A letter to a friend, from a new mama

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To my friend, I am changed – I am grown, I am new
My heart is outside of my body, and transformed into another being

I am lonely – I hurt, nothing quite works the way it used to
only you and I remember truly who I was before, remind me what I enjoy, remind me what makes me laugh

I am lost, lost to a love I don’t know, one I have never felt before – but I don’t want to forget, the memories of old

It’s all so different, I am drowning – in newborn smells, cries and an exhaustion so intense
I have changed, but please don’t leave me – for I need you to remind me who I was
Please don’t leave me, I need you now more than ever

Come and dry my tears, don’t offer, just show up
Hold me, or hold my baby – it depends on the day
I am now never alone, but I feel so lonely

I know we will change; I hope we will grow – I need you so
The older we get, the less ignorance can we tolerate – don’t offer, just show up

Help me know, that I am still worth your time
I am unwashed, scarred and worn
but I am still me
help me to breathe

And if you can’t, then I shall grieve, but the sooner I know, the sooner I will heal
My mind it cannot read, I can hardly speak. This change that has happened has well and truly rocked me
for if you love my babies, I know you love me too

I need you more than ever, and for you I will be there too
Just give me time, as I am healing – I will do my best
If I do not see you, I will not know that you care
I will distance myself as the pain I cannot bear

What I have done, has changed our course
but you have the capability – to be a lifeline
I am lost to the sounds, of a never-ending feed
sit with me, for I am not gone – I can still be me

I don’t have the time, for everyday tasks
Come and hold me, or hold my baby – it depends on the day
I don’t have the space, for what we call normal
I will feel you, when you come and tend to me
and I will know that I am seen

And in time, when I am back on my feet
take me somewhere – remind me what it’s like to be me
I will not ask – for that I do know
my last intention, is to stop you from growth

Come to me and show me, your presence is enough
Do not offer – just show up
hold no expectation, there’s a lot I cannot give
my gratitude is tenfold – and no longer will I worry

That what I have done, will lose you, my friend
the person who knows me, please hold my hand
I’m scared and unqualified –
some days I lose my mind

This is the hardest thing I’ve done and I need you to remind me
who was I before this – my body it has changed
my arms they are full, will you share my burden
sit beside me as I cry and let me be open

For you too I will do in kind
for I will not ask, you know me too well
I do not have time to wait
Please show up, you know where I will be

I need you more than ever, you can remind me what it’s like
what it is to be me
for mummy I am too, motherhood all consumed
I hurt, and I am lonely, I really want you

So thank you for being there, for holding my heart
for letting me know that what I have done
it will not change us, you’ll show up and love
my babies just like I do
because without you
I will not remember who I was, before this all happened
and changed the tide
we are all just learning how to navigate this life
but with you, it’s less lonely
the faster I mend

Remind me how to be, the memories we love
lets sit together and laugh, behave like a teen
for without your guidance – I lose a lot of strength
If you love me with babies, our friendship it cannot bend

so thank you my person, for the meals you have cooked, the floors you have mopped and the baths you have run. I rebuild when you visit me and hold my sweet babe, for I can look at them and observe and my hands are so free. Thank you for reminding me what it’s like to be me, for laughing and brushing my tears. I will never forget, what you have done for me these years and for you I will too, to my friend, love from a new mama.

The Wriggler.

Finding out I was pregnant was shocking to say the very least. I was given a three month (max) preparation period and was demanded to shake off my allergy to babies and fall in love with a stubborn little bean that despite any amount of gin, white water rafting, heavy lifting or violent dancing had clung on inside me and chosen me to be his keeper.

Was I to feel an instant connection to this little human? At the time of discovery he was way too big to even see the gender, everything was to be a surprise for us. Who was this person? Were they safe? Did I love them? Did I want them? Who knew. The only thing I did know was that beneath all the shock came shining through with a fire of passion a need to do everything within my power to ensure that from that day on they were not to be harmed, not to be alone, not to feel sadness if it were in my power or ability for them not to. From that day, that hour, that moment, I became a mother. 

And so I continued – and tried to do my best to get to know my unborn child. I started to speak to the baby, started to sing to it. I didn’t know what I was doing, I had gone from rejecting my physical appearance to embracing it, to touching and caressing my belly. To letting my other half see it, stroke it and kiss it for the first time since we had been together. It had gone from the worst part of my body to the best, in the space of a few hours. I went from ignoring every pain and discomfort that I had previously diagnosed as cysts, to enjoying the ebbs and flows that came with the baby’s movements. We created a character – and soon enough – the baby became ‘The Wriggler’.

The Wriggler fast became a pretty good friend of mine, it’s hard not to get to know someone well especially when you spend all your time with them. Wriggler slept mostly when I was awake, always in the car and often when out and about. Wriggler had its fun when I was trying to sleep – always. Partying until the AM. Wriggler was cheeky, and a fighter. Wriggler would push its feet and hands against my desk at work if I leaned too closely and would hiccup it’s way through important meetings and push on my bladder whilst on sales calls. Wriggler did whatever was inconvenient and I loved that – I loved that already my baby felt independent, my baby felt wilful. I was proud and I hadn’t even met them. 

My boyfriend and I would meet at the end of a working day and he wouldn’t just ask how my day had gone he’d also ask how Wriggler was – did Wriggler have a good day? I wasn’t sure if the guilt born from not being aware of our baby’s existence was the reason why, but we fast became obsessed. Every movement, every time my belly grew, each new sensation was spoken about at great length. At times I became too frightened to sleep, so wanting to make up for lost time that I felt I should always be ensuring that the baby was happy and okay. Monitoring our new prized possession. 

The personality we created was everything to us,  The Wriggler was not a morning person, was definitely cheeky, stubborn and had an insanely sweet tooth. The Wriggler also loved Ed Sheeran, I would sing ‘I’m in love with the shape of you’ at the top of my voice and my darling would jig along inside me in response. 

The creation of The Wriggler felt crucial to our success – The Wriggler had not chosen to exist and it was our job to ensure that we were the best parents we could possibly be, that our baby was loved and knew it. The fact that I felt that I had been neglectful meant I had so much making up to do and each day I promised this to Wriggler. I woke up each morning and would declare – ‘I love you my angel, Mummy will always take care of you’. My eyes would fill with tears and I would go about my day ensuring every move I made would prolong my fulfilling that promise. 

The Year Before. Pt.1. 

Context is always a useful tool when trying to fathom and grasp onto a story whilst it’s being told. Without context one can often misconstrue or misinterpret and I would hate for anyone to do that with me and my tale. This is why I have chosen to supply you all with a little prelude, as it is crucial considering what follows.

The year or two running up to my pregnancy were tough – I had never had any health issues before, bar recurring cystitis. And therefore the only medical disturbance I had encountered was that feeling of pissing razor blades whenever I had forgotten to pee after sex. Encore cranberry juice.

However this luxury wasn’t to last long. Despite some of my time at university being a very proud skinny streak. I have always struggled enormously with my weight and physical appearance. Whether I have overeaten, under eaten, or been victim to cruel episodes of body dysmorphia my body has constantly changed. My weight yo-yo-ing up and down has been something I was very used to. It was also always something that deep down I knew I was in control of and could do something about. As successful as I was at putting it on, I was just as successful at losing it. And as all good things must do, this skinny streak ended, but for once I could not fathom why. Had my lifestyle changed? Was I waking up in the middle of the night and going down to Perfect Fried Chicken and ordering a Number 5? What was going on? All I knew was that I was stuck working behind bar after bar pulling pints and 16 hour shifts all the while expanding at a rate of knots. I had found myself in a relatively long term rather abusive and manipulative relationship and I was becoming precisely what he had always told me I would be, fat and unlovable. Needless to say I was desperately unhappy.

This extra weight was carried around for a few months and my mental and physical well being only got worse, I was in my darkest place yet. I made the decision to move from my beloved London back to Oxford where I had predominantly been brought up and ‘turn over a new leaf’. I did so by leaving the horrible boy behind and moving in with my absolute best friend and soul mate in the town where we had gone to school. I secured myself a bang average but promising job and threw myself into healthy eating and exercise. I decided to become Betsy again.

We had a fantastic time to say the least, both single and good looking girls (my body was starting to improve – ish) we made the most of each and every hour spent away from our desks and living together. The only cloud still left looming over my head was that of the number of the scales and the size of my waistline. I really was doing my best, I was eating between 800-1200 calories a day, attending the gym and several boot camps for weeks and yet the pounds just weren’t going.

My frustration at this was getting worse and worse, I upped my exercise and cut down calories. To the point where I was so light headed and grumpy, chuffing away on cigarettes and drinking so much coffee my bowels rejected even themselves and yet nothing was working. I was in dire straits with no where to look and no answer.

Then one night my best friend and I were watching our usual shit on TV, I was sitting there in my gym clothes having devoured a delicious dinner of fuck all and my stomach started to really hurt. I complained as one does and we both put it down to trapped wind, it would pass. However it did not, she went to bed and I attempted to do so too until I found myself green/grey in colour, cold sweating profusely and throwing up in the loo. I was scared. 3 am came and I couldn’t take it anymore. Remembering my mums words to the nurse at school, ‘don’t call me unless she’s in the morgue’. I reluctantly picked up the phone and called my parents.

To my surprise the days of them not believing when I was ill had passed, whether age had gained their trust or the fact that I had called at 3 am clearly in a tizz had done it I don’t know but soon they were knocking on my door ready to take me to hospital. The next few hours were confusing to say the least, the doctors could see I had an infection but couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was, a laparoscopy was needed.

They carried out the surgery and deduced that I had had several cysts on my ovaries that had all burst, infecting my appendix and all the while causing me excruciating pain.

PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. Those four letters that answered so much, yet would throw such a thick blanket over everything none of us would think to look past it. Not one.

The Charity Shop. 

Braving the outside world and wanting to feel productive I’ve found myself standing with my closest friend in a charity shop. I am staring at baby related treasures, all owned by past mothers and their kin, sniffing the dust off the top of a teddy’s head wanting someone to stroll over and tell me what to do. I don’t know what I’m doing here; all I know is that I have to achieve something.

The book shelf seems like a good place to go. All the information I really need is probably on the internet and I can access that from a handheld device any time of the day or night, but no one will know I’m doing it. There won’t be proof of my organisation and willingness to take on this new responsibility. So look, there it is. ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ – those words everyone has heard, the brand of pregnancy and the bible you need in order to bring new life into the world. With a quick reminder to find out the net worth of the author I pluck out the tatty copy and assess its weight. It’s currently priced at £2.99, an absolute bargain and certainly one aspect of this new life that I can afford.

I smile wryly and approach the gentleman at the till, as I hand my purchase over to him I joke to my companion – ‘I should get this for a quid, I’ve already worked my way through 2 thirds of this thing and I didn’t even know!’.

The old man behind the till slides his eyes towards my stomach, expertly hidden as it always has been by floaty dress, scarf and coat I look straight at him challenging him to diagnose my condition any faster than the rest of us could have. He doesn’t, he takes my money and hands me the book and I stroll out of there the weight of the world on my shoulders but a new fire in my belly.

Quite literally heartburn sucks.

Intro.

I feel that to jump right in with all the spoilers of this rather farcical tale would be a mistake.

It’s also difficult to explain exactly how it began. For most of us it’s all starting right now and for one of us, well, they’ve been a secret and silent passenger for six whole months.

My passenger.

I want to start where I feel most comfortable, but also possibly with an area where I feel most vulnerable. This may sound like a slight contradiction and I can fully understand why some may be confused as to why I have chosen to be so candid so early on but the reason is; I want to ensure you all. That you are not alone. You won’t have had your script written exactly the same as mine, nor will it be in the same font, or the same size. It might be leather bound, gold trim or a handwritten scribble on a napkin. It doesn’t matter. Our scripts were written when we were looking the other way, and for this reason we are bonded.

So please do excuse me if you don’t find full satisfaction in what I have to say as I realise that whilst we may all be heading in the same direction I only know my path.