I’ve talked a lot about infertility before – that’s the reason this blog started in the first place. But once you’ve been through it all and ended up with a baby – what are you? I’m still technically infertile, but I am a mother. I don’t feel like I can properly call myself infertile, aligning myself with the many women still in pain, still trying to deal with infertility, when I have our longed for child.
I talked about the strange hinterland of post infertility on one of my previous blogs. It’s that way we’re a particular kind of mother, an ever-grateful mother, a mother who doesn’t take having a baby for granted. I feel like a mother in an everlasting state of wonderment and joy that I get to be one. (It’s kind of sickening how happy I am about the whole thing, and I can assure you I don’t go around pooping rainbows – I just hold the happiness in my heart when my baby giggles or reaches for me, or does just about anything…)
I also feel The Fear for others. I have friends who get pregnant and announce straight away and I have to stop myself from saying, – Stop! What if?! and How can you be sure? – because those are my anxieties and not hers. It’s a strange place to be because we know what could go wrong, and we are those Miracle Mamas, the Mamas Against All Odds, and so our very being is confirming to them that good things do happen, and so we can’t be the ones to rain on their parade even though we know that not all trying ends up with a pregnancy, and not all pregnancies end up with a baby, but we nod along and smile because that’s what we do.
One of the things that’s come up a lot lately is the idea that one might not be enough.
And that’s something that’s just so alien to me, I can’t even imagine how it must feel to have that degree of sadness from having an “only”.
I was one of four siblings, and we got on well. It was complex, for sure – having two bios and two adopted. It was harder for the adoptees, but overall it was good – we had a fun childhood with lots of family games, kids going on adventures, and lots of freedom to play together. I don’t know why I never pictured myself as a mama of many. I guess I knew from quite a young age that I would find it difficult to have children. (I had been told something fleeting when I was much younger, which was never repeated by later doctors, but then told I had extensive endometriosis and likely fertility problems in my mid twenties.) I’ve always been someone who didn’t wish for things I didn’t think I could have. So the most I ever wished for was one.
Also, personally – I think I would have enjoyed being an only child. I don’t know if this is to do with being adopted or just my personality. I always felt as one of four that I didn’t get quite the amount of attention I would have wanted. And I don’t mean this in a drama queen way (although I had plenty of that) – I always felt needy, and maybe that is an adoption thing. I would just wish sometimes I could have a day of my parents just to myself. Don’t get me wrong – I do get on with my siblings. But I also enjoy now that I’m an adult that I often see my parents on their own and I don’t have to share them with anyone else! I guess I’d have been what they call now “a high needs child”!
So when I was told I probably couldn’t have kids, I just wished for the one, and when that wish was granted (by a lot of medical science and a fair amount of money and effort, rather than the Fertility Fairy!), I felt – gosh, life couldn’t get any better.
I see a lot of stuff now on FB about people worrying about only children. People worry they’ll be spoiled, or socially inept, or not know how to relate to other kids, or not able to function as adults, and I find it interesting because I wonder – where are they finding these terrible only children who grow up to be dysfunctional adults?! All of the single children I know have grown up to be just fine as adults. I don’t think they’re any better or worse functioning than the general population. And one thing they all had was a good relationship with their parents. B has been in nursery since a young age and he’s probably more socialised than a child who stays at home with his mother who doesn’t have a sibling for a few years. He enjoys seeing his friends at nursery, but he’s also securely attached to me. (And to his dad, and dog brother!) I figure so far, so good – he doesn’t seem like an irreparable weirdo!
For us, the lengths we went to in order to have B were pretty gruelling. (Though not a patch on what some have to go through. We were lucky.) I know that for me, I couldn’t be the mother I want to be to B if I were to continue going through additional treatments. It’s most likely I’d need another endo op, possibly another fibroid op, more IVF, more immune therapy. It was hard physically, but it was harder emotionally. I already feel a degree of loss that I have to go to work and B is at nursery during the work week, even though I know he’s absolutely fine. I wouldn’t want to be under emotional strain as well, trying to conceive a sibling, when I don’t think he needs one to be happy. I hope that by giving him a full life, and living in an urban area where there are a lot of kids about, that we can counter any potential loneliness he might have as an “only”.
I understand that being okay with one is not “normal”. Most people have more than one child. And maybe there’s something a bit strange about having no siblings, or not having multiple children. I don’t know. I feel sadness for people who can’t have children, including those who can’t have a second child and desperately want one. I just don’t feel the sadness of being a mother of one myself.
I never thought I’d be “that kind of mother”. I sort of thought that the baby phase would be kind of boring, that I’d probably find it a little bit of a drag until toddlerhood, until some kind of doing stuff like walking, eating, talking… but it’s been a joy. I thought I’d find it hard, because everything leading up to having a child has been hard, but it’s been relatively easy. And I don’t take that for granted at all. I’ve seen others struggle with breastfeeding and reflux and post natal depression and sleepless nights and I think we’ve been lucky, because it hasn’t been that hard for us. No tongue tie, no breastfeeding problems, no ongoing health issues and the sleepless nights I was used to due to my job! So whilst the adjustment has been monumental in some ways, it’s just been a case of slotting in as though he’s always been here in other ways.
And the thing that’s bittersweet as a mother of one is that I know that every time is the only time, and every last time is the very last time.
I’ll never have a tiny little baby again. B is my one and only (human!) baby and he’s now one, toddling about, vocalising, making his feelings known. (He’s a terrible tweenager already! Just like his mama used to be!) I’ll never see a baby take their first steps again. I’ll never see my baby roll for the first time again, or the time he worked out how to giggle and it made me cry with happiness – that’s the first and last time. We’re coming to the end of our pumping journey – and it’s been a slog. But the last time I pump breastmilk for him will be the last time. I can’t even think about the last time I breastfeed him. The last time I babywear. The last times are all the last times.
But… I feel so much gratitude that I even got to experience the firsts. And even if the firsts are also the lasts, I’m at peace with it, because it’s more joy than I ever thought I’d have.
I thought for so many years that I would never even have one, that I’d never be a mother. So to me, B, my “only”, my boy, is the most amazing thing. (I hesitate to call him a gift, because he’s not an object. He’s his own person, who has his own ideas of what he wants to happen in life, and most of those involve chocolate or bubbles). He’s an amazing, wonderful – and completely run-of-the-mill all at the same time, because that’s amazing also, the way we take the normal stuff for granted, the giving of life, the joy of family – little boy I never thought I’d have. So I guess I just never had the time to wish for another, because I was so busy wishing for him.
Before I embarked on this journey, I worked in an office. I’m a not-very-bigwig in the corporate world. And for years I defined myself by it, so I find myself applying “work” lingo to this new and amazing world of parenthood…
Hence: the QBR. At work, the Quarterly Business Review is a chance to look back on the last three months and assess what was good about it and what you’re going to work on next quarter.
I don’t seem to have any time for blogging nowadays. I never wanted to be one of those infertility bloggers who drops off the face of the planet when they have a baby, but there you have it. I’m still here, but right now I’m soaking up all I can of the experience.
I have to go back to work early for the UK – usually people take a year, but I’m on unpaid leave (due to starting my new job pregnant so ineligible for paid leave) and this (just over four months) is all we can afford. Hence my sparse postings lately. I’m sure when I’m back at work and have a commute again, I’ll be able to write a bit more.
Anyway, here goes!
Performance: B’s development
Following the developments a baby makes is like trying to catch a wave upon the sand, as the nuns in The Sound of Music would have it. B changes every single day. It’s amazing to watch.
It’s totally out-of-this-world amazing and totally run-of-the-mill normal at the same time. I absolutely know I’m not the first and last person to have a baby, but I can also now see why mothers get a bit obsessed.
Things B can do (not an exhaustive list, because I am not on top of things like that):
- Smile. He smiles all the time now. It’s like a magic mood lifter. How can you be anything but happy when a little fat baby is grinning a toothless grin at you?
- Halfhearted roll. He started rolling out of bed – his side sleeper cot, onto our bed. I bought a Sleepyhead bed nest which now contains him. He can roll halfway from his back to his side, but doesn’t seem motivated to roll fully (and we aren’t motivated to encourage him!).
- Hold his head up. We do tummy time when we remember (#badparents) and he easily holds his head up and tries to crawl a bit, but is a long way off, thankfully!
- Dribble. My boy is a world champion dribbler. Apparently this means maybe he’s started teething. He doesn’t seem particularly upset.
- Babble. In the last week or so, he’s just started to enjoy the sound of his own voice. T is convinced he can say “Hello” and it does sound like that sometimes, but I think it’s unlikely!
- Enjoy playing. For a while, I wondered if he was really enjoying playing, but now he definitely does. We do Baby Sensory once a week and he can now engage a bit in activities. He laughs when he enjoys things. And he has started batting toys at his (incredibly tacky) Baby Gym, finally, rather than just lying there and expecting them magically to entertain him!
In short, he is the most awesome beautiful baby in the world and I am fully in love.
Review: Parenthood after infertility/loss
During this whole thing, I’ve always been conscious of being infertile and of needing so much intervention to have B. On the one hand, I’ve passed into motherhood / parenthood and in many ways it feels like something I always was supposed to do. By which I mean, it feels natural. But on the other hand, I’m really conscious that pregnancy and birth did not come naturally to me. And I don’t want people to think it came easily or that I’m not grateful.
I thank my lucky stars every single day that I have B. It feels like a journey I never thought I’d get to make. It’s awesome. I also in the same breath thank my lucky stars for T, his father and my partner. And Dog, the best dog ever. It is nice to have a little family of my own. Of course I’ve always been a part of my family that I can remember, but it’s weird to have started my own. And even weirder to have someone who looks like me. People comment that all the time. I can totally enjoy that because having been adopted, I never had that.
I feel a need to explain to people that it wasn’t easy to have B, because I feel like on the one hand it’s hard to imagine him not being there, but on the other it’s weird not to reflect on the many more years I had of being childless with no idea if I’d ever not be. And I want people who are trying to conceive to know that we went there too.
Does the pain ever go away? I know some people say it doesn’t, and I respect that. For me, it’s immensely healing to have B. That’s not on him. He’s not responsible for my happiness. I just feel that the pain of infertility and loss has become more distant in my everyday thoughts. It’s not “worth it” as such but it doesn’t really intrude because I’m too busy enjoying him. It’s amazing how babies change and grow and learn stuff every single day. I’m in awe. And I’m so happy to get the chance to experience this. It feels like a dream come true.
I guess one thing this journey gave me was an intolerance of people who complain a lot about having a baby. I just can’t. I know so many who would give their right arm to be pregnant so it annoys me when people whinge on about pregnancy and motherhood. I know they have a right to, but I just don’t like to hear it. During pregnancy I almost relished the back pain and discomfort because I knew it meant he was coming. And now, I have almost infinite patience when he wakes me up during the night or cries, because he’s here and healthy and he needs me and I wanted this. Of course I get tired, but I look at his little face and think, You are so wanted and loved.
Review: Motherhood after adoption
Although I feel like I started this blog to talk about infertility, it became clear that I had many thoughts on adoption, and having been adopted as a baby. I probably have a whole post on this, but for the purposes of this QBR I can say it’s been on my mind a lot.
It’s literally amazing to me to see B’s face every day and how much he looks like me. I never realised how much I missed having kin before I met him. I have my (adoptive) family and I think we are a pretty close family. And they’ve embraced B as one of their own, because he is. But for me it’s just mind blowing to meet my actual flesh and blood. Finally.
If you’ve followed my blog a while you’ll know T is also adopted. So B has two parents who don’t have bio family in their lives. He is it. It’s kind of huge but it’s kind of normal as well. It’s a nice kind of normal. I like that he won’t grow up wondering who he looks like or feeling weird for being a different race from everyone else.
We purposely moved here to a diverse community so he won’t stick out. It’s awesome to see how there are lots of interracial couples here, and lots of mixed race children. I feel a sense of parental responsibility that I can do that – make a conscious choice for him. I was speaking with my cousin who is in an interracial relationship with mixed race children, who felt the same about making sure they fitted in. Racial mirrors are important.
Crunchy mom score: 10
I seem to have turned into a hippy. My friend the Earth Mother (who sometimes reads this blog *waves*) is my role model here!
Breastfeeding is this huge thing I never thought I’d get into, but a quarter in (almost a third now I’ve finally gotten round to finishing this) and it seems to be my superpower. I know this is no credit to me and some people just seem to find it easier. It’s nuts. I’m so glad it has gone well. I had the difficulty getting and staying pregnant, the messed up birth, so I deserve something, right?! Actually was totally happy just to have a healthy baby, but I’ll take it.
Babywearing is another one. It’s European Babywearing Week this week, and I’m going strong! I’m still wearing B in the wrap but have gone a bit full on down the rabbit hole of babywearing madness. Again something for a longer post but suffice to say I’m a convert to wrapping and I have another two in the post! I’m not really sure why I bothered with the pram as B loves babywearing and I do too, so he screams blue murder if he has to go into his lovely designer pram, but he’s happy to be wrapped like a little burrito and strapped to my front, and I feel like a warrior when I do it!
I want to do both of these things as long as possible and as long as B still enjoys it. I’m hoping I can breastfeed for at least a year, although I’ll have to express when I’m back at work. B is so not into taking expressed milk – we’ve tried once a day to see if he can get used to it, but he has a definite preference for milk from source. In a way it makes me happy he loves me best (as a good source anyway!) but I’m concerned he will feel thirsty or hungry when I’m out at work. Hopefully he will adjust.
Exit strategy: Going back to work
It’s not so much an exit strategy as enforced retirement (in QBR parlance). I so don’t want to go back to work. I know I’m going to cry my eyes out. I can finally appreciate why maternity leave is usually a year. I honestly had no idea babies were this interesting (well, I mainly like mine… the others not so much!) and how much of a wrench it would be. I’m already less than a month to go and it feels like sand slipping through an hourglass at high speed.
I’m with him all the time and I don’t want to miss anything but I’ll have to. I’ll pump for him, and I know I’ll do everything possible to make sure he has the best start, but really I wish I could be with him every day, all day. I guess it’s no easier going back when they’re one, though. I hope he’ll take after me and sleep a lot!
Clothes have been a challenge. Who knew maternity and nursing wear seem to be double purpose? It’s so odd that the clothing manufacturers have decided the two go together. My mum kindly gave me some money to buy some back to work clothes and get a haircut. I think she realised how awkward I feel carrying the extra weight and with massive nursing boobs!
Pre pregnancy I was around a size 10 UK and now I’m maybe a 12, bigger than I’ve ever been (well, apart from pregnancy!). During pregnancy I embraced bodycon because it meant I was actually pregnant. Post pregnancy I’m avoiding it for the reason that it makes me look pregnant! My boobs are out of control. Pre pregnancy I was 32C and post I am 36DD or by Boob or Bust (a nursing site) measurements I’m 32H! Which is crazy talk! I’ll have a few weeks to find some decent nursing / pumping clothes. I don’t want to sit pumping in a meeting room with my top off, or worse still with a dress off, in my underwear! There’s a great fb group called Can I Breastfeed In It? Which I’ve been stalking for inspiration. Sadly most nursing stuff is casual or occasion wear rather than office wear. I’m half thinking I need to make a group for prematurely working mums!
In order to try and get organised, I ordered a Sarah Wells designer nursing bag from the US. Breast pump bags literally do not exist here in the UK. Probably because mothers don’t go back to work until the babies are weaned. Most take a year off. Unfortunately it isn’t possible for us as I’m on unpaid leave so minimum amount of wages (a small statutory allowance from the government which I’m grateful for, but barely pays rent!). Anyway I was super excited to receive it until I got hit with a customs charge of £39! Wtf. You live and learn. That bag better be amazing! I’ll have to post a more in depth review later.
I’ve always felt it’s so important not to neglect your relationship when you have a baby. And yet I’ve realised in the past few weeks that I really haven’t focused on T so much as B. I’ve also probably neglected Dog a bit as T tends to take him for walks whilst I feed B. I think we are okay. T says he doesn’t mind (especially the lack of bedroom antics!) but I am conscious of it.
We are very loving and in many ways having B has solidified that. I mean, we are inextricably linked now. But we are more tired and we sometimes get quite far through the day before we kiss, which is something I always thought of as important. That said, we are around each other all day – T is on shared parental leave – so we don’t kiss each other goodbye.
Having a baby and the resultant disturbed sleep (he goes back to sleep easily but I still have to wake up and comfort him even if he’s co sleeping) and probably hormones does make me grouchy. So I need to watch out for that. I feel like my moods are way more loving-whoops-now-I’m-crazy! than they were before. T is very good natured but I’m probably stretching it a bit! I absolutely love being an Earth mother type but I need to develop some hippy vibes!
We got back to the – ahem – babymaking (well it never worked!) right on schedule. Actually a day early after the doc said it was possible after a c section (6 weeks). So we made sure everything was still in working order! But frequency is way down. T says he doesn’t mind, but I feel bad for him considering last few months of pregnancy was also a no go!
I feel really self conscious of my post baby body – for the first time in years I feel a bit ashamed of my body. Before I was a bit more vain and perfectionist – not to say I had the best body but I felt it was within tolerances and was kind of proud I wasn’t overweight. Now I feel a bit saggy and my stretch marks are still very visible so that’s affected my confidence. It just about passes in clothes but my bikini days are over! So that affects how I feel about getting naked. I am hoping over time it’ll improve. At the weekend we stayed in a posh hotel for a family do so we had a bath – for the first time I didn’t want him to see me naked. But he did and we had a nice bath! I guess it takes time. I still feel massively proud of my body for getting B here, and I know T still loves me, I just have to start feeling attractive again.
All this makes it sound like our relationship is suffering. I don’t think it is particularly- but I do think having a baby changes it. We are still great friends and we still love each other, but it’s not just the two of us (plus Dog) any more. We are parents. It’s weird to recast ourselves. I suppose it takes time to grow into our new roles. I don’t think I had to love him more. I already did. He’s the love of my life. Having a baby is something a part of us and also outside of us. A seismic event. And we are still evolving.
Next quarter’s focus
- Back to work
- Bottle feeding (expressed milk)
- New house! (Hopefully still happening… slowly!)
- Relationship stuff (not forgetting to be us)
- Austerity MkII (because of new house!)
- Teething (suspected!)
Appendices: In pictures
If we are friends on fb, you’ll have seen the pics of B. I’m obsessed by how cute he is! Meanwhile here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to lately.
As before, comment and let me know what you’ve been up to! I haven’t had much time to read other people’s blogs but if you comment then I’ll read! Hope you are all well. X
Today we went for afternoon tea with B. It was arranged at our local nursery where B is signed up to go, which is also a children’s centre so does a lot of kid activities. It was within walking distance and cheap, so we thought we’d give it a go.
We had signed up to go with the grandparents – his paternal ones, as we are going to see mine on Sunday – but unfortunately they weren’t able to go as T’s dad unexpectedly landed in hospital the day before.
Fortunately they didn’t find any signs of anything although he had been taken in with a suspected stroke, and T had driven an almost 4hr round trip to see him the previous night and he’d been reassured he was in good hands. We had already paid in advance for the afternoon tea so thought we wouldn’t waste it.
Well, it was much nicer than I’d expected! Of course there were lots of children there but it wasn’t too hectic given the main event is tomorrow. Think we made a good choice to go on Saturday! They’d decorated the room really nicely with vintage crockery and so on. They had Alice and Wonderland on the projector (one of my favourite Disney films!) and a load of activities for the kids. Sadly B was still too young to take advantage of the chocolate fountain and cupcake decorating! The kids even had mini teapots of orange squash. It was all very cute.
So we had double servings of afternoon tea – luckily we were given boxes to take the excess away at the end, so we could have it for dinner! And two glasses of bubbly each which contributed favourably to the mood. B snoozed away in his buggy until he woke up near the end.
Then a guy came and started singing some classics. B woke up and T had him on his lap. They looked adorable because they were wearing matching tops! T has this jumper he wears all the time with stripes on, and we found a babygro that is in the same colours so they can be cute matchy matchy. (I am so cheesy and I make no apologies… I’m trying to find matching mum and baby outfits that we can wear, haha!)
The singer started singing “You’re just too good to be true” and I was waving B’s arms around pretending to dance with him.
And then he smiled – he’s been doing it on and off for the last week or so. We weren’t sure if it was random or not, wind or something, but it’s been getting more regular.
Then, after smiling a bit, he started laughing! His first laugh, looking at me dancing with him.
It was the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
I started crying a bit… and T started to feel emotional because I had tears in my eyes, and B was just there giggling whilst I was pretending to dance with him and sing “You’re just too good to be true”, and really that’s the best Mother’s Day gift ever.