I was desperate to get pregnant. I used to visit friends with tiny babies and feel an ache inside like I was missing a loved one I’d never met.
When I first saw that positive pregnancy test my excitement knew no bounds. I was so so happy!
And then…..I HATED IT.
I hated almost every moment! I was sick for 18 weeks straight, had a brief reprieve, then launched in to extremely debilitating pelvis pain. And that’s not to mention the mental battles of a lack of control over your body and emotions. Suddenly, my ‘wedding dress ready’ body that used to hold itself up all on on its own was enormous and looked like I’d gone a few rounds in a ring with a big cat! And I wont mention the general public! OK I will…total strangers touching me and talking about my weight. “Oh it must be twins” “how are you coping in this heat at that size” – Errr I’m growing a human inside me, leave me alone.
But, I’ve done it THREE times! Because in the end, it is a wonderful thing, and I know loads of you have had it worse.
In truth there are three things I loved…
1) The general public. I know, I know I just said I hated them, but I also loved them. Pregnancy brings smiles and happiness wherever you go. People hold doors for you and are polite. And a staff member once let me use the toilet in a busy fast food restaurant in New York, standing outside pointing & shouting ‘Only this pregnant lady can use this toilet’!! (true story)
2) Eating ‘Wispa Gold’ chocolate bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner and not giving a hootenanny!
3) I really loved feeling the baby moving inside. It can be annoying of course, keeping you up at night and making you need to pee! But I loved that short time when the baby will start to wriggle and kick when you drink a glass of cold water or when they stretch out now that you are lying down and still. All those little nudges felt like our special secret, a connection and the beginning of our partnership. And it was.
Once my first born came into the world with all the calm civility of a police battering ram I was lucky enough to fall for my secret love in the real world.
We worked through all the post birth trauma together and started to settle into maternity leave as it should be – loads of chocolate and box sets and setting the goal of achieving but one thing a day.
We learned about reflux and needing several changes of clothes a day, about ‘poohnarmi’s’ and mid morning bath times.
But, as it turned out I was so taken up with my romantic notion of pregnancy, I hadn’t given much thought to how I was going to actually look after a baby. I knew everything there was to know about pregnancy and labour but was completely at sea when it came to knowing what was going on with my little person. Shock, horror! I couldn’t believe this stuff hadn’t come naturally to me! As if by the process of birth I would suddenly know how to feed, bath and dress them.
I did so many things the hard way because when its the first time doing anything, how do you know any different? At 4pm, when your partner isn’t due home til six and you’re bouncing round on 3 hours sleep and 12 coffees it seems perfectly reasonable to repeat the box step move from aerobics classes of old, clutching the baby to your chest and singing out ‘The 12 Days of Christmas’ because its the longest song you know, totally convinced by the end of it they’ll be asleep. Sleep oh please sleep!
Then we made a small change that had a big impact. When she was about 6 months old we started to learn sign together, and it blew our tiny minds!
I could ask her if she wanted more food or to go to bed. She could tell me she was hungry or felt pain. We could enter into conversations.
Her: ‘milk’ ‘bed’
Me: ‘wait’ until we are ‘home’.
Her: ‘HOME’ and so on.
It wasn’t a magic fix, she couldn’t produce the right sign at the right time in every situation because she’s a person and affected, like the rest of us, by fatigue, noise and complex emotions all interfering, often at once. I later became a teacher for the company and saw so many mums come to classes going through the exact same thing. It was such a joy to see them find signing to be useful and get that little win when their baby signed ‘milk’ for the first time.
Getting out to the Little Signers Club classes, gave us a goal and meant we learned together a way of making our lives easier. It allowed a deeper connection that others weren’t a part of at the beginning, we understood each other. It felt like another layer of the secret understanding that started way back when we were one.
Bethan writes with grace and humour about the highs and lows of mothering (not one but three small people), her love of signing and her experiences as a former Little Signers Club Leader in the South West.
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