Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Don't get me wrong.....

When I was about 19 I was sat on the top deck of a bus in slow moving traffic, drifting past a school. I watched a small boy laden with paintings charging towards his mother. I have no idea why but it made me feel incredibly sick. I vowed never to have any children.

Even at 27 I apparently told my partner that I didn’t want any offspring. I don’t really remember that, but then I don’t really remember much about being 27 - except that it was great. Somewhere along the line though, I must have wanted a child because I’ve got one.

I don’t believe in God. I believe in nature. Tidal waves, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, plagues, earthquakes, wildfires and biological urges. It’s the only explanation I can come up with at how I ended up this way.

“How is being a Mum?” people ask.

“It’s okay.” I reply.

They respond with a questioning facial expression. Okay? That’s not what they want to hear. The stock response is “the most wonderful thing I have ever done” or “giving birth was the proudest moment of my life”. I can honestly say that pride was not one of the overwhelming emotions that I felt as I clawed my way from the birthing stool to the bed with my child’s head hanging out from between my legs. Nor was it pride I felt after the birth as the midwife put her finger up my rectum to aid her stitching. As something of a seamstress myself I can understand where she was coming from, but really….. not even an ‘excuse me’.

In the face of this disappointment from strangers - the shocking concept that I find motherhood just “Okay”, I often find myself struggling to reassure them that I do actually love my child. “Don’t get me wrong….” I begin, but it’s too late; I’ve already left my first impression. And I refuse to qualify myself with the phrase “I love my son to bits.” Do you know how times a week I hear that phrase roll off the tongues of crack-heads as their children languish in care homes? Polite conversation over; the strangers leave unnerved and telling themselves that I’m not the maternal type.

“But you’re just not the maternal type!” people exclaimed when I told them I was pregnant. It was a good thing I didn’t need the reassurance of loose acquaintances to know that I would do a fine job of being a mother.

All that ‘maternal’ shit is highly overrated. For those of you that have given birth you will know that it is such an overwhelming experience that whoever you were before you did it, you won’t be the same afterwards. How many ‘maternal’ types who read the books, went to the classes and who longed for motherhood, freaked out and had post natal depression? How many totally unprepared, uneducated and scared shitless, teenage mums took to motherhood with enviable ease?

One of the encounters that made me smile so hard on the inside that I got lower intestinal cramp, was when at a baby clinic a few weeks ago I asked a new mother of twins what it was like having twins. Ok, so it’s a shitty unoriginal question but I was being one of those idiotic strangers that I was just cussing…..

In an unguarded moment she looked at me with wild eyes and said with raw honesty “It’s a nightmare”. She blinked and as she reopened her eyes it was as if the Mothership had regained control of her “but it’s a lovely nightmare” she said, an inane grin creeping slowly across her face.

“It’s Ok.” I said to her. “You are allowed to say that.” But as I watched her smiling and frantically jiggling her distressed child I knew she had slipped away from me.

So, as a parting gift to all you Mothers out there it’s Ok to say that you don’t absolutely love being a mother every minute of every day. Jesus, I don’t even love chocolate every minute of every day. Although I do love chocolate to bits. Lots and lots and lots of bits.

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