I have an extraordinary daughter and she and I share an extraordinary bond. It hasn’t been an easy road, for either of us. It is a dreadful dichotomy, to want a child so desperately, and yet struggle when she arrives. I filled in the requisite questionare when I was pregnant and the alarm bells rang when the matron in the maternity ward saw it. Not only had I had major trauma in my life, but also a damaged body and little help. I couldn’t drive a car and was in a wheelchair in the later part of pregnancy. I felt more alarmed by my score because the matron was filled with histrionics. “How will you cope when you shall be mostly alone when she arrives? What will you do?” she trilled. Crap! How shall I cope and what shall I do? I began to ruminate on these frightening themes. It didn’t help that I had no experience with babies. I could barely recall being a child myself! More people doubted my abilities than believed in them.
I did IVF to have her, and that was an Odyssey in itself. I never thought beyond getting to the epu and then the dreaded tww. That was all my brain had space for. I felt so little, and vulnerable. I had to buy my pyjamas and dressing gown from the kidswear section as despite my enormous belly, I was petite and short. Very short. After my maternity visitation, I booked in for counselling after having been told that I was a prime candidate for perinatal and then postnatal depression. You know what was uncovered during these sessions? I had prepared myself for the pain that would unfurl on my damaged spine and kidneys… I had prepared myself for most matters. What I did have an issue with was boundaries. I had allowed people to run rampant in my life. I felt so fragile after IVF, and vulnerable now. I almost had her at 19 weeks, and it created major anxiety, even after the rupture sealed and labor stopped. I left hospital after several weeks, on high alert. As a result, my life and pregnancy became a free-for-all. All I wanted was peace and silence and I was getting little of either.
When my rambunctious daughter arrived, I didn’t tell anyone save her godparents. I needed time with her alone. Oh yes, noses were out of joint, but at that stage, I was past caring. I didn’t want throngs of people touching her. I needed to get to know her! When the staff took her down the hall for her routine tests, she would roar until she was wheeled back in and then not a peep was heard. She always was a little firebrand who not only knew her own mind, but spoke it.
At home by myself, it was tough. I could barely walk for months, and she had colic. She rarely slept and only stopped crying when in my arms. I was exhausted though enthralled. I tried every available product on the market to ease her suffering. Whenever the colic pain eased, I would search her face in desperation. I wanted her so much; did she not know? The other young mothers I knew all had routines set down for their newborn and they slept. I fell into postnatal depression, and sought appropriate help once again. It made all the difference. I stopped ruminating on my fears of being enough for this wondrous child. By six months, she was a gurgling, happy little munchkin. I was making myself a coffee after settling her to sleep in her crib at the end of my bed. I heard a giggle, and turned around to see my 8 month old grinning at the door of the kitchen. I dropped my cup in fright. She had managed to climb out of her crib, landing on my bed, and then walked to the kitchen. Even as an embryo, she was in a hurry, doing what a 7 day old embie might within 48 hours. I came to know her personality, and she mine.
She hated being in her pram and I found out that she was extremely flexible in rather a stressful manner. I was walking up the hill to a nature reserve, where my car was parked. I heard a strange clunk coming from underneath her pram though persisted with my voyage. To my horror, I found the wheels of the pram had run over my daughter! She had gotten free of the restraints and stood up in the pram! I ran to retrieve her and she was laughing, delighting in the game!
Then there was the memorable time in a play centre. We were attending a playgroup Christmas Party. Only one harangued girl was on the counter and the place was bedlam. I heard my toddler call out, “hi mummy!” To my horror, she had climbed through the third level’s netting and lifted herself through a large hole in the roof. She was now standing on the flimsy net with nothing around her on the outside. Hurridly I crawled through the levels, and retrieved her by her feet. She thought it was terrific.
At four, I thought I had struck gold. I had discovered a meditation cd for children which carried her into the land of nod. Delighted, I put it on every evening. I pressed ‘play’ one night, and got the fright of my life. She had changed the meditation cd for rock music, and put it at full volume. She hid the calming cd and I haven’t seen it since.
I reflect on the tumultuous early days and am sad that I was so filled with fear. Heck, half of it wasn’t even mine! The colic ended, and whilst she was still a very wakeful baby, I let go of any notion that I could control it, and went with the flow. I slept when she did. If I had my time over, I would expunge any anxiety that I was too damaged to do the job of child-rearing properly. I would accept more help. I would try harder to stand out rather than fit in with what everyone else was doing. My daredevil insisted that I chill out, and I grew to understand her capabilities when it came to climbing and general mayhem. She has never fallen, and whilst I have anything to do with it, she never will.