Am I jealous of your baby?

I wanted to write this blog post because it’s a question I have not only asked myself about other women’s pregnancies and babies since Samuel being born in the second trimester, but even prior to his arrival, I could never quite make sense of how those around me struggling with infertility, or having suffered miscarriage and baby loss, would feel about my own pregnancies or baby…and to be quite honest, mothers with babies who suffered extreme prematurity weren’t even on my radar.

Google defines to be jealous as ‘feeling or showing envious resentment of someone or their achievements, possessions, or perceived advantages’. I’d like to explore this a little bit and explain where I’m at.

Having a ‘Mummy Instagram’ page & feed means that almost every day, thanks to the good old algorithm, I will see at least a handful of pregnancy announcements, baby bump photos, birth announcements and newborn photos. I stop to look at these posts, I tap ‘like’ on these posts, I leave comments on these posts. When I say ‘congratulations’ on a pregnancy, or a new baby, or a gender reveal…I mean it, from the bottom of my heart. I do not resent a new or expectant parent’s happiness, and I would never be disingenuous about this or avoid wishing them well because of my own experience. There is no happier or more moving time than the promise of new life…I’ve been in those shoes and I 100% buy into sharing the excitement.

However, that doesn’t stop a niggle that I never used to feel. A sting of sadness; a reminder that what was supposed to be for us didn’t happen that way, and of everything else that happened instead.

Even now almost 10 months later, I am not yet comfortable to be around other babies. It’s impossible still for me to not look and compare what a ‘normal’ baby is doing, what the baby looks like and what has come naturally for Mum and baby, which wasn’t the same for me and Samuel. I have two close friends who were due months before me, whose babies were born after Samuel, in the same month. It may be almost a year since he was born, but that does not mean I have forgotten the experience or that his preemie journey is over, or even will be over for a number of years.

To see Samuel aside babies of the same age who are twice his size and in some cases almost walking, is something I will hold my hands up and say I am not yet stoic enough to deal with gracefully, and is a situation I will continue to avoid until I feel differently. There is actually a designated baby clinic in my area for babies who were on the special care unit at my local hospital, so that they can get weighed/chat to other Mums of premature or sick babies without experiencing these feelings. I haven’t yet attended it myself, and tend to take Samuel to the ‘normal’ baby clinic. For me, this is about taking little steps to push myself into situations where I can gradually learn to feel more at ease around Mums and babies who haven’t been in my shoes. I don’t engage in chit chat, but I’m there. It’s part of the healing process.

The other new and unexpected emotion I now find myself processing when it comes to pregnancies is that I am almost entirely unable to get my head around the possibility that the outcome of a pregnancy can be positive, and am struck by the fear and anxiety of this, completely unnecessarily, on another woman’s behalf. I know logically that what happened with Samuel is very rare; only 7% of births in the UK are premature, and of that 7%, just 5% were born before 28 weeks and would be classed as ‘extremely preterm’*. But knowing this doesn’t take away from the fact that it did happen to us, and that every second and third trimester bump photo now triggers a habitual thought pattern for me that includes willing the baby to stay in there ‘til they’re absolutely ready, calculating in my mind the potential size/weight and stage of the babies’ development (particularly their lungs), and comparing this to Samuel at birth. I would like to think this is because it’s still not been that long, and that eventually one day I will see gorgeous bumps and scrummy newborn babies with only the feelings of joy and excitement, without a tainting by my experience.

I don’t believe I’m special, or am worthy of any kind of exclusive treatment. I don’t like a fuss of any kind (good or bad – the thought of a big party thrown on my behalf, for example, calls for me to tuck my head away in my hands or rush to the toilet for a nervous poo). I certainly would never ask for, or expect anyone to tiptoe around me because of the indignities and failings of my own reproductive system. If there’s a situation or conversation I would rather avoid, I generally do just that, it’s no one else’s fault or responsibility. Unless backed into a corner or subject to a serious feather ruffling, I don’t tend to speak my mind about sensitive issues that pertain to me. This is why when someone pregnant has a moan to me about being pregnant (which having had a full-term pregnancy myself I COMPLETELY understand and empathise with) it is always of value to me if the disclaimer of ‘I know I probably shouldn’t whinge to you’, or similar, is thrown in there somewhere…at least in comparison to the times when it is not. Not because I think anyone owes me an explanation, or an apology, but it’s of comfort to me know that another mother might appreciate that it may potentially be difficult or uncomfortable for me to hear.

Bitter? No. Resentful? No. Jealous? Still unsure…maybe ‘envy’ is more on the mark?

Lucky? Definitely…I am under no illusion that I am one of the luckiest ones. Whatever the journey, my baby is here and never a day will pass where I am not acutely aware of how fortunate we are to have him.

Have you ever experienced any feelings like this? Perhaps you’re an IVF parent, have suffered miscarriage, baby loss, or are a fellow preemie parent? I would love to hear from you, it can be a lonely old place when we don’t talk!

Jo XX

*premature birth statistics from tommys.org

Where have we been?

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Hello! Long time no see. I’m not going to flatter myself by starting this blog post with ‘you’ve probably been wondering why I’ve not been on insta…’, as I’m sure you’ll have coped just fine without seeing my sporadic ramblings and clips of my nutty children over the Summer. That been said…to those of you who asked me or my friends if I was ok, and particularly those who only know me online yet sought out ways to contact me to check in and say you missed my posts; I am incredibly grateful, and feel fortunate to have people like you in my corner. It’s a lovely feeling…one that I am not accustomed to, but deeply appreciate.

Firstly, let me start by saying that I’m happy to report that my little family and I are all in good health, and there is no dark (or even particularly compelling) reason for my recent online hiatus. I wish I could say it was a well-thought out decision which I came to by weighing up the pros and cons of having an internet presence, but the truth is that one day I was simply having a bad day, and scrolling wasn’t making me feel any happier…so I just made a snap decision to disable my account. I also deleted the Instagram app, as well as my Facebook app (although I kept my account active). This was to avoid absent-mindedly opening the app on auto-pilot out of pure habit, as I so very often had been doing at the time.

My immediate reaction was relief, if I’m completely honest. After the year that my family and I have had, there was a real need to ‘shut down’ and figure out exactly where my head was at, and how to be ‘normal’ once again. A lot has happened in the last year, what with Samuel’s early arrival and all of the struggles that came along with it; emotions, mental health, logistics, relationships and even money, all before we even had our chance to find our feet as a family of four, with two under two to boot. I have also been saddened by the untimely loss of one the most influential people in my life just before I decided to come off insta; a cruel and sobering reminder that life really is too short. Too short to spend on social media when for whatever reason, it’s stopped being fun.

Probably the most boring reason for needing this space was good, old-fashioned lack of time. I am running around like a lunatic pretty much constantly. The number of children has doubled, the laundry has AT LEAST doubled, the cooking has doubled (Samuel is on solids now), the mess has doubled, the stress has doubled and sleep has halved…and I’m still working to support Jack’s business. You get the picture. I am so SO lucky that things have turned out this way, and I thank my lucky stars every day to have our little family, but the truth is that some most days can be very challenging.

When I’m not performing these riveting, never-complete tasks, I want to enjoy my children. Thea started preschool this September, and it would be the last chance I’d have to be at home with both of my babies full time, ever again. Samuel spent 4 months in hospital…how would I feel about myself if I were to spend his first 4 months at home sat behind my phone, uninspired, creating no content and mindlessly scrolling? Samuel isn’t a ‘newborn’ anymore who sleeps most of the day and only wakes to eat and poo. He’s now a little person with a budding personality that would be a crime not to observe, nurture and enjoy. Particularly given his difficult start and the months of mother-baby bonding that was stripped away from us.

And Thea, she’s gone through an extremely turbulent and confusing time for a child of any age, and she’s only just turning 2 and a half. She needs consistency, love, care and attention. I have recently created a rule for myself that when we are at home and Samuel is asleep whilst Thea is awake, that any work, housework or the other are put on pause, so I can give her the undivided attention that she so greatly deserves. She’s grown up and is still growing so quickly, and I wanted this Summer to be about watching her (and Samuel) learn, play, be happy and just ‘be’, together as a family just as we had longed for and craved so badly during all those weeks and months of our lives being torn in two. They needed and continue to need their safe place at home and their Mum, more than I ‘needed’ to be on Instagram.

There is a small window of about an hour and a half after the kids go to bed, and before we do ourselves (Samuel wake-ups excluded) where I had the chance to be doing something other than aimlessly scrolling my Instagram feed. I have grown to dislike the term ‘self-care’ (don’t ask me why, I happen to think it’s extremely important, but the term itself has become so overused that I now find it a bit ‘wanky’, for lack of a better word!). Wankiness aside, I have claimed this 90 minute slot as MINE. Mine to watch reality TV; I’ll put my hands up now and admit to every single episode of this years’ Love Island & Celebs go Dating (judge me, I care not *insert sassy emoji here*), watch countless documentaries & to READ.

Not very productive in the traditional sense, but just what my mind needed. A break, a chance to jump off from the emotional rollercoaster and escape from the everyday chaos. Trash TV and ‘brain nap’ aside, reading actual books and watching interesting documentaries has given me some conversational & intellectual ammo that doesn’t involve the kids, or motherhood. That in itself is invaluable to how I feel about myself as a stay at home parent after a decade in the workplace.

Anyway, I’m back now. In what capacity, I am still unsure. I don’t want to force it, or for it to detract from being present in the moment…but I’m fortunate in that I’ve pretty much always found the insta community to be a supportive network and positive place to be, and feel like I might be ready to interact again…if you’ll have me?!

Jo XXX