This week has been Squidge’s week of firsts –
- He crawled for the first time
- He slept through the night for more than one night in a row for the first time.
- He went to his first Christmas party
- He met Santa for the first time
- He cut his first tooth
- He was booked in for his first hair cut
All things that I recorded in his baby book, along with the time he first smiled, first laughed, first sat up and first ate solid food.
All his firsts.
He also had his first allergic reaction and his first dose of Piriton but I’m trying to forget what his wee face looked like covered in hives.
I’ve typed first so many times now that the word looks wrong.
Anyone else find that happens?
When I was pregnant I wasn’t even going to buy a baby book, never mind write in it. Just one more thing that everyone else seemed to think was a wonderful idea and I couldn’t see the attraction.
So when my mum came to visit before Squidge was born, armed with my baby book and a new one for Squidge I wasn’t entirely sure. That night me and my husband sat in bed and read through the book my mum had diligently filled in, with details of my birth record, milestones and lots of photos.
I was beginning to warm to the idea, just a little bit until I looked in the new book. It’s a beautiful book full of illustrations from children’s stories but on the second or third page it started talking about feelings.
“When mummy found out she was expecting me she felt..?”
“When mummy first saw me on the ultrasound scan she thought..?”
“Mummy prepared for my arrival by..?”
There was no way I could fill in those sections.
My thoughts when I found out I was pregnant are hardly something to be written down and saved.
I couldn’t even look at the screen when I had my first ultrasound scan or the pictures that the sonographer printed for us in case I wanted to look later. We were supposed to pay to have the pictures printed after the scan but I think she knew that there was no way I was going to queue at the printing machine with my swollen eyes, red face and shaking hands.
But I couldn’t just leave them blank either. How on earth would Squidge feel if years down the line he asked why big chunks of the record of his first year were blank?
So I put the book away and tried not to think about it.
Fast forward a few months and I’m so glad mum picked up that book for me. As soon as Squidge does something new out comes the book so I can write it down. There’s not a lot of space for photos so I have two separate photo albums, one for all the best photos and the other for all the rest. I’m constantly taking photos of Squidge, something I thought I simply wouldn’t do.
I keep the book and the albums in a big box that was a present from a friend’s parents, along with Squidge’s hospital name bands, his little eye shields from having phototherapy, his first hat and sleep suit and the tiny baby sleepsuits he wore he was ill. I also have both sets of his scan pictures in there although they still freak me out a bit and I still maintain Squidge looks like an alien in them.
I’ve expanded outside of the box as it were; there are photographs of Squidge and his paintings and drawings on the wall.
I look at his little clothes hanging on the airer, his toys and books in the living room. I go into his bedroom and make his bed, straightening his blankets and putting his cuddly toys in their places to watch over him as he sleeps and I feel nothing but happiness.
I have actually filled in the ‘feelings’ sections of the book as well. It took time, a few drafts and some help from my counsellor but the only blank spaces are things that Squidge hasn’t done yet, like his first birthday.
After Squidge arrived I was determined that I would fill in the whole book. He deserved to have a Mummy who was proud of his achievements and wanted to celebrate and remember all of his firsts. He deserved to have a book that he could one day read with his partner instead of one with lots of blank spaces.
I didn’t force myself because I thought it was the right thing to do, that I was supposed to do it and supposed to want to do it like so many other things associated with being a mum.
I wanted to do this for him.
I needed to do this for me.
I couldn’t bear the thought of him knowing how desperately unhappy I was when I was pregnant.
Of him thinking that it was his fault.
That we didn’t want him
That we didn’t love him
One day we’ll explain mental health issues to him, how they’re illnesses the same as the flu or food poisoning.
How the brain and the mind might not work properly and need medicine or other interventions to make them better.
How no one deserves to be mentally ill or brings it on themselves.
That just because I might be sad it isn’t anything he’s done or hasn’t done.
He doesn’t need to know what we went through for those nine months.
The thoughts that I had and the plans that I made.
How I thought about leaving everything and everyone behind and just ending it all.
How my husband truly believed that one day he might come home to find I was no longer there.
If Squidge ever asks what it was like being pregnant I will tell him honestly; I was ill throughout the whole pregnancy, both physically and mentally. It was difficult, unpleasant and that I didn’t enjoy it.
But I’ll tell him that women don’t have to enjoy being pregnant, that the media image of the glowing, expectant mother doesn’t apply to all women nor should it have to. That there’s nothing wrong with the women who don’t find being the most fulfilling experience of their lives and they should be made to feel bad or guilty about it.
That you don’t have to bond with or love your bump.
How are you supposed to love someone you’ve never met?
That you don’t need to be the first person to hold your baby to bond with them.
That some women don’t feel love at first sight.
Sometimes true love takes weeks or months but it isn’t any less strong just because it didn’t happen straight away.
That it doesn’t mean that these women want or love their babies any less.
That all these things are ok, they’re nothing to be ashamed of.
That I will always, always love him forever and ever.
That I will always be his mummy.