Time machine letter: It's OK.
I've had a bit of writters' block recently. Having a post I wanted to write but feeling like there's a bit of a back story required, and then thinking, 'pfft that's a bit of effort to go over all that first! No one cares' Ever feel like that when you meet someone new, or catch up with an old friend - You have to sort of play catch up, so just to tell a 5 minute story you end up giving 20 minutes bringing them up to speed? Well here I go!
I met Peter when I was just 19, I fell hard, not as hard as him obvs, (he told me he loved me on our second date and that we would get married and have loads of babies on our third date, the keeno) but it was definitely what most would describe as a 'whirlwind romance' We moved in together 4 months later, were engaged when I was 21, married 5 months after that, and had Charlie at 22.
I'm sure he'd like me to point out at this stage, that, as we are married and have just enough babies to be described as 'loads' he was right. First and last time for everything I guess!
I've always had what, for the purpose of this post, we can broadly describe as 'female troubles'! I have polycystic ovaries, never had a regular period, and when I did, albeit 8 months apart they were likely accompanied by a crippling migraine, hormonal bursts and bleeding that would scare Carrie, so frankly the rarity of their visit never upset me. I'd try contraceptive pills which only turned me into a psychotic Oompa Loompa (short, fat, chocolate-loving scary thing) and in the end realised I just needed to control the way I ate and exercised to keep myself healthy and happier.
Having been told at a relatively young age that child bearing may be 'difficult' and after some initial upset, we decided we'd start married life off without a care and get a puppy. Well less than 3 weeks after picking Maggie pup up we had to inform her she wouldn't be an only child for long... although the next one was hopefully to be less fury!
We excitedly told our parents together at dinner one night while mine were visiting us from the US... My MIL's response of 'Oh God, are you sure?' followed by my mum's of 'It's a bit late for that now Sally!' wasn't exactly the response we were hoping for but after the initial shock they were of course so happy for us. They were all to be first time grandparents!
Telling most of our friends really didn't get any more excited initial rousing either. None of our friends or siblings had kids and I think people were a bit confused.
Luckily, I had a pretty straightforward pregnancy and delivery. Our beautiful boy Charlie was delivered on a Sunday evening in late November and I was in love!
My mum stayed with us for the first couple of weeks, which was a total God send, someone to make dinner while this baby wanted to marathon feed, put the washing in, (how on Earth does something so cute and little make such a massive stain?!) And generally be supportive and helpful. It was winter and cold so we stayed in our warm little flat and watched the world outside from the big window.
Then she left.
I got mastitis. Like really badly - had to have an absess surgically removed, pump every hour and dunk my boobs in a bowl of warm water 6 times a day.
Christmas was dire. I felt so ill, my family were all in America and I didn't see any friends for Christmas do's. Not for lack of trying from Peter and his family, but I was a hormonal mess!
I vividly remember sitting on the floor in the bathroom, on New Year's eve, my post partum tummy hanging out, my sad, deflated, saggy boobs nearly touching my knees, having just been violently ill from the antibiotics I'd been given to clear the mastitis, I could hear Charlie crying in the next room, while Peter desperately tried to settle him, all he wanted was to be fed and I was spent. The big tub in our posh, modern flat, which had been filled with bottles of beer and prosecco bobbing in ice and confetti just 12 months earlier, had now been replaced by a baby bath seat, 7 different varieties of baby bath, shampoo, nipple cream and stretch mark oil - gone were those shiny bottles of Jo Malone and, apparently, my life. What had I done?
Overnight, invites to dinners out, parties, impromptu drinks and get togethers had fizzled out.
'I didn't think you'd be able to come' was a confused response I got when I asked, hurt, why I hadn't been invited to something. As if pushing a little wrinkly 9lb ball of smush out means you suddenly don't need a chat with friends or like gin anymore?!
My MIL really got me through the next few months. She'd pop by and just hold him so I could shower, bring a drink or lunch, sometimes a little something like a magazine or a nice jumper, 'just because' and give gentle encouragement. 'you are doing so amazing' 'he is so beautiful' 'well done you' Little things which may seen like little nothings helped me. Peter was great at making me laugh when I was about to cry and the sight of his dancing with a baby to the Eurithmics at 3:30 am one morning, just so I could get some sleep, was enough to make my heart explode.
Luckily a woman I worked with had encouraged, well more like insisted I did NCT classes a few weeks before I went on maternity leave. The whole concept didn't really appeal to me. Bit too earth mama. I wanted an epidural, had no intention of encapsulating my placenta (ew!) was willing to give breast feeding a go, (but in all honesty was totally ok with that not working out) and didn't understand the whole 'baby led weaning' thing... what do you mean you give a 6 month old baby a whole organic falafel?! And why does one feel the need to 'wear' a baby... has Whistles run out of clothes?!* But I begrudgingly signed up and went to the classes every week, dragging along an unimpressed husband!
Those classes were in hindsight a God send. Not because I learned anything in particular, but because I made a friend. Just one good one, in the same exact position as me. We joined swimming lessons, did a buggy fit class in the park, went to each others houses and laughed for hours (most likely from a sleep-deprived delirium) and sometimes just spent all day at lunch. We talked. And talked and talked some more. We started a coffee morning with some other mums and one of those other mums is now a permanent fixture in my life as one of my best friends, and our three kids are best friends as well.
Most of my school friends have now had babies or are pregnant and I am so so happy for them, I love a baby and get so excited to answer their questions, reassure nerves, give advice (when it's asked for!) hand down items they may need and really just squeeze a squishy newborn!
Recently one of my amazing friends from school (who has two of her own children now) said to me she realised how hard it must have been for me, being the first of our friends to go down the mum route, and apologised for just 'not getting it' until after she had her own. I have to say I nearly cried. The biggest irony being she was one of the most supportive, consistent and kind friends throughout and has always been the type of person who will be there for you when you need anything. Hearing that though, It really helped me - (find closure I dare say?) as ridiculous as it sounds, for all the times I felt hurt or left out or different because I was the only mum in the group.
A part of me still remembers that pang of loneliness I felt when I was where they are now. But I realised that's ok. I'm happy now and I'm happy for them too.
So to anyone who feels like that now or has in the past, and to Bridget circa 2009, it's ok. It gets easier, I promise. And you'll be all the stronger for it. Find your girl gang, your tribe, your people who support you and don't worry about those who are in a different place than you right now. Don't carry that anger or upset it's not good for anyone. Maybe one day they'll be there and they'll 'get it' and maybe they won't. Some friendships have fizzled away and come back now they are in a similar position. Some are stronger than they were before. And some friendships are probably damaged beyond repair. And it's all ok.
*Has since gone on to breast feed all her children, well beyond the 6 month mark, had three natural child births (turns out the needle used in epidurals is f***ing mahooosive and scary?!) and a water birth is actually divine! Done baby led weaning (including plenty of organic falafels, as well as non-organic-dropped-five-times-on-the-floor-ones too) and am still wearing all the babies ;) **Eating your placenta still not appealing though.