I wrote this when my baby was, I think, about six months old (which seems a long time ago now). I’ve finally decided that actually yes, I’m happy to share it. Coming back to it I find that some of it is still just as true, and other things have changed hugely.
Motherhood is a slow unmaking and remaking; literally re-forming. Although birth changes your status in the eyes of everyone else, you don’t tick over from a 0 to a 1 (or indeed from a 1 to a 0), the flick of a switch from one to the other, in that moment. It marks the beginning of the transformation, not the end. In the days and weeks after birth, I found – strangely – I felt more connected to my pre-motherhood life than I do now, some months in. I felt more in touch with my pre-motherhood desires (libido and otherwise) at the magical six-week mark [when new mothers are advised they can resume penetrative sex] than I do now, months later. I was keen for the first few months to continue my involvement with projects or interests that now I understand I don’t (yet) have time or headspace for.
I think the first three months are a liminal state; not quite one thing nor the other – the concept of the fourth trimester is not only of value to the baby, learning how to survive in this alien environment, but also to the mother, doing the same thing. Like someone fleeing a disaster, I wasn’t sure what I’d need in this new world so I tried to bring everything. I’m starting to learn, now, what I’ve brought along that is part of my essential self, and what’s just (metaphorical) paraphernalia. I find there’s a lot I’ve discarded, but I dearly love what I’m holding on to. I feel more at peace with myself, more confident that I’m doing the right thing, and less bothered by self-doubt than at probably any other time in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t had a few tearful tired meltdowns – I have! – but they were (and are) fleeting. And I now cry more easily too (which is saying something), though at far more specific things than before – it takes barely a hint of ‘my friend had such a sad time with her baby…’ and I’m off.
I worried, when I was pregnant, that I didn’t want to be one of those ‘other’ women who disappeared into motherhood, drowning in nappies and plastic tat and playdates (the other kind). These days I think it might indeed look from the outside like I have – but I don’t care. From the inside, it doesn’t feel like I’m sinking beneath waves; it feels like walking confidently into a deep and beautiful forest. I had no idea it was so magical here, I just couldn’t see it before.
As for being poly… If I’d been in another stable and loving relationship before having this baby, I imagine I would have hoped fervently to maintain it (of course, it would never have been entirely my choice – parenthood is a big change to be adjacent to, as well as experience directly). But as I wasn’t, it feels a little bit like this is where I was standing when the music stopped or the wind changed – I can’t imagine having the energy or time to date someone new for the foreseeable future. The Rake is perfect and sufficient for me right now. So, I stay where I am – poly in theory only, for now.
Mind you, it’s not that I don’t see parallels. I have fallen so completely and all-encompassingly in love with this tiny new person that it’s changing all my other relationships – my perspective, the time I have available, the ways in which I can engage with people. Not necessarily bad or good, just different. It requires comparable (though, I suspect, more) patience from those around me as does the first flood of NRE, of new love. I am obsessed, cheerfully so, and it has changed me profoundly, permanently, and joyfully – that’s a wonderful personal process, but can sometimes be harder to exist beside than to experience.
The deep and primal contented joy of seeing my partner and his baby playing together, or my mother or mother-in-law and her grandchild connecting, has faint echoes of the delight when two particularly important metamours meet and hit it off. Negotiating a few new bumps, as we all shuffle ourselves around to make more room for this new love and reprioritise our energies. The discovery of previously unmapped territories of more love, not only for the new person but for my existing partner, is not a new experience for me but is still startling in its strength. I didn’t know how much more love I would uncover for the Rake; nobody warned me about that.
These days it feels like this is the most important job I’ve ever done. And it is work, no question, and there’s no such thing as off-duty any more. I feel like I ought to agree with other new parents about what hard work it is… but emotionally, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels rewarding beyond any measure – and anything so worthwhile will always ask a lot of you. I am joyfully reaching further, deeper into my own reserves of strength than ever before. Motherhood has asked more of me than anything else, but in the most exciting and fulfilling way; and I’ve only just begun. I’ve never been more certain that I’m on the right path and making the right choices.
I’m not even capable of trying to be funny or clever or sarcastic about parenthood – at least not yet. I can only keep pouring my heart out to anyone who listens (and a few who don’t!).