Pre pregnancy, I had a certain view of pregnant people, and people with babies. I went to a couple of baby showers where it felt like the pregnant woman in question was being initiated into some strange foreign club where every member was given all manner of obscure gifts including baby snot excavators (this still grosses me out) and breast pumps, and where knowledge could be passed between members with a simple look. As a non-pregnant and sometimes single person, I felt excluded by the knowing looks. My lack of fertilization and security in a long term relationship meant I was not entitled to feel smug or receive membership to this club.
Now, in my 7th month of pregnancy, it turns out, I was right. There is a club. There are knowing looks and odd gifts exchanged (I have yet to receive my very own baby snot excavator, but will surely write an update if I get one). But what I discovered is it’s not about excluding the non-pregnant and sans baby among us, it’s about supporting the newest member. There’s no hazing in this club. The process of pregnancy and early motherhood is punishing and ritualistic enough. Those people who have been through it know that the next poor bastard coming through it will need a helping hand, and the comfort of a look.
I discovered I was a member of said club when I went out for lunch with three old high school friends. We have kept up with each other in person and via facebook for over 12 years and as our lives have changed and we have moved to different cities, the main thing we have in common is our shared past and high school memories. But sitting around with these women with my baby kicking me from within was a very different experience. Around the table we had one pregnancy (myself), two babies (a 3 week old and 7 month old), and two primary school aged girls who wisely stayed at home with their dads. Instead of the usual “how is (insert shared acquaintance’s name) doing?” questions which have been the norm at previous meet ups, we talked all things baby for over two hours. At one point I heard myself ask about tearing during childbirth and I almost laughed. I had become one of the people I loved to hate: a woman who can talk about a topic that use to drive me nuts for 120 minutes, pausing only to go to the toilet or take a sip from a large vanilla milkshake. Worse still, I was thoroughly enjoying myself!
I vowed to make sure this kind of behaviour stayed in the realm of my fellow club members to avoid boring/grossing out/losing my non baby friends. My non baby friends are still just as important to me, because they provide a break from the over whelming whirlwind that is pregnancy, but also because they are just awesome people. I don’t want to make them feel excluded like I did, and I also don’t want to become a person whose conversation skills reach only as far as an umbilical cord. I still want to talk about all the things I talked about before. If only I could remember what they were.
In recent weeks I have found this club membership to be absolutely invaluable. While a normal pregnancy already includes hormones and adjustments aplenty, the pregnancy I’ve experienced so far has meant I’ve leant on people and required more support than I’m usually comfortable asking for. I’ve turned to club members both familiar and unknown to me and found support and solace from everywhere I’ve turned.
My family have been fantastic, with supportive emails and texts from both my sisters, and phone calls and visits from my parents, as well as the 4 hour round trip commute my Mum made to attend our last scan. My friends, both baby owners and non-baby owners have been spectacular with words of wisdom and support that made me appreciate just how fantastic my friends are. One friend, who has recently had a baby himself, was assuring me of the love I would feel for the Peanut, regardless of any complex health issues, and said “eventually (not necessarily on day one) you will love your child an infinite amount. If your baby has some kind of variation, that hypothetically subtracts (-) from or divides (÷) your love for your child, you are still left with infinity. I learnt that in maths: infinity divided by a whole number still equals infinity. You can check it with a maths teacher.”
How did I get so lucky to find such zen advice amongst my friends?
And then there’s the internet. When we first thought our Peanut may have a heart defect I went online to research and ended up asking the internet mums out there for their anecdotal support. The parents on the Huggies website forum gave me almost instant responses with some helpful stories and incredibly kind words of support. They wanted me to come back and tell them how I was doing so they could support me through this process. These absolute strangers had my back simply because they could empathize as fellow club members and human beings.
Before I even knew mine was going to be a complex pregnancy I had found a source of virtual support in the podcast and blog www.longestshortesttime.com/. My sister, always a fountain of good listening material and the reason I listen to podcasts in the first place, put me on to it. Hillary Frank’s podcast explores issues with early motherhood and the challenges that come with that time. Despite the sometimes frightening picture it paints of those first difficult three months, I was hooked on hearing from other mums about what it’s really like. Then last week, when I had used up the tissues and moved on to toilet paper I listened to the first podcast of the year which finished off with a competition announcement. Hillary was giving away the “Not so Glamorous, but so Necessary” bundle complete with all the products Frank deemed necessary for early motherhood. I entered, thinking nothing of it and a couple of days later I got an email from Frank herself announcing I had won. We were awaiting our second appointment in Wellington to meet the genetics team and things were looking grim, so this baby-related prize was perfectly timed.
I’ve always felt I had a good support system, but it’s unbelievably comforting to know that when I really need that system and those people, it’s actually there and robust enough to keep me going. If you ask for help, they will come.
As a proud card carrying member of the club, I’m looking forward to the day I can offer the same to someone else.