It would be fair to say that I needed a little persuading to enter the world of Motherhood. I was enjoying a fulfilling career with all the freedom and excitement a good income allows. What little I did read about motherhood was often negative with any positives listed only as a small footnote. I always understood the need to seek comfort in sharing similar experience with others but came to the conclusion that motherhood was an overall unhappy and exasperating experience. After all, if it was all that great, why didn’t people write about those aspects? I would see sentimental memes shared on Facebook regularly enough but the long and detailed accounts of life with a baby or toddler were reserved for dissatisfaction and frustration. I did not want to be that miserable. No thank you.
Fast forward a few years and I was happily settling down with a wonderful, caring man. The urge to create a family between us crept in. As happens when you hit a certain age, friends started having families of their own and I was able to see these women go through the most wonderful transformation. They glowed with the love and joy of their babies and, most surprisingly to me, they were still interesting, vibrant and had their own identity. I thought maybe I could be a mother and still be the ambitious, geoscience geek that I am. And so, not long after we married we started trying for a baby. We were blessed with our daughter Madeline Theia in February of 2017 and nothing in this world has made me happier.
Coming up to Madeline’s first birthday I have been looking back over the past year and thinking about all the things I have enjoyed. I decided to write a list of just some the unexpected pleasures that come with being a mum to counterbalance the more negative articles I had read in the past.
I should say that the following are my personal experiences, not a generalization. I have deliberately kept it positive. There certainly are hard times and many challenges but those have already been covered so many times. I am not trying to gloss over the hard times or deny they happen, because they absolutely do. This is just my happy version of the “Dear First Time Mum” blog… and here goes…
Unexpected Positive Experiences When You Become A Mother
Just about everyone is friendly
Most trips to the supermarket take a long time. Not because the baby is unruly but because most older ladies you pass will stop me to chat to Madeline. She mostly obliges with smiles but even when she grimaces at them, they still smile back and chat a little. It’s not just the granny types either, the granddads wave and other children come up to say hello to a baby and parents make polite small talk. I overhear people whisper “oh she’s so cute” and yes, I will admit that I actively engage in these conversations and covet the baby compliments. They make me smile and I genuinely enjoy the interactions. Joking aside, there was a time when I started to feel very isolated. We have no family in Western Australia and my husband works away. These casual ‘friends’ I made at Woolies were what stopped me slipping into a dark place. Thank you friendly strangers.
The Baby Vortex
I can lose hours each day just being with Maddie. We call it the Baby Vortex. When she was first born I could at her sleeping for such a long time I would get neck ache. Newborn babies quickly learn to control their eyes and they can maintain eye contact for what feels like hours. I would wonder what she was thinking and if she knew who I was. Nowadays I catch myself just watching her play, other times I am being silly to keep her laughing. Sometimes a whole morning can go by and I realise that I haven’t done any of the chores I set out to do and I forgot to prepare lunch. The Baby Vortex is amazing. It’s why it takes me so long to get anything done.
More ambition, enthusiasm and motivation (just redirected)
People used to tell me that I would probably lose interest in my career when I had a baby and that my life would be ‘put in perspective’, as if it were out of perspective prior to becoming a mother. I would find it so frustrating and patronising. Well, I have not lost ambition or enthusiasm at all. In fact, I feel more driven than ever. I have a daughter and I need to be a role model to her. I want to show her that she can achieve anything she wants. The difference today is that I may have redirected my ambition. Time is precious and if I am away from my baby girl, it needs to be worthwhile. I feel a strong urge to show young girls that they can be part of the STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine) world. Maybe I have found perspective, my interests have evolved, I am more ambitious than ever because I am now accountable. Its not just me anymore, I have a responsibility to this little girl and nothing is more motivating than that.
Birth can be beautiful
My birth did not go to plan. Not at all. My baby’s heart rate kept dropping so the obstetrician decided to intervene. Maddie was born in a bit of a rush with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. To make matters worse she was holding on to the cord and with every push she tightened the noose. Then, when Maddie was only two hours old I was taken down to surgery as I was hemorrhaging. It was four hours before I was reunited with my little family.
Thankfully, our little girl was OK. She was perfect and I was in a state of complete bliss. My poor husband was frazzled and in shock. It was now 2am and he had watched me go through a complicated labour, worry about our little daughter and then had to wait whilst I disappeared off to surgery for four hours. Amazingly, on that long day, not once did I feel scared. I had been seeing the same obstetrician for all my appointments and had a student midwife following my pregnancy. I knew the team we were with that day and they knew us. I could have had a very different experience had I not had complete trust in them. They kept me calm and I am eternally grateful for the wonderful care they gave to us all.
I love my stretch marks!
I didn’t particularly want stretch marks. I used three different types of lotions and oils in the hope of limiting the spread of these scars as they grew across my pregnant belly. However, after the birth of our daughter I experienced a kind of sadness that she was no longer inside of me; we were no longer physically attached. My reminder of the nine months of carrying her were these stretch marks and my wobbly, swollen belly. Now, a year later, my belly is almost back to normal but I still have some faded stretch marks and I love them. I smile when I see them when I get out of the shower and I hope they never fade completely.