Before Joni was born, I spoke with friends about how I intended to continue seeking intellectual stimulation after the birth and to not become completely lost in a world of nappies and newborn baby photos. I was, and still am, keen to socialise with other mothers – but as well as sharing baby anecdotes, I wanted to be discussing adult issues.
And I maintain that it’s important to engage with the wider world. But what I didn’t realise was how utterly all-consuming motherhood would be. You can’t convey, sufficiently, to someone who isn’t a parent how it feels to bring a new life into the world. How besotted you become with this wholly dependent being. And so I didn’t understand other parents’ attempts to relay this to me.
So then Joni was born and suddenly my life completely changed direction. Or perhaps it was the same direction – but just playing out at a different pace. A much slower, more considered pace. Everything I do, including but not limited to: going to the loo, preparing food, shopping, getting on the tube, leaving one room to get something from another, going to bed – requires careful consideration because I’m no longer rolling solo. Now there are two of us, at all times.
I enjoy the challenges of motherhood – there’s nothing as satisfying as soothing a crying baby. Or as joyous as making your baby smile and laugh, or as funny as hearing them release huge farts – and so I want to share these experiences with my friends and family. But then I’m reminded of those conversations during pregnancy – the ones where I said my Facebook feed wouldn’t be filled with photos of my baby, or that my conversations wouldn’t be dominated by poo stories – and suddenly I feel guilty for every conversation about Joni. Like I’m burdening other people with the details of my seemingly mundane life. But to me it’s so far from mundane.
That’s why reading psychotherapist Naomi Stadlen’s book: What Mothers Do (especially when it looks like nothing) – and her stance on becoming a mother – is so refreshing, and reassuring. She compares the initial shock of having a newborn baby to the emotional and physical changes we experience when falling into ‘erotic love’, but we prepare very differently for each event:
‘We don’t go to falling-in-love preparation classes. Rather, the enormity of falling in love is described in songs and poetry, as tragedy and comedy, so it is communicated on many different levels by one generation to the next. ‘Oh, she’s in love,’ we say, and those two crucial words convey a wealth of meaning. We expect the person who is in love to be dreamy, moody, forgetful, unavailable for ordinary commitments and wholly focused on the beloved person.’
This, too, is how a new mother may feel and behave. And yet she’ll often feel guilty for being fixated on the new object of her love and affection: her baby. Imagine feeling guilty for putting up pictures of you and your boyfriend on Facebook? Or for worrying that you’re talking about him too much with friends? You wouldn’t, because friends should be delighted that you’re happy and should revel in your tales and photos. Of course, most of the guilt a new mother feels is self-inflicted. I know that my friends and family love hearing about Joni, and my experience of motherhood. They’ve not once made me feel as if I should change the subject – I issue myself with limitations.
But I want to be out and proud, rather than apologetic, about falling in love with Joni. There’s nothing more beautiful than new love – this is why it’s the subject of some of the greatest films, novels, poetry and paintings – and this certainly is new love. I’m writing songs and poetry about Joni and the new journey I’m on, as well as filling my blog with posts about motherhood because, right now, this is what I’m doing. And it’s beautiful and enriching and eye-opening – and as wonderful and inspiring as falling in (romantic) love for the first time.
The novelty of true love never wears off but we become less utterly submerged in the object of our affection, and more able to focus on other aspects of life. So if my Facebook feed’s a little baby-heavy, or my conversations centre around sleep routines and nappy breaches, fear not: I’ll soon come back down to earth. But in much the same way that your first love opens your eyes to something so all-encompassing and magnificent, Joni’s arrival has changed me profoundly and i’ll never be quite the same again.