Category Archives: post pregnancy

Congruence

Recently I realised that at last, after 10 months of motherhood, I no longer feel a complete sense of alienation from my previous life. From the moment of birth, a subconscious  certainty has prevailed, an unacknowledged conviction that everything which had been important to me or possible for me up until the moment of having children was now irrelevant forever. I long ago resumed a lot of my pre-pregnancy activities, so I don’t think that has much to do with it. What I think is that becoming a parent, in my case at least, caused me to fall  into a state of deep shock which is only now starting to recede.

This shock-state has been marked primarily by a complete lack of perspective; I have felt not only completely cut off from my own past, but also entirely incapable of imagining the future. I still feel  this on bad days; a flinching away from the knowledge that this exhausting business, which I’m pretty sure I can’t stand for another minute, is actually going to go on until I die. At this point, with a little lurch of horror, I abandon this line of speculation and tell myself that tomorrow will be better.

But what seems to be happening is that slowly, this discrete, frightening  period of early motherhood  is starting to merge in my mind into the rest of my existence, to become just another part of my history, instead of a lurid technicolour experiment in Being Present (which, by the way, is not all it’s cracked up to be.) I’m glad that the narrative of my life is healing up like this, and wonder if other people go through this sort of period of severance on becoming parents.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under dealing with adversity, family, motherhood, post pregnancy, twins

Motherhood

As I browse the blogs of my feminist mummy bloggers, I suddenly become aware that they have a tag which I don’t – ‘parenting’. Instead, I have ‘motherhood’.

When I started wondering why this was the case, it became obvious to me that the thing which I have had to come to terms with (rather than just getting used to), is the motherhood aspect. Accustoming yourself to parenting seems to be a matter of adjusting to an external situation: the presence of others in your space and the obligation to meet their demands. But for me, the whole idea of motherhood has involved a more complex set of calculations and adjustments.

Because it turns out that I am not (as I have thought for years) just some sort of man who happpens to need a bra. I have had to come to terms with being female, and with the role that I find myself in, which I don’t always like, of organiser, worrier, clairvoyant, digester of a thousand parenting books. I don’t know how much is biological (I am also the gestator and lactator) and how much is social, but I have the uncomfortable sensation of becoming something despite myself. It’s humbling and confusing and inspires a new  respect in me for those mothers (and not parents) who have travelled this path before me.

I’m adding the ‘parenting’ tag, by the way. But it’s not the thing which is currently exercising my mind.

2 Comments

Filed under feminism, gender, motherhood, post pregnancy, society

First-pumpkin sadness

When Marcin’s parents visited us a couple of weeks ago, they brought us a pumpkin- a great golden thing, bursting with seeds and significance. Pumpkins and capsicums- the palette of autumn. The light is sharpening and deepening, the days are shortening, there is a bite in the early morning air. This will be my third Polish winter, and finally I am starting to approach it like a Pole: with fear, bitterness, and a sense that I have been ripped off by the brevity of the summer. I think that last winter was so terrifying that the approach of another one makes me anxious.

Marcin will be 40 next week, and maybe I am  appropriating his midlife crisis. Along with my autumnal melancholy I am feeling a niggling dissatisfaction with myself,a feeling that I should be reading more, thinking more interesting things, coming out of my cocoon of motherhood. But I still feel stretched thin; the rising tide of drudgery never really recedes, and my main preoccupation is still my children. I read for 5 minutes in the interstices of the day- before bed, or hooked up to my milking machine when-by some miracle- nobody is licking the power point or trying to climb the lamp or practicing their pincer grip on a forgotten peanut  in a corner. Or screaming.

I feel constantly distracted and am convinced that I had better learn to concentrate and compartmentalise now, because it’s not going to get any easier.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under family, motherhood, post pregnancy, twins, weather

What I remember.

My children are 5 months old. One day one or both of them will ask me (most likely when they have their own babies), what was it like? I am writing this post to preserve some of the things that I will otherwise forget. The first few months are already fading into obscurity- the terror, the sense of having our home invaded by two little foreigners with urgent needs who shout at us all day in their own language which we don’t know yet, the horror of four little eyes gleaming in the dark at 3 am, when all you want to do is get drunk and take a Valium and sleep for a month. The feeling of being in extremis, day in and day out, for weeks and months, with no reprieve in sight. The endless experimentation with ways to get them off to sleep:  hairdryerdummyrockinginthechairinthearmsearlierlaterherethere intheslinginthepraminourbed.

Janek smiled earlier and more willingly, his first unmistakable grin extracted by my father. Maja’s gassy grimaces didn’t become unmistakable expressions of pleasure for 10 or 11 weeks. I remember asking myself, why aren’t they more cheerful? They’re getting enough sleep. WHYAREYOUCRYING????!!!!I got angry at them because they wouldn’t do what I wanted or what some 50s  style nanny-guru said they should be doing, or because they needed something from me when I felt utterly incapable of providing anything at all.

Now I know them better and they are more predictable, but I still adore them most of all when they are both sleeping, wrapped up in their own mystery. Janek’s  chin like a downturned comma, his stern little face like some entombed infant pharaoh (Marcin calls him  the Chinese Emperor). Maja’s soft  fingers, one hand curled, the other extended. (In her waking hours, she likes to poke them in Janek’s mouth, where he clamps down like a crocodile and sets her wailing).

I still think a lot about the very early days, and chew them over in my mind the way you do with extreme experiences, trying to make sense of them, trying to understand from my current place of sanity what was happening to me then. Irecall nights in the hospital, during the 10 nightmarish days we spent there after their birth. Marcin would try to leave me at around 9 with 2 sleeping infants, but we were regularly thwarted by weighing time, which fell around bedtime and got us all worked up. They would be fed, changed, drowsy, when we would hear the dreaded rattle of the scale in the hallway. An outrunner nurse would come in and say, “Undress the babies!”, and we would have to take off all their clothes and watch their little limbs start trembling with cold and rage. We would be anxious too, waiting to see if they had gained or lost a few grams since the previous day. One of the nurses (obviously not a fan of the weighing routine) told  us that it was a system invented to torment parents.

Later on, alone in our quarantine in the dark hours with the pipes groaning and the birthing women wailing, one or another would wake crying. I would feed them, sing “Famous Blue Raincoat”, and whisper my son, my daughter, feeling like an imposter. The words my children still taste strange to me- I have an overwhelming sense that they aren’t really mine. Not that they are changelings, but that they are fiercely and unmistakeably themselves.

I didn’t get a good look at either of them until the day after their birth. Maja was in intensive care, and as I gaped at Janek in his little wheely bed at 6 in the morning, hoping against hope that he wouldn’t require anything from me until backup arrived, I felt thankful that for the moment I only had one to deal with. It’s unthinkable and shameful to me now that I waited to be called to the newborn intensive care to see her, that I didn’t recognise her and trailed after a man in a shower cap who was pushing a baby wrapped up in an identical swaddle to hers, that I didn’t try to steal her away from under those awful fluorescent lights and the gaze of the hygiene crazed nurses who had shoved her into a corner.

At 6 am I would take them for their antibiotics. Outside the window, the snow fell in the yellow light from the streetlamps. I would start to feel a sense of relief that they had survived the night, and that soon one or another of my parents would be there to anchor me in the real world, feed me, and take a part of the burden off my shoulders. Despite functioning on almost no sleep, the days were better- as nightfall approached and Marcin prepared to leave, I would feel a deep sense of dread and as he walked out into the night, I would be full of rage and envy.

So when my own children (most likely my daughter will ask me these things, unless the world changes much more than I expect it to) ask me what the opening phase of parenthood was like, I will report that it wasn’t much fun at all. I will say that the fear of doing it wrong and the weight of responsibility and the loneliness of doing nights with no backup swamped my incipient love, and maybe whoever asked me will feel slightly better about their own confusion, as I did when my mother told me that she had a struggle persuading me to breastfeed. It’s clear to me now that I was in a state of shock which lasted for months, and still, when I see new mothers who are clearly on some higher plane of mad love, I feel a little twinge of failure.

1 Comment

Filed under post pregnancy, pure autobiography, twins

In the WARS

Coming back from our May week  away, I got a moment (a long one, lasting almost half an hour) of blissful solitude. After starving for weeks on an elimination diet in the hopes it would render Janek’s head less scabby, I took myself to the train restaurant, determined to eat a substantial amount of something at any cost.

We were in the Berlin train, and the restaurant car had waiter service and little white goosenecked lamps on the tables so that important international travellers could read and check Facebook over their dinners. Poland flashed passed the window, green and flat. It started to rain and the  sight of raindrops hitting the window and the springtime whipping past outside induced a sort of ecstasy in me. I read my book and ordered a pig’s trotter and a beer. When the waitress told me I would have to wait 20 minutes, I smirked to myself.

I haven’t been good at acquiring the quick recharge that everybody tells you about, when you spend 5 seconds away from your babies and come back refreshed and ready to do battle for another month. I don’t have that live-in-the-moment Zen where I can roll my instants of freedom about in my mouth and forget that somewhere, not far away, somebody is quite possibly wailing tragically for their own mysterious reasons, and on my return I will have to guess what these are.

In other words, I would generally scoff at the idea that half an hour and a golonka could do much for my state of mind, especially when returning with trepidation to the real world after a week of fun and chaos. But it in this particular instance, it did the trick. It was a brief and necessary reminder that my trotter-scoffing, book -reading Real Self still exists, and that I haven’ t turned into a sort of automated emergency response system. There was my little family, happily ensconced in the disabled car, the kids  showing their gums to Marcin who had been engaging in Daddy-fun and flying them around like a a pair of giggling aeroplanes. I was unequivocally happy to see them.

1 Comment

Filed under around Poland, post pregnancy, pure autobiography, Reading, twins, weather

The madness has subsided

This means there’s no excuse for not blogging. Last weekend I managed to read an entire article in the weekend paper for the first time since December. Actually, I read two- one about being a feminist with babies, and one about the parallel cases of Katarzyna W. and Casey Anthony, who both killed their babies, threw away their bodies and pretended they had been kidnapped. This choice of reading matter indicates such a radical shift in my interests and priorities that I am forced to definitively conclude that I will never be the same again.

What now? In possession of 2 currently sleeping babies, I am reviewing possibilities for my future beyond just surviving the next 10 minutes. Will I go back to work? How? When? What to do with 2 infants when I do? How to adjust to having a family? I am still not getting enough sleep and can’t quite get to grips with these questions in a sensible way. If I think about how life looked this time last year or the year before, I feel the way I did when eating my hundredth portion of Tajik mutton while looking at the inevitable poster on the wall showing crusty loaves and grapes and bottles of wine and a green velvety lawn. Sheer disbelief, in other words- disbelief so profound that it kills any longing. I simply can’t comprehend how easy life was 12 months ago, and cannot even begin to hazard a guess as to what it will look like this time next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under post pregnancy, twins

Re-entering the world

This weekend has been marked by 2 public outings with the babies, one more succesful than the other. On Saturday we went for a farewell  lunch with Marcin’s parents and mine, who are  leaving this week. Maja and Janek obliged us by remaining unconscious for the entire lunch, waking up at the end to eat and fall straight back asleep again. It was a very strange feeling to see my little wombat son with his wrinkled brow sucking on a bottle in his pyjamas in a restaurant on Plac Konstytucji, and made me realise how divorced from the outside world I’ve become.

On Sunday, riding our wave of left-the-house-successfully-with-2-small-children excitement, we tried again, catching the bus up to Żoliborz to eat a hamburger with a swarm of (mainly child-owning) friends. Janek objected  loudly to this excess of socialising, and I found myself pacing up and down on the periphery of the occasion as I’ve seen so many others do before me, attention desperately divided as I tried to simultaneously soothe a recalcitrant infant and  pretend that I could still behave like a normal grownup enjoying the society of my peers. Marcin felt comforted by the event, feeling like part of a tribe. I felt faintly excluded, no doubt getting my karmic come-uppance for all the times I’ve been irritated by other people’s focus on their children. The people most interested in our kids were the other kids, especially our friend’s daughter Matilda, who fed Maja and was fascinated when I told her that when I’d first seen her, she had been even smaller than Maja was now.

Anyway, I suppose that this is just the beginning of a long process of assimilating my private baby-world, with its musty milk odour and wakeful nights and raging self-doubt, with the sane exterior universe where nothing much has changed. One day I will be a full participant again- meanwhile, it’s worth keeping my hand in.

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under post pregnancy, twins