Am I a Horrible Mummy?
Before I start writing, I want you to know that for ages I only shared this feeling with 2 people (my husband and my sister). I felt ashamed, horribly so, at my reaction, but I acknowledged it and talked about it and then it went away. I am really nervous about sharing it with you... but surely I am not the only person to have had these thoughts? I hope not. Here goes...
Pre-children…I dreamed about having them. Literally. I always knew I wanted to be a mummy. I was in no massive rush as I also knew I wanted to have a family. I wanted to meet the right person to go on this life adventure with. After kissing a lot of frogs, I met the one. During his proposal (whilst my eyes were leaking and I forgot to say yes!) he said to me that asking me to marry him meant we could start a family as soon as we wanted. We got married 6 months later, and a month after that I was pregnant.
I never admitted to myself what sex baby I hoped for. I remember asking my mum when I was young whether she had wanted a girl or a boy, and she had very clearly and resolutely told me that all she wanted was a healthy baby. I fixed on that, it seemed wise and sensible, so that’s what I told myself I wanted too.
For those first 20 weeks of pregnancy, I was so excited about the fluttery little miracle growing inside my tummy. We had decided we didn’t want a surprise about the sex, being of the view that the baby itself would be surprise enough (and it turns out that a crop of red hair indeed was!). So when we went along for our 20 week scan, despite accurately referring to it out loud as the “anomaly scan” and naturally feeling anxious that all would be alright with my baby… in fact, deep down and mostly unacknowledged, it was important to me to know what little family dynamic I was growing inside of me.
I vividly remember this day. Our appointment was mid morning at the Hospital. My husband had taken the morning off work and off we went. As I lay on the bed, with jelly on my tummy, and seeing my baby on the screen, I felt a combination of awe, pride, love and connection (I can see my baby) and at the same time surreal disconnection (it is so strange that is inside of me!). The baby was checked over and I was interested and engaged and asking questions - all was fine. Thank goodness. I relaxed. My placenta was very low unfortunately (placenta previa) and so I was told I would need additional scans to monitor its position.
Then the question came, do you want to know the sex? Yes. Unhesitatingly. I had no pre-conceived inklings.
“It’s a boy”.
My husband was delighted. I knew what he was thinking - a little me! I said “wow” and “how wonderful”, but I went quiet. For me this is noticeable, I am rarely quiet, especially when excited. Usually with emotions I am a crier. But right then I didn’t cry. I did not have thoughts swirling around in my head either. I just had this strange, awful, unexpected feeling of disappointment. I hadn’t realised it, but as I lay there it became clear to me that I had wanted a little - ME!
We were given our photographs and they were amazing. I loved them, and still do. This life inside of me blew my mind. HE was growing perfectly. But in the car on the way home tears rolled down my cheeks. My husband thought I was worried about the placenta issue. I wondered if maybe I was, and so let him reassure me it would all be ok. But mostly I felt a bit sad. I was so disappointed with myself.
When we got home, my husband was perplexed with my reaction and tears in the car. So was I. I think he put it down to hormones and I let conversation focus on the medical hiccup. Then he went back to work after an early lunch. I was able to work from home that afternoon. As soon as my sister got on her lunch break she saw the scan photos I had sent by text and the announcement that she was expecting a nephew. She phoned me.
That’s when it all came spilling out. I’m a girl, I have a sister, I went to a girls’ school…I’m a girlie girl. Boys have always been somewhat extra-curricular to me. Despite working in a male dominated environment and having many male friends, some close ones that I knew well, I still felt overwhelmed and completely ill equipped for having a boy. Was it that I wanted a girl? Or that in that moment was I just scared of having a boy? What did you do with their willy?!
My sister was amazing. Rather than telling me I was being silly, or stupid, or horrible (as I very definitely felt) or selfish (I really felt this too), she validated how I was feeling (it is handy having a medical sister who has an interest and experience in psychiatry!) and we talked it all through. I had such a conflicting range of emotions (thanks pregnancy): Joy, worry, fear, elation. But most of all I felt really upset with myself for not being instantly ecstatic. Quite frankly, I felt like I was being a spoilt brat. I had a healthy baby boy. I was so lucky. I knew this, and a big part of why I felt wretched was that I was acutely aware of several dear friends who wanted more than anything in the world to have what I had - an uncomplicated pregnancy, or even a pregnancy at all. I was deeply ashamed. As I talked and talked to my wise little sister, I realised was better to acknowledge how I felt and be honest about it. To get it out.
We talked for her whole lunch hour. After our phone call I went up to the room that was destined to be the nursery and started to try to imagine a baby boy in there, his toys, his clothes. A boy toddler, a son, a teenage male, a man. Crikey! This was my baby boy, our son. I knew I needed to brush up on dinosaurs names and climbing trees….BUT hey, I loved dinosaurs as a child, and was always climbing trees. I WAS being really really silly. Excitement started to build. By the time I saw my husband again that evening I was a bubble of chatter about our little boy and how wonderful our little family with a boy would be. I was able to explain to him how I had originally felt for a little while, with a clear head and more ordered emotions. Although obviously I cried again, but they were excited tears now.
But still now, when I think of that day, I am deeply ashamed of my temporary initial reaction. Mostly because I know I was so lucky to have a healthy baby inside of me.
And do you know what? He is amazing, of course. From the moment I was handed my little red-head, who arrived big and strong, despite being 3 weeks early, I felt instantly like a tigress with her cub and knew I would do anything for him. It was love. This was my baby, that my body had grown, and I didn’t want any other. He was more than I could ever have wished for. I love him more than anything, because he is my boy.