After the birth of my first daughter, three years ago, I fell immediately and hopelessly in love with her. Just like everyone had told me I would. What I hadn't been told though, was that I wouldn't feel like “me” anymore. Sure, I’d been told that I’d miss uninterrupted sleep, seeing the latest release movies at the cinema and romantic weekend escapes. But I was completely overwhelmed by the strange way I felt. While my love for my daughter was growing each day, I was wondering how I would ever adjust to the lifestyle changes that were part of the package.
Feeling extremely guilty and conflicted about my feelings, I scoured internet pregnancy forums and found I certainly wasn't alone. The forums were full of first time mums lamenting the loss of their pre-baby lifestyles. There were discussions, lists, surveys and advice all dedicated to the topic. While this was reassuring, the thing that helped me most was the advice of a lovely and understanding midwife. She laughed and told me “no first time mum enjoys the first 6 weeks, just get through these weeks, one day at a time, and you’ll soon see I’m right. You’ll start loving your new life and as hard as it is to imagine now, you’ll want to do this all again one day.” I was sceptical. I especially doubted her last suggestion.
Three years on, I've recently welcomed another gorgeous daughter into our family. That midwife knew her stuff. And what a relief it was to find, after the second arrival, that I still feel like “me”. The new “me”, of course. This time around, instead of feeling guilty and secretly searching pregnancy forums, I’m thinking about the things I don’t miss about the pre-baby me.
In no particular order (because, let’s face it, life is more chaotic with babies), here are the five things that I really don’t miss about life before babies:
After announcing my first pregnancy to my Nan, the first thing she asked was whether I would be ditching “those silly high heels.” I was known to wear heels everywhere. I’d sunk them into soggy lawns, tottered down uneven city pathways and somehow found them necessary on a trip to Egypt.
I’d heard all the warnings from podiatrists: unhealthy pressure on the balls of the feet, shortening of calf muscles, negative impact on posture and damaging strain on the ankle and knee joints. It wasn’t until I discovered the discomforts of pregnancy that I finally decided I’d had enough of the discomforts of heels.
Nan was right. I now love my growing collection of stylish flats.
It didn't surprise me when Cathy Freeman recently confessed that becoming a mother was harder than winning Olympic gold. Before babies, I’d spent years studying law and establishing a career in the tricky world of legal practice. I’m not suggesting that this is comparable to winning Olympic gold (though I did feel like I deserved a medal after some long days in the office). However, like Cathy, motherhood has certainly been the hardest thing I've ever done. If I can get through this, I can do anything. Motherhood has renewed my self-confidence and removed many of those pesky self-doubts.
My life had always been outcome-oriented, a continual trek towards my idea of perfection. I aimed high. I had long lists of daily tasks. I researched and planned the best holidays. I was always thinking of faster ways to climb the career ladder. Wasn’t this this the key to happiness?
Unsurprisingly, I quickly learnt that my mindset was completely incompatible with motherhood. I had to slow down, take each day at a time and lower my expectations to a realistic level. Babies simply need to be loved and nurtured each day. If I could do that, anything else seemed a bonus. And finally, I’ve discovered what many psychologists have been trying to tell us for years: the key to happiness may just lie in lowered expectations.
The reluctance to say “no”
I’d always found it hard to decline invitations, refuse requests for help and just generally say the word “no”. Priorities change instantly when a baby arrives. You just don’t have time for the people who make your life unhappy, the social gatherings that you really don’t want to attend and the countless things that just seem a waste of time. When you have a little person waiting for you at home, time is precious and it’s easy to just say “no”. I don’t miss the things that only remained in my life because I didn't have the mettle to say “no”.
The agony of deciding whether I wanted children
Before having children, I agonised over whether I really wanted to have them. Since I’d waited until my mid 30’s to make this decision, I’d seen a lot of people make the transformation. I understood the enormousness of the decision. My daughters are here now and I’m overwhelmed by the contentment, happiness and pride I feel when I see their little faces. Despite all the difficulties and the loss of the old version of “me”, it’s a transformation that I’m so glad to have made. I have no regrets. I don’t look back at the pre-baby “me” with any envy. Okay, I do miss uninterrupted sleep.