By VANESSA WATERS
It might sound naïve but I didn’t think having a baby would alter life much at all. “Babies from Africa don’t cry” I lectured my husband with Mother Teresa patience.
“It’s because the women carry them around in a sling and the baby feels comforted being close to the mother’s heart beat.” So there, I had parenting all worked out – a sling was my answer!
Up until the point I was pregnant I’d led a very bohemian life involving lots of travel, working early and way too late, day time swims and essentially doing what I wanted, when I wanted. It was a life I had carved out for myself, that I had worked hard for, and I loved it.
I lived by the words of Henry David Thoreau, the writer who had walked into the woods at Walden and stayed there for two years, declaring “I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life… and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.”
I wanted to know when my time was up that I had nurtured my passions, chased my dreams, seen the world and lived as deeply as I could. My Motherhood Plan entailed me living the same exciting life, just with a baby in a sling. It began with my birth plan comprising an epidural, labour, then donning my black knit dress and popping downstairs to the hospital café for a congratulatory skinny hot chocolate afterwards.
And so it was shocking (to no-one but me), when nothing went to plan. I gave birth at 2am and was so wiped out afterwards I was unable to stand let alone swan downstairs for a beverage. By the evening my spent body had lapsed into shock and despite my severe needle phobia I was inexplicably hooked up to a catheter and drip! I loved my baby from the very first moment, but how was I supposed to care for this tiny precious being when I was incapacitated? Ahhhh… welcome to motherhood!
It took three days before I could get out of bed. Then we returned home, my husband left for work and I was alone with a newborn for twelve grueling hours, all day, every day. Being a mother involved more hard work and loneliness, and less sleep than I had anticipated. It included thrice nightly breastfeeds with an hour of settling time required afterwards. I thought I’d be wonderful at the motherhood gig and instead I just felt tired and like I was failing.
The bit that tripped me up were my expectations. I’d seen Liz Hurley post birth, smiling with her glossy supermodel grin several hours after the feat.
It turns out Liz’s photos were airbrushed, she had a professional make up artist and hairstylist, a nanny and ate nothing but cabbage soup for weeks, but who knew that?
The photos I’d been exposed to in magazines allowed me to fall for the myth; that just days after birth you could be out in the world with your body all back lit by the glowing sun and enjoying life with your little one.
As it happened I was so sleep deprived I struggled to walk to the letterbox. I’d planned to work with the baby lying next to me snoozing happily away in her bouncer. What I didn’t anticipate was that my baby wouldn’t sleep during the day, and I’d be required to tend to her constantly.