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.

Sleep…the shock

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I’ve always loved sleep, I could literally sleep 23 hours a day and be happy (I would wake for food of course…)

I knew that sleep would be an issue with a young baby, but I didn’t think it would be too bad.  My biggest worry was the Turk…he also likes his sleep.  Given that on one occasion when I heard footsteps in our flat and tried to wake him up (and it took a LOT to wake him up) he turned into a monster who found it quite unreasonable to have to wake up for a burglar and said “what is it you think I’m going to do if it is a burglar…” (note: it wasn’t a burglar, it was our upstairs neighbour creeping around her own flat…) so I was a tad concerned that (a) he might not get woken up by the baby when it was his turn; (b) that he would get angry at the baby waking him up.

I needn’t have worried.

He managed to sleep through any noise the baby or I made except on 3 extreme occasions…

I didn’t do so well, the first day he was born he slept a lot so we napped together, and that first night apart from mad screaming to try and feed he slept pretty well too, admittedly with me on my hospital bed (of course with mandatory nighttime leakage…this was to become my friend over the coming months).  Our first night at home he slept a straight 6 hours (not a good thing…but lovely) before he fell into his routine…

Routine = good…?

No, Jem’s routine was to nap after every feed for about 20-30 minutes.  Only on me, he would wake as soon as he was put down (which I appreciate is very very common).  We would all go to bed at around half 10, I would sit up with the baby feeding and crying until 2am, when he generally fell asleep for 2 hours…then it would all start again for the day.

It was hard, much harder than I expected.

With hindsight I should have been firmer, but I had no confidence.  The baby really didn’t need feeding every time he cried, he needed sleep.  He was very tired.  I was very tired…I cried a LOT.

At some point during the first week or so I was waiting for the 2am sleep, but he didn’t go down…it took another hour.  I felt horrendous.

During the fourth week I attempted sleeping sat up on the sofa with the baby on my shoulder (I know how dangerous this is, but I was desperate, I literally hadn’t slept more than 2 hours in one go and that was only once a day!) which worked a little better, he slept longer and I could doze a bit, but it wasn’t great for my back and I was scared something might happen to him.

If I could go back and speak to myself at that time I would say “it will get a lot better…then a lot worse…then better again”.  In fact I feel slightly guilty that this is the advice I give to anyone with a new baby who asks me for advice, it sounds a bit negative, but I think if you’re really down it helps to know!

I would also send Jem out with someone (literally anyone I could find, the Turk wasn’t around to do it and was pretty unwilling when he was) for an hour or two a day and give myself strict instructions to nap during that time.  It would have done us both a massive amount of good, I didn’t appreciate at the time how much sleep a baby would need or should have.  I assumed if they were tired they would sleep…no?!

I’m a shouter not a lover…

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Ok so I have admitted to myself and others that I’m a bit short tempered at home.  I’ve read a lot about disciplining babies and the types of behaviour that they pick up from their parents since I became pregnant (but have yet to find a consistent conclusion…)

The most persuasive thing I read was about not saying “no” to your child at a young age, because realistically they don’t know what it means and as they grow into toddlerhood they will simply accumulate more and more things that you need to say no to.  I agree with this…although the article didn’t give any tips on what to do instead of saying no, myself and a friend who have children of a similar age recently concluded that the trick was to distract them.

This is what I have been trying:

“Don’t lick that cable Jem, come and play with this *shakes toy*”

“Don’t chew that table leg Jem…here’s a ricecake”

“Jem, you’ll fall, stop it, stop it…come here…I’ve got bread…please come and eat the bread”

“Jem, Jem, Jem…grapes?”

…it’s not really working for me, and given the building site that we live in (which has vastly improved in the last 10 months don’t get me wrong) there are times when I just can’t find fruit in time to distract the food monster boy.  Sadly at these times I do resort to shouting, screaming, dragging him away, finger wagging.  I can see now why some parents find it irresistible to smack.  Now whilst I don’t agree personally with smacking (I was smacked as a child, it did me no harm, it’s not for me though) and in any event at 10 months Jem is waaaay to young to be acceptably smacked, I can see that he is old enough to know the difference between things that he’s not allowed to do (which appears to make the activity irresistible) and boring things that he is allowed to do and will be left quite alone whilst he is doing it.

My parents both shouted a lot at me when I was a child and I have always wondered what the point was, it didn’t make any difference to my behaviour (I remember distinctly) but always left me with a horrible and unpleasant feeling, so I had decided I didn’t want to go down this route…but I can’t help myself…

It’s almost therapeutic to tell the boy off when he does something irritating or naughty.  It makes him stop, immediately burst into crocodile tears…then do it again…lather; rinse; repeat.  More importantly it makes me feel I am being an “effective parent“.  Recently I’ve found myself shouting more and more and I think this is simply a symptom of my own boredom about being a stay at home mum.

Today I am having a day of not shouting, I feel I need it to try and build our relationship, but it’s hard!

Nicely telling the boy not to do dangerous things has had some advantages, I’m pretty sure he’s been a little calmer today than he might otherwise have been, and so have I.  We haven’t had any worse accidents or falls than we might otherwise have had on a shouty day.  Interestingly he’s still having his grotty hour at the moment which he gets everyday, although I just managed to stop the whine for 5 minutes by drumming on the sofa (he wanted to do it, didn’t want mummy to join in…moved mummy out of the way…) but I have noticed that in maintaining this I have spent much more quality time with the boy today than I might otherwise do.  On days when I am working or have something of my own to focus on I find the frustration boils over.

That said he has just cracked the screen on my laptop as I ineffectively stopped him yanking at it…it resulted in a shout of “why do I have to tell you every day not to do that?!”  clearly the answer is I should be focusing on my son rather than simply things that I want to do…