Motherhood. Womanhood. Whatever.

Monday, 4 June 2012

I can't remember whether or not I've ever mentioned the fact that I found being married quite hard to adjust to, being a person used to spending a lot of time alone, and having had a relationship, pre-marriage, that had been primarily long-distance. Someone else was making demands on my time. Living together felt a bit stifling. I wondered whether I would lose my identity, whether I had stopped being "Hannah" and had instead become "Luke's wife". This scared me. After a while, I adjusted. Things were fine. It took a while, and a lot of talking things through, but one of the first things you need to learn about marriages is that they take work, and it's good to realise this at the beginning.

Adjusting to motherhood involves many of the same issues. I'm now at home until next year, but someone else is making demands on my time. This time, however, I can't throw my hands up and say that I need my own space, because that someone is a newborn. Of course Luke spends his fair share of time parenting too, but for the time being, I'm the one with the food. And so at present, I spend the majority of my days on the sofa, or on my bed, baby attached to me, checking Twitter on my phone as he eats.

I've used plenty of this time to look back on my experience of pregnancy and birth. I feel incredibly fortunate  that everything was so straightforward and without complication. I certainly wasn't expecting to dilate from six to ten centimetres in an hour. I definitely didn't think I'd pop a baby out after just 18 minutes of pushing. Everyone tells you your birth plan will "go out of the window" once you get to hospital and things get moving. I stuck to mine: I was standing up until the very end; I used gas and air, no drugs; I had a physiological third stage. These were my choices; I decided they were right for me and for my situation, and because everything progressed without complications, I was able to go with what I had planned. What other women choose to do, or have to do out of medical necessity, has nothing to do with me. I know everyone doesn't treat the experience of birth like that - hence the so-called "wars" that take place on blogs and forums, where a simple retelling of a birth story is often seen as a judgement on women whose experiences didn't go to plan or who chose to do things differently. It could have all been very different for me, so there's no judgement here.

I was surprised at how everything turned out. It made me feel very powerful. Powerful because of what my body has done in terms of creating a child; powerful because of how I had managed my labour; powerful because of how my body worked to bring Sebastian into the world. I felt somewhat less powerful in the following days as I experienced all the expected anxieties that come with being a new mother: hormones, sleep, feeling as if broken glass was coming out of my nipples when I fed. There are other things I've done that have influenced a positive attitude towards my body image, not as something to feel smug about because I have a magazine-approved "bikini body" (I don't - especially right now), but as something awesome - climbing a mountain, running half marathons. Now "creating and birthing a child" can be added to that list and also to my list of "defining experiences of my journey as a woman". It definitely deserves a place there. That's my journey, not "the journey of women in general".

See how blogging about motherhood is already making me feel as if I have to attach qualifiers to everything, in case people think I'm being judgmental about the choices and experiences of other women? It's not something I normally do - it's ridiculous, and it's a sad reflection on how all this works. Apologising for your opinions the minute you talk about them (isn't that what we women are supposed to do?). Mommy wars. Mummy wars. Whatever. So I think that's the last time I'll do it: no more qualifying statements for me. I trust people to understand, by looking at the way the rest of this blog works, that this isn't what I'm about. If it's anything like my pregnancy, I'll blog about about motherhood once every few months. So there's some advance warning.


Zoe said...


As a member of the currently-pregnant squad, I've come to several similar conclusions. The biggest one is, in public, I've decided not to have lots of opinions.

I'm getting a tshirt made, for when the baby is born. It will say 'I have no opinions about breastfeeding'.

(FWIW, My birth plan is, 'get the baby out'.)

I have to make decisions about a lot of things, and clearly to do that, I need to have opinions. But I think I'm going to approach it the most radical way i can think of - I'm going to keep than to my damn self.

Jenny said...

Bravo both,

Can I have one of those T-shirts too?

I find pointing to myself and saying 'Parent' normally shuts people up. Just wish I had guts to do this to people other than family.

Red said...

yeah too right, no more qualifying! isn't that the point of a personal blog that you can (as you usually do) write your own opinions knowing that not everyone will agree? Go for it!!
BTW huge congrats, first baby, so exciting :)
and isn't it amazing how babies seem to induce even random passers by to think they can instruct you, the childs parent, on how to being them up?!
my advice is to use your instinct -a mothers instinct is usually right :)
red x

Hannah Mudge said...

Zoe - I've found that whenever you DO express an opinion about breastfeeding, even an extremely benign one such as 'I plan to breastfeed', you end up getting defensive reactions from people who didn't do it - as if you're judging them already! It's ridiculous. I know plenty of judging goes on but we shouldn't have to go through this regarding every single decision!

So true Red - everyone wants to tell you what you should do and how you should do it!


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