Emily and her son seconds after delivery. Photo by Jane Nelson www.photographybyjane.co.nz

Emily Writes: What I know about parenting now that I didn’t know then

On her second son’s birthday, Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes has some advice for the expectant mother she once was: Hold fast, hold tight, hold on.

When I was pregnant with my second baby I had a really idealised view of labour. My first labour had been relatively straight forward and in my mind I’d sugar coated it a lot. Like an absolute shed load – in my head I’d sneezed and the baby came out. It was nothing like that, as my husband so often pointed out, but I was convinced. Nobody wants to go into labour fearful, so it makes sense that my brain did a wipe-clean and told me it was all going to be a piece of piss.

I decided I wanted a birth photographer because I was convinced second labours are easier. I’m not a smart person. I know that now.

I have no idea why I thought that. No idea at all. It’s based on nothing. But I was convinced. So I saved my pennies and got an amazing photographer. It will come as no surprise that I was wrong and my second labour was horrendous.

And my lovely photographer was there to capture it all. Including the three false starts over two weeks and the very extremely fucking long pushing period.

The first photos I have of my labour are me looking exhausted and my husband looking bored.

The next lot I have I look more and more like I’m dying. In fact she made a video of the whole thing that includes me looking up desperately at my midwife after I’d asked if I was going to die. My midwife says in this video “you know you’re going to have the baby right?” For some reason I thought I’d just be in labour forever (mainly because I’d been in labour forever).

I spent an extremely long time pushing while my enormous baby grinded against my pelvic bone as he was the wrong way up. So in most of the photos look like this guy:

All I wanted was that photo that you see everywhere. That photo of a mother who is being handed, or has just been handed, her baby. I wanted that second of joy captured forever. That moment when you become a mother – when you become a mother again. It can be so fraught to get to that point – I thought by capturing it I could hold the magic in a frame for life.

Through a very talented photographer I was able to get it. The image shows the agony and the joy and the relief. I was just happy it was all over. I’d had terrible antenatal depression. It had nearly destroyed me. It was so hard on my marriage. It was agony. It was so hard to care for a toddler when I was feeling so awful. I was put on bed rest and I almost lost my job.

Photo by Jane Nelson www.photographybyjane.co.nz

When you look at this picture you might see a beautiful moment, and it is definitely a beautiful moment. But it hides a truth – I was happy not to be pregnant anymore because pregnancy had nearly killed me. I figured the tough part was over. Nothing could be worse than those feelings I had while pregnant. I knew parenting – I’d had one baby already, I was confident.

The photo below is my favourite. Because I look at myself and I think – she didn’t know, she had no idea what was coming.

Photo by Jane Nelson www.photographybyjane.co.nz

I am completely at peace in this photo. I remember that feeling so well. I remembering thinking everything would be fine now. My baby was here and he was safe. It was all over – we were ready to begin again. There was only light.

*

We don’t know what’s coming when we get pregnant. We don’t know what pregnancy will be like, even when we have been through it. We don’t know what labour will be like, though we always have expectations.

We definitely don’t know what those first two years will be like.

I had no idea that one day I would wake up on the floor of my bathroom and wish I wasn’t alive anymore. I had no idea that I’d consider leaving my family – that things would become so desperate I wouldn’t want to be here anymore.

But if I stood before her now, that woman in the photo – holding that cup of tea and her precious baby – I wouldn’t say run.

I’d say this:

Hold fast. Hold tight. Hold on.

You have a world of love that is going to envelop you. You will have the darkest days of your life but the light will come and it will be brighter than anything you’ve ever known.

You will survive this and you will learn that you are stronger than you know.

You will have moments when you feel like you are not a good mother but I promise you, I promise you that you will come through this and you will know you are a good mother.

Your marriage will be stronger than ever. Your love will be tested so tested but the results will amaze you.

Your wedding day didn’t prove your love, what proved it was the day your husband sat in a ditch with you, convincing you to live, while you sobbed.

This world we live in was born from a universe the size of a golf ball. A huge explosion could have destroyed everything but instead creation came from it. And all of the beauty you see came from that destruction. Rebuilding is beautiful. You get a new beginning.

She didn’t know this –

She didn’t know her world was going to be so wonderful. She didn’t know that her dreams were going to come true.

You just can’t ever know how beautiful your life is going to be.

So, I’d say to her, as I say to you –

You don’t know what’s coming so

hold fast, hold tight, hold on.

This is what makes our lives stunning – we don’t know what’s coming, we can’t know – but we can make it through no matter what.

*
Happy third birthday to my beautiful Ham – my Hamlet, Hamuel L Jackson, Hamantha Jones, Hamilton Child of the Future. You made us. Thanks for making me a mama again – I couldn’t ask for more than you.

Emily Writes is editor of The Spinoff Parents. Her book Rants in the Dark is out now. Buy it here. Follow her on Facebook here.

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