Parenting amnesia: when we forget the not-so-fun parts of having kids

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 Photo: Getty Images

There was not much I enjoyed about my first pregnancy (apart from the big thing, knowing I was carrying my baby; that bit rocked).

Nausea was my ever-present companion and vomiting was his evil sidekick.

The nausea dragged on way past the twelve-week mark, and though it occasionally abated, it kept returning. (I even vomited in labour. I know.)

I swore to myself repeatedly that I would never go through pregnancy again.

But I did go through it again.

Twice.

The reason? While I did it because we wanted more children, the truth was I had kind of forgotten how dreadful I felt while pregnant. I mean, I remembered it vaguely, but not really.

And this phenomenon of 'parenting amnesia' applies to more than just all-day pregnancy sickness.

Labour

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I found the lead up to my first labour quite exciting. While I knew it was going to be painful, I was also ready to tap into my inner queen and unleash my mighty power over pain.

After having been through labour the first time, I realised my inner queen is no Beyonce, so as soon as I entered labour the second time round my body was all, 'What are we doing back here again? Don't you remember this thing hurts?'.

Thankfully, in the years between labours I had mercifully blocked out how painful it really was. Thank goodness for parenting amnesia.

Newborn exhaustion

I've written about it before, but exhaustion is really hard to explain to someone who's not going through it. In fact, now that my baby is one and is sleeping through most nights, I've forgotten again how intense it is.

So when I saw a friend with a newborn the other day my heart instantly melted and all I could recall were those sweet, blissful moments I spent cuddling my babies.

Though my friend's eyes told of utter exhaustion, my brain couldn't really grasp how awful it is.

That, my friends, is parenting amnesia at its best.

When babies start exploring

My sweet baby has just started exploring and life as I knew it has changed completely. While I know my older kids also went through this baby exploration phase, I'd totally forgotten how much work it is.

You see, my baby, who was only born with ten fingers and ten toes, seems to have developed about 50,000 more digits, and every time I turn around she's about to get one of them slammed in a cupboard, or use one of them to pick up something inappropriate and put it in her mouth.

Her new favourite habit is climbing on the couch (and then raising her arms, victorious, in a Hulk-like pose) while teetering on the edge. Her ability to move is way beyond her ability to understand danger.

While my big kids must have been similarly challenging, parenting amnesia has blocked out any true memories of this stage.

Meal times

I was so excited to start my baby on solids. She'll sleep so much better, I said to myself. She'll be so cute, it'll be so much fun! Yes, I had fed my older two solids but I had forgotten so much about it.

The mess. Oh, the mess. Nothing is messier than a baby who likes to feed herself (and, occasionally, the floor). After each meal she needs to be stripped off (she refuses to wear bibs, tugging at them and yanking them off as though I'm trying to torture her. Bibs are for babies, her eyes seem to say as she throws another bib to the floor, triumphant).

The high chair needs to be cleaned. The floor needs to be cleaned. And my hopes for how much food actually went into her belly need to be addressed (turns out she ends up sitting on way more food than she ate). Sometimes, each bite feels like a win.

Parenting amnesia totally got me on this one. Remind me, why did I think starting solids was going to be so much fun?

How quickly it all goes

They say the days are long but the years go fast. After having two babies I knew that, but when I found myself happily enveloped in my baby bubble this time around, I felt those days could stretch on forever again.

I tried to savour them, but the truth is I honestly felt like I had lots of time up my sleeve.

Then one day I blinked and voila, those baby days were gone.

I guess the main thing I've learnt from parenting amnesia is that it while it has its benefits (no one really needs to remember all-day pregnancy sickness), it has drawbacks, too. Which is why I try so hard to hold on to my memories.

Because while I don't really mind parenting amnesia softening my memories of the challenging times, there are too many wonderful moments I don't want it to take.