Pregnancy guilt

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I wasn’t planning on becoming pregnant, and when I did it became less of a celebration and more of a waiting game, counting down the days until the next milestone.

Days and days of repeated pregnancy tests until I could get a GP appointment, then more days waiting for a scan. The scan was shocking, I was sure it couldn’t be true.

After that came the announcement and then the fear…now I’ve told people what happens if “something” happens?

A colleague (actually there were 6 pregnant colleagues at the time) was pregnant following a lot of time and treatment, and 2 friends of mine (both of whom have since had babies) had struggled for years and almost given up hope of pregnancy, so I really understand how lucky we were to become pregnant so easily.  However, it didn’t feel amazing, I just felt scared and guilty.

How was it that having never even had a pregnancy scare I fell pregnant so easily?

What did this mean?

Would something happen to the baby?

Did I really deserve this?

 

When people asked me if I was looking forward to the baby it was difficult, I hadn’t really wanted one so it was hard to get excited about it.  Yes we had agreed we would have a baby at some point, but the timing wasn’t great, having just moved into a derelict house we didn’t get planning permission until January 2013 (I was due in April) so we were living in difficult conditions and then had a race on to get somewhere suitable for a baby in time.  Financially it was always going to be difficult, but coming at a time when expenses were so significant was a bit of a nightmare.  I remember a midwife coming round to take an urgent blood test and having to let her into our room which was piled high with boxes and had a curtain over the door to try and keep the dust down, I was convinced she would report me to social services!

I spent so much time stressing over the house and finances that having a baby to stress about wasn’t ideal.  I remember dozens of sleepless nights worrying about high blood pressure and the birth before I got myself signed up to pregnancy yoga and antenatal classes.

I was convinced that because we had it so easy something was bound to go wrong.

After each midwife appointment I would wait anxiously for the next one, even when they became fortnightly I would start counting down to the next appointment on my walk home.  I didn’t feel my baby move until very late.  He was clearly nocturnal as he could go all day with not even a flutter until about 1am when he would have a jiggle for half an hour or so then go back to silence.  It was only when I was quite far along that I could rely on any sort of movement, even the tricks of cold water recommended by the midwives didn’t frighten him into movement!  Generally my pregnancy was really easy, which should have made me relax and feel better…but it didn’t.  It was just another nail in the box convincing me that something was bound to go wrong.

With hindsight and having spoken to other mums and read other blogs, I wonder if pregnancy guilt is in fact something that just comes to us all, however we become pregnant, for whatever reason and in whatever circumstance.  I have a friend who was trying for a baby for a few months and when she did fall pregnant she didn’t realise and had attended a party and drunk alcohol.  It was easy for me, an outsider, to reassure her that she shouldn’t feel guilty, having lived a healthy and active lifestyle for six months while trying to fall pregnant then having 2 G&Ts when you think you’re not is NOT a reason to feel guilty.  Now, however, I can appreciate why she felt so bad about it.

Perhaps it’s the pregnancy hormones, or a sudden realisation of the wonder of the human body, or a massive reality check, or simply a practice run for the guilt that is to follow as a parent!  But I do think something sets off the guilt mechanism for a lot of women during pregnancy, at a time when one less stress really should be the order of the day.

Do you NCT…?

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We debated a long time about doing the NCT course, it is a lot of money and although heavily recommended to me, it seemed essentially I was paying to make friends.  I already have friends, did I really need more?

A friend had a baby 18 months ahead of us and seemed to get on really well with her NCT group initially, even moving next door to one of them!  However as time went on some of the love appeared to be lost and I heard about competitiveness, in-fighting and flakiness (as the queen of flake I rather forgive the last one…)

During one of my many panics about having a baby I signed us up and forked out the extortionate amount to find new friends.  I  had to make the decision about whether to do evenings over a course of days or a weekend intense course.  Also the location on the basis of courses running around my due date, we were slap in between the “yummy mummies” of Crouch End and Tottenham…Crouch End was closer, but I was anxious about mixing with the better off…I decided to risk the posh and to close my ears to any talk of expensive buggies.

The course started on a Saturday morning, we were on time…ish (a great achievement when anything involves the Turk), and luckily there was a familiar face as I had met one of the other mums at my pregnancy yoga class the week before (more on this another time).  The tutor was a shock, she wasn’t what I expected, and she definitely rubbed some in the group up the wrong way, but luckily both the males and females in our group were so laid back that there was no fuss (just something to discuss in the pub later…)

The course in a nutshell – I learned loads, whilst she may not be everyone’s cup of tea the tutor was superb, not a rule follower, frank, honest and not overly “NCT”.  That may sound mean as the NCT is a fantastic charity, but I had always seen them as pushing breastfeeding and natural birth, whilst there’s nothing wrong with either of these things, you know sometimes, you just don’t need it ramming down your throat.  Of course we all wanted the best for the birth and feeding, but we also came out of there with a realistic attitude, which was handy as 3 out of 7 of our babies were born by c-section, one of them only a week after the end of the course!  She understood what was needed, I had never held a baby before so naturally I was forced to go hands on with the doll, but as someone who hates “roll play” I didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point.  Even more importantly I didn’t freak out about the epidural and felt less scared of it (which was handy as I ended up having one…after 3 attempts by the anesthetist…fun).  Overall the course was worth the cost even if I did resent paying for it.

Even more importantly, whilst I still don’t believe money can buy you love,  I have made firm friends.  We were lucky, our group all get on really well, we met up every week for the first 6 months or so and took a really laid back approach, meeting in different places on an ad hoc basis, those who wanted turned up and those who didn’t or couldn’t wouldn’t!  Perhaps the weather helped, we spent a lot of time in the fabulous parks that Haringey has to offer, and a year on we had our first 2014 park meet up yesterday…those of us who weren’t at work…

It is getting more difficult, I am the only one not yet back at work, but as I am also going back full time I know that it is going to be hard for me to see much of those lovely ladies and their babies.  A couple of our group are planning on moving further afield and my heart sinks at the prospect of not seeing those babes on a weekly basis.  I would love to think that our children will grow up together, even as ‘out of school’ friends as we are spread across the borough, but I have to be realistic and just be thankful for the time we have.

The reason I write this post is because this Sunday we had a joint first birthday party for all our babies and it really moved me knowing all these mamas before they gave birth and having had the privilege of sharing their first year with them.  Whilst these may not have been the aim of the NCT course I thought I would share with you what I have learned as a result of it:

  1. Never judge mummies by their yumminess, much to my shock the group were neither posh, competitive or bitchy.  I love them all and their individual fabulousness.
  2. Babies are delightful, a bit scary, but worth it.
  3. Babies are all different in just about every way, there’s nothing wrong with asking advice, but don’t expect anyone else to have been through it.
  4. Everyone copes differently.
  5. Men need to know more about breastfeeding.
  6. True friends will be there for you when you suffer a poonami in the park, anyone who offers to help with said poonami is an angel.
  7. Wine always helps.
  8. Mums can still be super cool & a bit crazy.
  9. No one’s life is perfect.
  10. Life doesn’t need to be perfect.

 

PS. On a side note whilst our NCT tutor didn’t shove the benefits of breastfeeding down our throats, but took a sensible approach, all of us breastfed up to 7 months, and at 1 year 5 of us are still going 🙂