One day my best friend and I saw a small tile in a shop that read “we’ll be best friends forever, we know where the bodies are buried” and we laughed together because that’s what our friendship was. We knew everything about each other; and I mean everything! The good, the bad and the utterly ugly – no judgment. We were there for each other through every break up, every hideous job, every parental fall out. Would you believe it if I told you the last day I ever saw her was the day I told her I was pregnant approximately five years (and nine months) ago.
I had recently moved away and had gone back home for a wedding. I wanted to tell her face to face because I knew this was a painful subject for her. She desperately wanted a child. I had become pregnant accidentally at the worst possible time. She knew as soon as I refused a drink – a dead give away.
I saw pain in her eyes as I told her but I believed our friendship could survive anything. Months later I found myself in this new town with zero friends. She was kind on social media and caring for a while. The end came when I made the effort to go back home twice to see my friends – and both times she didn’t turn up. The second time – without an explanation or a text. I was devastated.
It was easy for me to be angry and hurt for a very very long time. I couldn’t speak about her to a single person without breaking down in tears. Then in emotional moments I would message her saying I missed her, I was sorry, please can we be friends again. No answer has ever come.
It has taken me five years to understand. I will never fully understand but I’m not angry anymore. I get it.
I imagine her pain at not being able to have a child when mine came so easily. I imagine her fury and anger at my Facebook updates constantly moaning about sickness and SPD and indigestion. I imagine it all being a constant slap in her face. I get it.
Unfortunately for me – and for everyone else – my first pregnancy was the first ever pregnancy since records began – I was obsessed with it. I wrote a blog about it. I posted endless statuses about it, but more importantly I moaned about it. I moaned about the jabs and the aches and pains and the vomiting and the SPD and the heartburn and anxiety without much thought for anyone else. I didn’t consider the pain she was feeling.
I am so unbelievably happy that she got her child eventually.
I can’t down play how painful losing this special friendship has been. I have wept to my husband at night, I have cried the night before my wedding because she was’t there, it has taken me a long five years to get to the place where I can even write this. Getting over men has been relatively easy in comparison – a new hair cut and a few shots were all I needed. But losing my best friend hurt like Hell.
I still dream about her from time to time. In my dream we see each other in the street – there are no fireworks; there is no movie style reunion. We just say “Hey” like nothing has happened and then we toddle off to the pub like we always did a lifetime ago.
Life isn’t as black and white as people would like to believe.
There are rarely purely goodies and baddies.
There is complicated pain and there are complex emotions.
There are also friendships that can’t survive our entire lives – some people are meant to be there for your youth, your drinking-heart-ache-traveling-discovering-yourself days – and as painful as it might be – they might be meant to be kept in the past.
We are lifetimes apart now. We have experienced a million different emotions and moments without each other at our sides. But we are both mothers, we have that in common. In some ways we will always be the same best mates we always were. We will always be part of each other’s tapestry.
I still love her. We still know where the bodies are buried.
On Sunday morning I asked my husband from the comfort of my bed to fetch me our youngest for a big cuddle, (eldest was at Grandma’s). He was surprised – rightly so. He asked why, slightly afraid. The reason was I had just been reading a post on Instagram about a lady who had had a little boy who was born sleeping. It had made me cry. It had made my heart ache for her and my arms eager to squeeze my boys with gratitude. My two boys.
On Sunday night I read a tweet that questioned why people would want more than two children – it must be because they are really hoping for a different gender. This isn’t something that is new to me – as a mum to two males. I have been asked numerous times if I would have preferred a girl.
When I have broached the subject of maybe having more than two children I have had numerous questions, straight away, about “would you want a girl?” “would you hope for a girl?”, and one comment “you know, if you did, don’t get your hopes up for a girl.”
I always kindly say “no, boys are great.” and close the conversation. I know people are just making conversation. Maybe it’s a question I would have asked pre children; pre two boys. But ideas that IF I had a third baby, it would only be an attempt for a different gender are just offensive.
It’s not boys that are great (as I say to them) – it’s that babies are great. It’s that children are great. Yes – sometimes I want to rip my ears off to avoid hearing “mummy, choo choo choo choo mummy” for the hundredth time that day – and it’s inevitable that we can’t cherish them all the bloody time – but being able to have children and being a mother is a privilege that I am reminded nearly every day is like winning the lottery for others.
Through being immersed with other bloggers / writers – mums and dads – and reading daily about loss, pain, only last week – ectopic pregnancies and stillborn children and their incredibly brave parents – as well as a little boy battling cancer – do you really think whether their children are male or female warrants a rat’s arse thought?
Do you think, when I snuggle my two beautiful boys that I’m secretly entirely disappointed with their genitalia? Do you really think that my two boys are identical flat pack males who have a football in one hand and a spanner in the other? Do you not realise I have two polar opposite personalities who are mine. Who give me more joy than I could ever have imagined?
Do you think if we had a third boy we would say “This is Albert – our third – we are shockingly disappointed.”
If I should have a third child I am hoping not for a girl – not for a boy – just for a heartbeat and for health. Their gender is absolutely irrelevant – and if you have ever been on the cold leather bed at hospital praying for a heartbeat you’ll know this whole “are you disappointed it’s not a girl / boy?” is a load of bollocks.
Being a new mum is daunting – but I knew the second time must be much easier – after all, this is not my first time at the rodeo. Two and a half years ago I had been a new new mum and there wasn’t anything that could surprise me about it now.
And as usual, I was wrong. It would seem some new mum agency in fancy black suits (or perhaps just massive pants and maternity pyjamas) had zapped me with a memory erasing device (presumably made up of a Gin based compound) and I had absolutely no recollection of some of the elements of being a new mum – that are all coming back to me now.
1. How tiny they are
Yes – of course I know they are small. We all know they are small. But quite how small I had completely erased. How light they are to hold. They weigh the same as a pickled onion and the ickle-ness of their limbs is mesmerising.
The first time you see your toddler after spending a few hours with your new born he will look like a twenty eight year old competitor in the World’s Strongest Man competition – the one where they pull a Land Rover along by their neck muscles. You try and pick up your toddler and realise he weighs the same as a Grand piano – and when you go back to pick up the new born you misjudge the weight so much you hit yourself full in the face with the baby.
2. How difficult it is to get them dressed
The first time my first midwife asked me to get the baby undressed so she could examine him will remain in my memory forever – the shame of it. My fumbling fingers and nervous twitches, the length of time it took to get his vest off and things over his tiny head – all the while your eyes wide with terror that you may accidentally snap off his arms or dislocate his joints. I thought if this was how long it took to get him dressed we were both better off naked!
And I’m here to tell you it doesn’t change the second time around – trying to get the tiny nappy around him and trying to put his legs down the holes of his massive baby grow – it’s like trying to put an unshelled soft boiled egg in a sleeping bag.
3. The noises they make
You’re used to the hollers, shouts and Earth shaking screams of your toddler – you forget the sound of a new born. They sound like baby Raptors emerging from their shells. The sound comes from deep within them and is like a cute baby piglet screaming from three houses down. The sound of yours is quite sweet – but the harmony of six new borns on the labour ward, at 2am, for an hour – loses any novelty pretty sharpish.
Considering they’re so tiny and so sweet – the sound of their wind and pooping action is remarkable. One fart from a new born is enough to wake up the toddler and see him sprinting to the window to check out the cool motorbike that must be speeding past (true story) and one movement will make you think he’s been sneaking baked bean toasties into his diet. Their whole bodies shuddering with whiplash when they indulge in a bowel movement is heart breaking.
4. The smells they make
You have got used to your toddler’s full on adult shits that make your eyes water and put you off that tuna sarnie you were eying up for lunch – you misremember new borns being stinky too. But they don’t smell – at all. Their nappies are a delight (smell wise) and there it is – that beautiful new born baby smell that is indescribable but brings back exactly how you felt that first time.
5. How difficult it is to clean their bums:
using only tiny cotton wool balls and a bowl of water as you carefully hold up their minuscule frog legs and ‘gently’ wipe off what can only be described as black treacle quick drying cement from the depths of Hell.
This is something we must block out, as a human race, to ensure we have another baby. You mentally prepare yourself for your new born. You know you’re lucky that the toddler is a dream boat who has been vigorously trained for two years with the modes of CBeebies cut off time and triple layered black out blinds. You thought you were having a tough day if he awoke before six. Ha. Ha. You didn’t know you were born!
You now have not slept for around 36 hours. You studied an experiment like this once in GSCE Psychology and you’re pretty sure everyone died. The only sleep you have is tiny bouts of micro sleep where you momentarily doze off before your heavy head jerks you awake once more and your eyes dart to the new born to check all is well. And just one hour of sleep turns you into Julie Andrews!
7. How fucking hard breast feeding is
You forgot this. You got a bit smug – you know what it looks like and feels for the baby to latch this time – and he’s done is straight away. Oh this will be easy. I’m so good at this shit.
Thirty six hours later, your body and mind utterly drained, your nipples sore and chapped, Lansinoh all over the shop, your arse numb – Holy Crap this is hard. It’s fucking hard.
8. How many pictures you will take
You knew there would be some snaps – but it’s day two and you need to upgrade your phone as it doesnt have enough storage capacity. And you’ve made a short film and award winning documentary.
9. What your body feels like
You have a long list of what you will do when you’re no longer weighed down by being pregnant. Most of your list involves carafes of wine, exotic spicy food and marathon running. You imagine shedding the baby like removing a cushion from up your jumper and leaping down the street singing ‘Everybody’s Free’. It doesn’t quite work like that.
Your body looks the same as it did at nine months pregnant – just with less tone. You won’t be running any marathons just yet. After a Cesarean agony is: breaking wind (purposefully), sneezing, coughing and God forbid – laughing. You walk around like Mr Burns and dread the day when you’ll need to defecate.
10. How much love you will feel
That one gets you every time.
In case you haven’t guessed – we had our baby boy. 7lbs, 15oz.