gender disappointment

This sux, baby

Grumpy mum/to-be

After my recent moan about motherhood, I thought I may as well have a pop at pregnancy too – go for broke.

I’m totally bummed this whole second baby has got off to such a horrible start. I’ve been unwell, unhappy and uncomfortable for most of the pregnancy. I had all these rosy tinted dreams about having baby no. 2. I don’t know why I assumed it would be so wonderful but I guess I felt like the first time around, while it was all new and (relatively) exciting, it was more about getting through, moving to the next stage, wondering and worrying about what would happen next. And I think I was a bit thrown by it. Maybe even slightly… embarrassed? So, this second and final time, I was keen to embrace it, and even enjoy the pregnancy.

The first fly in the ointment of this plan came with trimester one’s fairly ick morning sickness. I wasn’t spewing but just felt rotten most of the time, physically and mentally. Unfortunately this also created a perfect storm/vicious cycle of not wanting to go out much, which meant my feelings of loneliness, isolation and lack of friends/support here were compounded. I did, however, have the slight comfort of assuming the baby would be a girl, purely by dint of the fact that I was so unwell. But I was wrong about that too.

The second trimester was all right. I felt a bit physically uncomfortable but I was mostly in Australia, so I was enjoying myself and managing to block out a lot of the negative feelings I’d been having. Also I had friends and family to talk through stuff with. Plus all the grandparental support made it easy to take it easy.

Since being back in Zurich, I’m pretty depressed again. It’s cold and dark and – surprise – since I’ve done nothing about it, nothing has magically changed about my life here to suddenly make it great! I’m feeling achey, tired and heavy and my 3.5-year-old son is annoying me just by being a 3.5-year-old (I read this article about how Time-Outs are damaging your child, oh how I laughed… don’t the authors realise that time-outs are so the parents can calm down and regain their composure?!)

I’ve read up a bit on antenatal depression. Unfortunately there’s not that much info – there’s more on PND (postnatal depression). I don’t know if this is because AND is less common, less talked about or purely the fact that there’s a time limit to it. So, for what it’s worth here’s what antenatal depression feels like to me:

It feels like: a big ball of regret and failure – physically and mentally.

It feels like: I can’t have this baby.

It feels like: I wish I wasn’t pregnant.

It feels like: is it too late for an abortion?

It feels like: knowing things are going to get worse before they get better – because how could this situation possibly be improved by adding a squalling, boob-sucking, sleep-deprivation machine?

It feels like: hating my body. I look disgusting.

It feels like: no one has touched me for months except my little boy. No one’s felt the baby move except me.

It feels like: drinking an extra glass or two of wine because you’re unhappy and alcohol has been your crutch for the past 20-odd years and it’s really hard to break that habit now, even though you know it’s doing untold damage to the unborn baby. (However, the stuff I’ve read on AND says it’s advisable to keep taking your anti-depressants. I am not on any SSRIs.)

It feels like: over-eating because I’m depressed. Then feeling sick and overfull – oof!

It feels like: I haven’t talked to the baby or “bonded” with it like I did with my first pregnancy. I can hardly bear thinking about this one.

It feels like: being angry a lot of the time with my beautiful, wonderful 3.5 year old because he won’t walk, or won’t come and get ready NOW, and insists on wearing a nappy even though he’s fine to use the potty.

It feels like: being terrified of PND – and not knowing how to prevent that.

It feels like: being scared of completely cracking up and/or doing something really dangerous to myself and/or others.

It feels like: being trapped. I really don’t know how to get out of this.

It feels like: there’s a sort of primal need to find a “safe” place to give birth and a part of me is frantic that I don’t have it.

It feels like: I should have stayed in Australia but I let convention and la-la-la-not-thinking-about-it guide me back here.

It feels like: I should just shut up with my #firstworldproblems because women are giving birth in refugee camps and other horrible places all the time.

It feels like: I’m afraid of the pain of giving birth. If I don’t even want the child, how can I endure labour? Should I be planning for an epidural? C-section? Would that make it worse?

It feels like: what if I don’t love the kid once he arrives? Everyone says “oh you will” but what if they’re wrong?

It feels like: not being sure if my marriage can survive this.

It feels like: smiling awkwardly when people say – you must be so excited about the baby!! Being envious but slightly appalled that other mums-to-be are thrilled to bits.

It feels like: wincing when people say: wow you’re getting big/ looking really pregnant / walking like a pregnant lady.

It feels like: No one wants to hear it. I should just get over it.

It feels like: when bad things happen to other people, it doesn’t put it all into perspective. I just feel worse, like the world is a bad place.

It feels like: I’m wasting all these amazing opportunities but I just can’t seem to find contentment, let alone happiness.

It feels like: I must just be a cold, nasty, unfeeling person.

It feels like: I’ve made a huge mistake.

It feels like: I’ve made my bed and now I have to lie in it.

It feels like: a life sentence (ok: bad pun). But if motherhood is not really doing it for me already, how’s it going to be in six months, 3 years, 10 years… 😦

It feels like: being really, really tired.

It feels like: being bored.

It feels like: I hate myself and baby, you suck too.

The pursuit of perfection

Hot wheels or hot heels… you get what you’re given

Last week, we found out we’re having another boy. I don’t plan on having any more children after this one, so right now I feel a bit disappointed. I was 90% sure it was a girl. Which would have made the perfect little family.

My disappointment in not “achieving” perfection here, and the headline of this blog, takes me back several years to when I used to edit a customer magazine for a semi-luxury car company, the tagline of which was The Pursuit of Perfection (er, not Lamborghini by the way!). The job made me unhappy for many reasons that I won’t detail now. Suffice to say, it was during my employment there that I first sought help for clinical depression. At that time, I was passed to a rather young, freshly qualified and enthusiastic NHS counsellor with pale pink hair who helped me in two valuable ways. One was putting me onto an online Cognative Behavioural Therapy programme (MoodGym) and the other was her “diagnosis” of me as a perfectionist.

Perfection – I scoffed at the time – was something I absolutely did not seek. I’d worked in publishing too long to be an adherent of ‘perfection’ – that way lies missed deadlines, endless do-overs and disappointment. Near enough is good enough: do it well, proof it, fix it, proof it again, sign it off, ship it to print and move on! Bear with me, she said, and take home this document, read it and see what you think. I did and she was right. Perfectionism in psychological terms is not always trying to be “perfect” per se, according to it is:

1. The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others) that are
personally demanding, in the context of the individual. (Typically, to an outsider the standards are
considered to be unreasonable given the circumstances.)
2. Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such
unrelenting standards.
3. Experiencing negative consequences of setting such demanding standards, yet continuing
to go for them despite the huge cost to you.

I am not going to comment on whether the car company I worked for achieved this goal but for myself, I was glad to recognise and acknowledge these traits and try to work on them. However, like depression, I’ve found perfectionism can rear its head at various times life and screw around with you. And I guess now is one of those times…

I have been thinking about the fact I’m carrying a boy for a few days now and I guess I can only describe it as thus: I feel like people will judge me as though it was a choice I made. “Oh, you wanted a 2-boy family.” When my choice would have been to have one of each. And I know that’s stupid, and selfish and anal and stuff but there you have it. Of course the main thing is he’s healthy and I’m healthy. There are people out there desperate to conceive, or with rafts of other baby- and child-related problems, and I truly am grateful we’re all healthy so I really should shut up. I will love the kid and I will get over this. But if you’ll indulge my wallowing and justifications for a moment or two?

So: I am a girl. And one who enjoys dressing up, shopping and vanity things. And it would have been so nice to have a female child to do this kind of  typical girl stuff with. Plus, in general, when they become adults, women are better at staying in touch, remembering birthdays, helping to tidy up after a dinner party, all that stupid stereotypical shit that perhaps shouldn’t matter but of course it does. (And I know I’m getting about 20 years ahead of myself, but these are some of the conclusions I jump to).

Also, it means I will never have a daughter who has a baby so I can go through the pregnancy with her and tell her what it was like for me, etc.  BUT – this is all a bit silly. Who’s to say that even if I did have a daughter that she would be any of those things? Or that I will “miss out” in any way? For example, I was at a 3 year old’s birthday party the other day and the mother-in-law (MiL) was just lovely and obviously very involved with the family of her son (her only child). In fact she reminded me of my own wonderful MiL (who I know reads this blog, hi Avril!), who has given me some fantastic motherly advice over the years and been very involved with P’s life as well as in the lives of the children of her other son (she also has a daughter, but her daughter has not had children so there’s no guarantees of that “shared motherhood” experience anyway!) . I would hope to do the same for my son’s partners one day. Assuming they have them. Because my son/s might be gay, or not have kids, or be perpetually single, or anything. And that is also fine.

So I guess it kinda comes back to this weird feeling of no choice, or the wrong choice somehow. It’s like – everything else in your life you basically get to decide on (if you’re a privileged WASP like me): where you live, your tertiary education and/or career, if/who you marry, what you wear, the stuff you have – from the car you’re driving to the handbag you carry to how you decorate your home. And while I might not love the fact, it all signifies stuff about you. And I guess I feel like the outside trappings of my life are all fairly well curated. I’m happy with them and the impression that I give off and, yes, I do think about it a fair bit (does that make me a pyscho?!)  But this, well, it’s not my choice – the way it will be reflected on me feels like it doesn’t quite fit. So I feel a bit sad and, if I’m brutally honest, slightly embarrassed? Like people will whisper: “oops, unfortunate, was that on purpose?!” God that’s awful. But that’s why I wanted to write about it – get it out there, see how ridiculous I’m being.

I went online and read a few forums and stuff about this topic. One commenter had a really nice suggestion which was: enjoy your sons and if you feel the urge, just go and buy that frilly dress and donate it to a child in need. I like this idea. Besides, many of my close friends have girls, and I have two nieces. Being “cool Aunty Claire” to them should surely be almost as satisfying! Plus I won’t get the growing-up girl tantrums (when I think how horrible I was to my mum at some points in my life, agh), I won’t have to deal as directly with all the horrid over-sexualisation that’s shoved in girls’ faces as they grow up (although I will make damn sure my boys respect women and join the feminist fight), and selfish, vain old me will never have to “compete” against a fresh, younger version.

I am glad we found out though. I wouldn’t want to deal with these feelings on top of the “baby blues” a few days after the birth. And I know I’ll get over it. But right now, I am a bit sad and, for a perfectionist like me, it’s tough to bid goodbye to what I thought my family “should” be.