If you're sick of giving up your seat for pregnant women, holding open doors for prams that will roll over your toes or having to buy presents for babies you won't see again before their Communion, you're not alone! Babies are popping up (or out) all over our recession-ravaged country. Parenthood has never been as fashionable, with tiny babies and massive prams being the latest accoutrement.
Until recently, I was one of the many thousand pregnant women waddling around, clutching our ever-expanding bellies and aching backs, but secretly pleased to have an excuse for not working.
Having a baby is something I have (sort of) always wanted and now that I have one, I don't regret it. My baby girl is an animated, enchanting and adorable human being. I love her more than I ever believed was possible. BUT . . . and you knew that was coming, didn't you . . . I'd be a liar if I said I haven't questioned the wisdom of it all.
Because since I became a mother, my life has indeed changed, changed utterly because parenthood is a terrible, terrible beauty.
And I know that I'm not alone here, though I may be one of the few brave enough to vocalise it. Let me rewind ...
When I 'cop on' and get hitched
I spent my 20s swanning around Africa and Australia, comfortable to relegate motherhood to the distant but just about visible future. So basically I'm one of those 'wans' who wants to have her cake, eat it and not gain any weight!
When I finally 'copped on' and gave up 'gallivanting' at the ripe age of 35, I married the love of my life, to the utter, undisguised relief of my parents who threatened to give me away if I didn't find an aisle and a man and get us both down it pronto!
After freaking them out with some earlier boyfriends my parents were just euphoric that I was marrying an English-speaking Catholic -- even if he does hail from Offaly!
Prior to getting married, myself and Biffo had the baby discussion. Frankly, I could have waited five or 10 years. Educated, employed and with a good social circle, we had plenty of things to do and see, happily coupled with a modicum of cash to enable us to do it. So why risk spoiling that perfect scenario? Because we didn't want to miss out! Everyone else was doing it so shouldn't we?
Plus, if we didn't get on that baby bus quickly, we might regret it one day and, by then, find our lonely selves looking dolefully on as empty "As Seirbhís" buses cruised by!
We had also been assured by friends who were fading from our rapidly shrinking social circle that since the arrival of Oisín/Saoirse, their lives had been completely transformed!
So, based on what essentially added up to mostly hearsay and anecdotal information but precious little hard evidence, we decided to give it a shot . . .
'What's the worst that can happen?'
Ahem! What we actually did, though, was tantamount to taking out a MASSIVE lifelong mortgage on a house we'd never seen inside of, in an area very far from town that we'd heard of but never actually visited, with a NO return policy WHATSOEVER. The only thing we knew about the gaff was the builders -- and they weren't the most reliable!
But we didn't consider that and went for it, like . . . well, you know! And to our surprise/shock, before the honeymoon cruise was safely docked (phew!) or the dress hocked on eBay, I (we?) was well and truly preggers.
Learning that their erstwhile errant, wannabe hippie child was now with child herself, was almost more excitement than the parents could bear. Mind you, when we announced the due date, some rapid finger-counting ensued until they could breathe a Catholic sigh of relief when they established it was an acceptable (if meagre) nine months and three days after the nuptials.
To this day, sometimes just thinking about parenthood generates a cinematic spectacle in my head; ravaged, middle-aged me driving a sedan, packed with fighting kids, in circles around Dublin from school to dance/swimming lessons and back home via Lidl; saving for a conservatory and holidays to lovely family resorts in Furturventura where the highlight is a karaoke bar and, using my extra WeightWatchers points, a gelato! And I'm even more terrified that this may be normal or, worse, the highlight of my year.
So our reaction to the news went something like OMG . . . WOW . . . ! OMG . . . WTF? The thing is, we really wanted this tiny miracle, but just not quite so soon.
In desperate moments I fantasised about having one of those mad pregnancies where the foetus goes to sleep for a year or two, eventually wakes, continues growing and eventually a healthy baby is born. (I swear I read that somewhere.)
We were planking it, so you can only imagine how we wept into our popcorn watching We Need to Talk About Kevin -- BIG mistake!
Labour: worst 52 hours of my life (!)
Two words sum up the pregnancy: exhaustion and deprivation. No sleep, no sushi and precious little sex. Having total strangers comment on and even molest my growing bump (thankfully they ignored my expanding arse) was bad enough without their advice. This ranged from the wholly inaccurate to the utterly bizarre (no bending, no reaching, no papaya, no cold water . . .)
Then the 52-hour labour, which was accompanied by (frankly not enough) drugs!
Although the end did justify the proverbial means, I will never forget it, and I refuse to tell you it was "grand" because it was about as grand as pushing a pineapple through my nostril.
It was SHIT.
Fortunately, as a reward we got to keep the pineapple, erm, baby, who didn't even look like the alien I'd braced myself for . . . Bonus!
In which tiny cute
kid runs our lives
Well, I've been a mother for 10 weeks now and obviously I'm biased but this kid is seriously bloody cute and already a bit quirky . . . or that could be the spin I use to explain some of the weird shit babies do! But it's not all warm, fuzzy moments of wiping breast milk off the floor . . .
Parenthood can be restrictive at best, utterly draining and baffling at worst. And ultimately you are responsible for a totally dependent human being. No pressure!
Having a baby projectile UP your sleeve is a bizarre but comical enough experience (in retrospect), while getting negligible sleep is enough to make you consider selling your ovaries. But you get used to that. The biggest challenge is the seismic shift in one's lifestyle. Overnight, going out becomes a military operation requiring a stupid amount of time to pack the house contents into a tiny backpack. When you're finally out and about, you spend an inordinate amount of time trying to negotiate a massive pram up and down steps or through heavy doors. So given these challenges, I'm quite proud to have made it this far without maiming the child.
Entertainment is also fairly restricted, since children aren't the most fashionable accessory in theatres, cinemas or many restaurants.
That said, I am (mostly) happy to have chosen this path. There are milestones that burst into your day like a fart from a baby's bottom, making it all worth it-- first smile, giggle, first solid poo ...
Another part of me will always wonder what our life would have been like, had we chosen the childless route.
But this is a torturous and thankless slippery slope punctuated by furious glares at calm latte-sippers who aren't racing against the clock to down double-espressos before the next feed.
I have decided to avoid such covetous thoughts and instead carpe diem because all too soon she'll probably be a law-breaking adolescent threatening to hock me on eBay! If I don't do it first!