Industrial-sized sanitary towel? Check.
Disposable paper knickers? Check.
Dripping boobs? Check.
Flabby stomach? Check.
Ahhh good, all in Post-Natal order then.
Picture the scene: a bleary-eyed fumbled look at the iPhone says it’s 03.37. I’m hot, naked, monumentally tired and dripping milk out of my left boob all the way down to my newly-acquired wobbly stomach. Oh joy. Beside me Patrick’s gentle snores confirm that yes, it is indeed just me up at this ungodly hour and given that milk doesn’t yet come out of his boobs, there is indeed only me that can get up and feed our darling, but clearly starving, baby girl. Ah, the joys of new-found parenthood.
For those who are remotely interested (and my deepest apologies for those that aren’t), I thought I’d jot down a rough account of my personal experience of pregnancy, birth and having a newborn baby because I think experiences shared honestly and openly make life a lot easier to deal with for others!
Where to start? Well, India, our daughter, is four months old as I write. She is all at once a delight, mystifying, beautiful and unnerving - she isa new soul and she has much to teach me about life. She arrived after 9 looooooooooooooooong months and suddenly here we are 4 months later.
Looking back at my pregnancy, I did all the usual things I’m sure most first-time pregnant women do. I researched every minute detail about pregnancy and birth, I bought way too much ugly maternity wear at the beginning and only found the cool stuff later, I ate too much chocolate, drank not enough water and was an avid member of ‘babycentre.com’. I had most of the symptoms too - the morning sickness, tiredness, sore boobs, haemorrhoids, twisted ankle (not recommended!), weird itchy spots, and finally, the awful, awful heartburn. And, as predicted by the pregnancy books and websites, absolutely everyone else but me knew best about my pregnancy. I was ‘carrying low’, ‘carrying high’, ‘expecting a girl’, ‘expecting a boy’, ‘going to give birth early’, ‘going to be overdue’ etc. etc. All very text-book and to be expected I guess you could say but, when you are a first-time Mum-To-Be in a place such as Monaco everything is quite a shock and somehow nothing about pregnancy seems very ‘natural’.
I mean, take the people here. After 7 years in Monaco I have many good and very dear friends here. Many are female and all are utterly, drop-dead gorgeous. When I say this I actually truly mean it. If you were to line all my female mates up in a row you would seriously think they had just stepped off a conveyor belt for perfect females. So you can only imagine how damn hard it is to stay hip, thin and gorgeous when you’re piling on the pregnancy kilos in places you’d never even knew you had before. Oh boy, the word ‘challenging’ is not even close!! Going out for the night anywhere was such a mission; I had to figure out cunning clothing combinations involving ways to cleverly disguise my ever-expanding bottom and hips, yet show off the gloriously growing bump. It wasn’t easy and many, many were the times when I just ended up in a crumpled heap on the floor because ‘NOTHING BLOODY FITS!’. Poor, poor Patrick. He sometimes got the full Lucy works I’m afraid to say. Yes, it is hard being pregnant in Monaco, a place where you are continuously ‘on show’, and whilst I know it really shouldn’t matter in the grand scale of things, somehow it just DOES.
The birth… oh boy… luckily for me I was not in labour toooo long although it felt like a bloody eternity at the time. The first part was bearable, I even managed to fit in a few emails, texts and spot of online shopping before it all became surreal. Then, when the ‘big bangs’ hit it was flippin’ agony. By the time I had paced the apartment hallway 243 times, had a bath (waaay too late!) and flung myself against anything solid that could withhold me (including Patrick), it really was time to get to the hospital. When I arrived (having nearly killed Patrick in the car on the way) I was whisked forthwith onto the maternity ward soap-opera style on a hospital bed, crashing through the swinging doors whilst I moo-ed and clutched frantically at my stomach. All I can say is THANK THE LORD for epidurals! Literally I went from ‘hysterical loony woman in severe pain’ to ‘chatty smiling woman’ in the space of 15 minutes. I think Patrick was rather relieved too! I’ll spare the gory bits here as it’s all just a big puddle of bodily-fluids but suffice to say, after half an hour of major pushing , out she finally came. WOW. I remember that my first (bizarre) thought was ‘good Lord, she actually moves!’ – well, I was a bit out of it I guess at that stage!
So there she was, after 9 months inside my tum, lying on my chest and it was truly, truly amazing. I cant describe the feeling as it’s hard to write down but it’s a kind of a weird feeling and loving sensation all mixed together. It’s a lot to take in straight away that’s for sure.
The four days that followed in hospital were spent on a sleep-deprived, adrenaline-fuelled high. The first night I just couldn’t sleep as I was going over and over every detail of the birth and also coming to terms with the fact that lying in the clear cot next to me was a little human being that Patrick and I had created. Kind of ours but at the same time not ours as she is her own person. This little being that seemed to cry, sleep and feed on a 24 hour rotation that we were suddenly solely responsible for. Blimey. What a HUGE responsibility… Suddenly the romantic and easily-said words ‘let’s have a baby’ all those months ago seemed very real and rather scary. In fact I’d say I felt scared, overwhelmed, excited and a little in shock at first. Such is the adjustment and reality check. It’s very, very powerful.
Of course, bringing India home I wanted everything to be picture-perfect. However, like so much in life, these are merely rosy images we create in our minds and the reality is often very different. I had envisaged Patrick and I proudly carrying her over the threshold into our home, all smiles and one big bubble of family love. What actually happened is that we walked through the door with a screaming baby still strapped into her too-large car seat frantically scanning each others faces for clues as to what the hell to do next!!! Patrick’s solution was very male; back slowly and quietly out of the door and go and hover the back seat of the car, or something similar. Bless.
Thereafter it’s been a merry-go-round of milk-stained clothing, pulling silly ‘OOOHHH’ faces, mixing up nursery rhyme words, watching my waist come back to life, becoming an expert in sterilising, getting excited about moving up a Pamper size, worrying about being late for the babysitter, coming terms with the loss of independence, feeling so proud walking down the street, trying to grow another pair of hands and waiting for the ‘Baby Gap’ sale to begin. Talk about a change of life – it’s been phenomenal. I never thought I’d get so excited about seeing a dollop of yellowy poo either. Honestly, it’s a ‘Gold Star’ event every time!!
So now here we are in September. I feel like I’ve been in a ‘long, dark tunnel’ and am finally seeing the glorious, bright sunshine outside. It’s been a massive rollercoaster ride for the last three months. I’ve literally cried like an insane woman (often for no apparent reason at all), had my heart filled to near bursting point with unconditional love, realised how completely self-centred I’ve been for the last 38 years and completely understood why my mother always said ‘you wait, you’ll see’. It’s been an enormous learning experience and one I am so blessed and grateful to have had. The female body just humbles me in its tireless and amazing capabilities and I definitely now know that we women are the stronger sex!
On another note a few words about routine. Well two actually; Gina. Ford. Honestly, in my opinion the woman is a saint. She has been my 24/7 advisor for weeks now. A bit on the old strict side but I actually quite like that. India sleeps well and all credit really goes to Ms. Ford. The fact that this woman doesn’t actually have any children of her own is clearly beside the point! She ROCKS in our household.
I’ll end here, as I could ramble on but on a final note here’s a little image that might make you smile. Post-baby the French LOVE to send you for what can only be described as a course of ‘internal workouts’! I’ll leave it to your imagination but suffice to say it involves a computer, one bizarre video ‘game’ and a little internal contraption. ‘Catch the birdie’ is a phrase that springs to mind. I know, it’s never a dull moment!Thank you for reading my blatherings anyway. Hope it maybe helped others that are going through a similar phase to realise that they are not, in fact, insane.