live in a society where people value how much weight you lose more than whether you are a good mum (or daughter or friend etc).
Anyway, as I said at the start of my post, I feel very differently about a lot of things. My priorities have changed dramatically. It still takes a little bit of getting used to though! I am loving motherhood and have even enjoyed the monotonous activities (baby laundry for one!) much more than I thought I would. When you haven’t fallen pregnant easily, I think you appreciate the little things more and don’t worry about the stupid, small things in quite the same way.
I’m still finding my feet though. I have good days when Baby Flat is happy and everything gets done and I feel on top of the world. Then I have bad days when he’s hungry 24/7 and doing 15 nappies (no lie) and I can’t catch 5 minutes to even go to the loo, and then I feel like I’m not really cut out for it all. I’m sure many other people feel this way though!