There they were; two blue lines.
My breathing slowed, my heart beat quickened, my vision blurred – maybe from shock, maybe from tears, I’m still not sure. I sit down and quickly. It was something that every time I secretly peed on a test stick I had hoped would occur and now that it was right there in front of me I started having a mini panic attack. Why wasn’t I happy? I wasn’t sad though, I wasn’t really anything.
The day passed in a blurr, get ready for work, pee on another stick to be sure. Two blue lines. Maybe that brand was wrong? Float to work, sit at my desk, talk to staff, talk to customers, type emails. Float in a daze to chemist buy two different brands.
“I hope you get the result you want” says the sales clerk.
My reply... “What? Oh, thanks.” But what result do I actually want?
Back home both the new brands tell me the same thing. Sitting in a daze on my bed I realise things won’t really be the same again; it makes me a little sad. I’m not sure why I’m not happy or excited or jumping around. Instead I’m nothing, I’m numb. Isn’t this what I wanted? What we wanted? Phone husband, he’s working away from home again.
“Umm so guess what? You’re going to be a dad!” it feels like someone else is having the conversation and I’m just watching like a random outsider, a stranger that feels like I’m eves dropping. He’s happy, excited, big smiles. I’m still numb. I phone my friend, and something happens, I cry, big, uncontrollable tears. She comes around, hugs and more tears.
Doctor confirms. “Eat this, don’t eat that. Do this, don’t do that.” So many things to think about and remember. More numbness and a few tears.
The first scan shows a jelly bean. Hubby excited. The second scan shows a real little person-shaped thing inside me. Hubby really excited. Me, still numb. I feel disconnected, like it’s happening to someone else. I wait for the gushes of love to wash over me. Nothing. What’s wrong with me?
My tummy starts to grow. Everyone but me is super excited. I pretend. Smiles, laughter, “look at my growing belly!” I worry. Where’s the love? Where’s the mother instinct? I still don’t even know how to get stains out or make cookies! Oh god, I’m going to be a bad mum. More secret tears, most of which drop down the inside so no one sees.
I start to feel something, little movements on the inside, hope this will prompt the waves of love. No, nothing. How am I going to do this? How am I going to be a good mum? Where are the gushes of love that all these mums talk about?
We move states, away from friends and family and everything familiar. Know no one. Numbness still there, isolation kicks in. Make new friends, also pregnant. Real smiles, but still feel numb. They have felt gushes of love, still nothing for me. Watch as they ‘nest’, buy cute little things, set up rooms. Wonder why I’m not doing the same. Make an effort, buy some things, cook some meals to put in freezer for husbands lunch. Still no love, still numb.
More scans, more movement, kicks and hiccups. Both of which feel funny and both of which tell me there is a real little think growing on the inside. Mini-meltdown. Where is the love? How am I going to do it? What if I don’t love him? What if I break him or give him ‘issues’? Am I a bad mum already? Too many what ifs. Too many tears.
Nearly at the end or maybe it is the beginning. Still numb. Maybe I’m going to be a robot mum? Drive to another scan, they all blur into one, haven’t even looked at any of the photos obstetrician has given me at each appointment.
“This is it,” she says. “We’re booking you in for an induction this afternoon.”
“Oh” is all I can manage to mumble. Waves of numbness wash over me, so numb I think I might have floated away from my body. I’m not ready. I’M NOT READY.
Husband arrives at hospital, drip in. Nothing. Then gushes – not of love – but of water. Then pain, so much pain. “I’m not ready, I can’t do this!” I cry as I push. Then he is there, all squishy and warm on my chest. No gushes of love, just disappointment. Back in room feeding bubba, still no love, more disappointment – but there is fondness and tiredness.
Made peace with the fact that there will be no love, but have resolved to do the best I can.
Then a little smile, nurse says it’s more a grimace from wind. No gushes but a small drop of love hits my heart, and then another. Small drops continue while we are in hospital. More on the drive home.
More and more over the next days and weeks.
There were no gushes. But the love came and it is here to stay.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem