A Letter To The Pregnants: Don’t Panic!

Johnsons Baby Oil Powder ad, 1947

This post was first published in Practical Parenting Magazine, January 2015

Dear Mums,

This letter is for those of you contemplating life at home with babies and wondering how in the name of holy guacamole you are going to handle it. Maybe you are at work reading this, resting a cup of tea on your handy belly-shelf while you wrap up reports and handover documents, preparing for maternity leave. Maybe you are reading this in hospital, a little shell-shocked and hormonal after labour, sewn up from bum-crack to breakfast-time, and not quite able to believe that the tiny person in your arms is really truly here, and not just one of those wild third-trimester dreams.

I hear you. That transition from being a capable lady-person, busy with work and life and friends, to housebound-mama-on-duty  is nuts. It’s like one day, you’re eating rock oysters and dancing to Macklemore on a bar-top at 4am and the next, you’re hiding in the laundry eating cooking chocolate and crying. The speed of the life –shift is enough to give you emotional whiplash. But I’m writing this letter to tell you that leaky nipples and sleepless nights are only part of the story. They are the high-drama parts. That’s why mothers like me talk about them more.

But there’s another truth too – that life at home with kids can be a deeply grounding experience. Creative, peaceful and full of small joys. Mums, you might be feeling panicky about the massive lifestyle change that lies ahead. You might feel that your full and complex  life will shrink to nappies and onesies and breastfeeding apps, and it will, for a while, but then it will expand again, and you’ll be a richer woman for it.

You will be connected to other mothers everywhere, which taps you into your compassionate self, and you will find new worlds open to you, socially and emotionally. You will find time for your old interests again, and you will appreciate them more. (For instance, people at Life Drawing speak in full sentences and only very occasionally vomit on you.)  Plus, you will never look back from your discovery of the elasticated waist.

As a Mum, you’ll create an entirely unique and idiosyncratic family life that will look like no other home on earth.  That ‘soft place to fall’ that you build will have a culture, language, diet and energy unlike anywhere else in the world, and it will be the first place that your children imprint onto their hearts. Perhaps you will work full-time, or part time, or not outside the home at all. Perhaps you will have a strong partner.  Maybe you will go it alone.

In every case, the work that you do as a Mum – - all the cooking, the cleaning, the listening, the planning – will at times feel transient , repetitive and frustrating, but all those small, everyday actions will add up to a larger, indescribably beautiful  picture of love and support. It is hard work, it is a long game, but it is rewarding, in the deepest, most important parts of you. (Not the spleen.)

It seems crazy now, but one day that tiny person in your arms will tell you their worries, refuse to eat your lasagne and make fun of your dancing, maybe all in one conversation. Mums, you are entering a beautiful new world. Don’t panic.

Love Rachael

Ps – Buy wet wipes. You can never have too many.