I was listening to podcasts on my way into work this morning, and came across a recent interview on the Tubridy show on 2fm which caught my interest. Normally I don’t get much of a chance to listen to Ryan Tubridy but I do tend to enjoy the interviews on there so try to catch the podcasts regularly enough. This interview was with Maia Dunphy, tv presenter and producer who recently caused a media frenzy by announcing her pregnancy on Twitter with a photoshopped ultrasound image. As expected, the interview was predominantly made up of excited flurry (mostly on the part of Tubridy) regarding babies, and could have been written off as just one of those “new mum to be” interviews until Maia stated that she had “gotten her head around it now”.
She admitted that at first she wasn’t sure. To me, this was fantastic – not that she would feel that way, but that she felt able to admit it, on air, to the listening public. Since it’s not exactly the done thing.
It’s not the done thing to admit that upon peeing on that plastic stick and seeing it turn blue that the first emotion you feel isn’t delight. Or that it may have taken a few weeks for the news to sink in, particularly if, in her case as she said, she “wasn’t exactly pregnant at 21”. When you’re an adult, in a committed relationship, who has your life together and a good career, it seems to be expected of you to be thrilled straight away at the idea of bringing new life into the world. Nobody quite allows for the fact that initially it may be panic, distress, worry.
At the very beginning, I was Maia. Despite being in a good job, living on my own, a committed relationship and having a degree under my belt, I didn’t exactly exit the bathroom in a chorus of “Oh what a beautiful morning” to regale my partner with the news. I was panicked, worried, and very confused about my options. This wasn’t something I’d signed up for, it wasn’t in the plan right then. Unlike her, I was indeed “pregnant at 21”, but I honestly don’t think age plays a role in it; for all intents and purposes, life-wise I had my shit together and this was still a rocket plummeting towards me that I wasn’t prepared for, there was no prepared plan, and I was utterly stuck. I was worried about what my partner would think, what my parents would think, my friends, my co-workers. I had never so much as changed a nappy, my sum total of experience with babies was holding them until they started crying and I got to hand them back, and even that was in short supply. Kids I could do, but babies were an all new ball game. And I was a lady who liked her space and her sleep, two things which I’ve learned since kids have not much room for in their agenda.
Telling my parents felt like I was sixteen and coming home pregnant, there was a layer of panic about their reaction (stupidly, since both of them were thrilled once they knew I was okay with it). And I was okay with it. Mostly. By that stage, I’d already had a scan, with a tiny blur that if I squinted and held my head at odd angles still didn’t resemble a baby to me, but according to the sonographer was a baby shaped blur. Seeing the heartbeat at nine weeks had an impact though, that tiny indistinguishable squiggle became less of a grenade about to implode and shatter my life as I knew it, and became something to be excited about. I started to bond with it, despite not being able to physically feel any kicks, I felt this baby in me and it was something to feel good about. I started to get it, even if I was a bit behind the times. That’s not to say it was the last wobble, that whole exit policy which seemed to involve pain and gore wasn’t sitting so well with me, and the incarceration in the Maternity Hospital had its own difficulties but for the most part, I was excited to meet my little person, excited to begin this new life.
We have to be allowed to admit we’re scared, it makes us human. We seem to intrinsically as Irish people have this attitude of “put up and shut up”, of internalizing the panic, of pretending everything is okay and putting a smile on while internally screaming “How did I get here?”. During my pregnancy when I had those thoughts the next thought that popped into my head was critical of those thoughts, I worried that I wouldn’t love my baby enough, that this made me a bad mother, that a proper mother should be, would be, more excited. I was wrong. My son was born ten months ago and I can honestly say that I have never known such a strong love in my life as what I feel for him, and such a level of protectiveness which I didn’t realize was possible. Not saying all of my worries were unfounded, some of those nappies and sleepless nights are the things of Alfred Hitchcock movies, but everything is okay. The world didn’t implode, it just expanded and changed in a way that is mostly positive. But right then, in that moment, as much as I needed to be told it was going to be okay, and I was going to be fine (which I was), I also needed to be told that it was okay to be freaking out, that it was okay to worry this wasn’t what was planned or what I wanted at that particular time.
We need it to be okay to not be okay. Pregnancy is a hormonal journey enough without bringing that level of guilt about the internal panic into it. So for her honesty in interview, I’m thankful that it can become a new normal.