How do you know you're really ready to be a parent? Is there a point in life where it clicks in your head and says "Yes, now you've ticked all the boxes so here you go, one child coming up!"? Or are we ever really ready for all the different things that come with being pregnant, giving birth and raising a child? It seems that there is definitely a designated time that society tells us we should be ready to have children, and moreso, when we shouldn't be. In that case however, we're kind of told we have to put up and shut up. What happens when the timing is right, the circumstances are right but something doesn't quite feel right?
This is more common than you'd think. Whatever way you look at it, having a baby is a big thing, whether you're 16 or 36, career driven or family oriented. Being pregnant by itself is a time of huge change - not all of it positive. As much as you might want this baby or have thought about it happening, the reality can be quite different from what you expected. Yet it seems that if the stars have all aligned and you are lucky enough to become pregnant, that you can't speak out and say "Hang on, let me not be okay with this for a bit, I need to process it a bit more". Pregnancy is ten months long for the vast majority of women - a necessary length to start with the adjustment that will last with you for the rest of your life.
I was listening to a recent interview on a national radio station which caught my interest. The interview with a TV presenter and producer who had recently announced her pregnancy on Twitter could have been written off as one of those "new mum to be" interviews until she stated that she had "gotten her head around it now".
She admitted that at first she wasn't sure. To me, that she felt able to admit it to the listening public on national radio was amazing. Since it's not exactly the done thing.It's not the done thing to admit that upon peeing on that plastic stick and seeing it turn blue that the first emotion you feel isn't delight. Or that it may have taken a few weeks for the news to sink in, particularly if, in her case as she said, she "wasn't exactly pregnant at 21″. When you're an adult, in a committed relationship, who has your life together and a good career, it seems to be expected of you to be thrilled straight away at the idea of bringing new life into the world. Nobody quite allows for the fact that initially it may be panic, distress, worry.
At the very beginning, I was her. Despite having a good job, living on my own, a committed relationship and having a degree under my belt, I didn't exactly exit the bathroom in a chorus of "Oh what a beautiful morning" to regale my partner with the news. I was panicked and very confused about my options. This wasn't wasn't in the plan right then. Unlike her, I was indeed "pregnant at 21″, but I don't think age plays a role in it; for all intents and purposes, life-wise I had my shit together and this was still a rocket plummeting towards me that I wasn't prepared for and I was utterly stuck. I was worried about what my partner would think, what my parents would think, my friends, my co-workers. I had never changed a nappy, my sum total of experience with babies was holding them until they started crying and handing them back. Even that was in short supply. Kids I could manage, but babies were an all new ball game. I was a lady who liked her space and her sleep, two things which I've learned since kids have not much room for in their agenda.
Telling my parents felt like I was sixteen and coming home pregnant. There was a layer of panic about their reaction, unnecessarily. I was okay with it. Mostly. I'd already had a scan, with a tiny blur that if I squinted and held my head at odd angles still didn't resemble a baby to me, but according to the sonographer was a baby shaped blur. Seeing the heartbeat at nine weeks had an impact, that tiny indistinguishable squiggle became less of a grenade about to implode and shatter my life as I knew it, and became something to be excited about. I started to bond with it, despite not being able to physically feel any kicks, I felt this baby in me and it was something to feel good about. I started to get it, even if I was a bit behind the times. That's not to say it was the last wobble, but for the most part, I was excited to meet my little person, excited to begin this new life.
We have to be allowed to admit we're scared, it makes us human. We seem to intrinsically have this attitude of "put up and shut up", of internalizing the panic, of pretending everything is okay and putting a smile on while internally screaming "How did I get here?". During my pregnancy when I had those thoughts the next thought that popped into my head was critical of those thoughts, I worried that I wouldn't love my baby enough, that this made me a bad mother, that a proper mother should be, would be, more excited. I was wrong.
My son was born exactly a year ago and I can honestly say that I have never known such a strong love in my life as what I feel for him, and such a level of protectiveness which I didn't realize was possible. Not saying all of my worries were unfounded, some of those nappies and sleepless nights are the things of Alfred Hitchcock movies, but everything is okay. The world didn't implode, it just expanded and changed in a way that is mostly positive. But right then, in that moment, as much as I needed to be told it was going to be okay, and I was going to be fine (which I was), I also needed to be told that it was okay to be freaking out, that it was okay to worry this wasn't what was planned or what I wanted at that particular time.
We need it to be okay to not be okay, and to be able to say it out loud. Pregnancy is a hormonal journey enough without bringing that level of guilt about the internal panic into it. We need to work towards making it okay to open those conversations and make it into a new normal.
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