As parents, we never know how happy we are until “the next thing,” and there is always the next thing. And have you noticed how the stakes seem to get higher every time? Stakes which make us wish for the last ‘difficult’ situation. Difficult we realise we can handle. Difficult, we understand now, was a bloody breeze.
When I first fell pregnant, my mother Cynthia, the older generation, and other experienced parents were happy for me but cautious. One of the first things the world tells us is not to tell anyone about a new pregnancy… “in case.” The word “miscarriage” routinely substituted out.
By the fourth month, my mother and other wise ones were still happy for me, but certainly not as naively giddy with excitement as I was. (I decided to wait until at least the six-month milestone before telling them about the pram and wholly unnecessary accessories I had bought prematurely for my unborn child.)
My growing bump was nicknamed ‘Arthur,’ although I had no idea (nor wanted to know) whether my chronic morning sickness would turn out to be a boy or a girl. Whether, indeed, this constant nausea was even capable of producing a healthy child.
There were sick feelings also about excruciating decisions to be made. This included whether to allow a large needle into my uterus to test if the baby was ‘normal.’
By months seven and eight, it was whether to go the natural or assisted birth route. Since natural birth seemed to entail God-awful pain and screaming like a banshee for an interminable amount of time, I went with Option B – drugs.
The question then was what sort of drugs? This ranged from gas & air to a full epidural. The respective pros and cons, as explained, was gas & air was a light assist and an epidural would take all the pain away. Apparently, a con with an epidural is that I would miss out on feeling the baby harpoon its way into the world, mashing and tearing up my lady purse en route.
“I’ll take the no pain and complete absence of feeling for two hundred,” I said.
I enquired whether there was an Option C – gas & air, full epidural, sleeping pills and a bottle of vodka. There was no Option C. I asked if there was a Customer Suggestion form I could fill in before I left.
Suffice it to say, worry continued up until the day I went into labour. And remember what I said at the top of this post, about wishing for the so-called problems we thought we had before? Having pushed my guts out for over 24 hours, a senior surgeon aged 12 deemed we were now in a medical emergency. Doors were flung open and nurses went into run-don’t-walk as they assisted medics with masking up in the corridor whilst others were forcibly rolling me onto a gurney like a startled seal. Bronnie, God love him, stopped tackling his urgent question of whether he could get CNN on a UK hospital TV.
Enter stage right the new worry of a full-on Caesarean. Even in my dazed state, I understood this to mean considerably more yanking than me pushing. Option A was to stay awake during the operation and Option B was: “There is no Option B.”
There was a teeny tiny worry-free moment at the indescribable joy I felt coursing through my battered body when I met my youngest daughter for the first time. A final determined yank and this incredibly wrinkled, red and white hairy little thing was introduced as my child. She was beautiful and my first words to her were:
Except Morgan didn’t respond.
Not even when they sprinted her at Usain Bolt speed and shot-putted her onto a steel table and slapped her senseless. (A feeling I was to know again in her teenage years.) But she did eventually cry and my baby girl was born safely into an unsafe world.
“Hi, mum, we’re back,” the nurse said as she handed me my precious little girl.
My own mum was delighted with our hairy monster, and grandmother and granddaughter enjoy an unrivaled bond to this day.
Having satisfied mum, now the world at large conferred to keep our worry gauge up. To breastfeed or not to breastfeed, immunise or not to immunise, breast milk or formula milk, is baby underweight or overweight… will baby be beaten up its first day of school? Will baby’s mother be given an orange jumpsuit for wholly inadequate parenting?
“Arrghh, when does this infernal worry stop?” I wondered.
I didn’t need to look to the world at large for my answer.
“Never,” my mother said.
This is my muse today because someone asked if I wasn’t worried about my daughter potentially going to Australia for a year.
The question reminded me of my child’s journey thus far, including the first time I let my then five-year-old walk to the village shop all by herself. Having made a decision early on to raise adventurous children and not parent in fear, I let her go. The twenty minutes it took her to get there and back shaved years off me and my parenting decisions.
And then the kitchen door opened and my child breezed in with pride and groceries, saying:
“Hi, mum, I’m back.”
I choked down fears and tears and replied:
From teething, to teenage trauma to travel, all my children have thus far always made it safely through – and my parenting world is rocked by four words every time they do:
“Hi, mum, I’m back.”
This post is dedicated to my daughter, Morgan Cynthia Fargo