Sometimes in life you meet someone very briefly and yet something about them stays with you forever. You remember their scarf, their joke, their voice, even just the way they walked. But you remember it, long after you’ve forgotten all other details of the encounter. And so it is, with me and Alison the midwife at Queanbeyan hospital. Alison was one of those people – she came along at exactly the right time, saying exactly the right things, and changed my life in the process.
I met Alison around the 35 week mark. I’d dropped Emma off at childcare after a difficult morning during which we fought over every detail. Breakfast. Brushing teeth. Clothes. Getting in the car. Saying goodbye. I was exhausted and pretty over the whole parenting thing – not a great feeling when you’re about to start all over again with another baby. At the hospital I sat in the consult room making small talk with Alison while she got her things ready.
Then she said, “And how’s Emma?”
And I burst into tears. Between sobs I managed to get out something about “rough morning” and “threenagers”. Alison tut tutted sympathetically and got me a tissue.
“I bet you feel like you’ve been a terrible mother!” she exclaimed.
“I have! I can’t believe I’m about to do it all again,” I said. “I’m going to mess up two children, not just one!” I really was genuinely worried about this at this point.
“This is very normal,” she assured me. “The more pregnant you get, the more you will start turning inward. You are starting to focus on your new baby, and the birth process, and what’s coming up. You don’t mean to, but you are – you have to. Emma will be picking up on that, and she knows there’s changes coming. So between the two of you, this is very normal. Give yourself a break.”
It was honestly like a gap in the heavens opened up, and sunlight poured down on me, and Alison and all the angels were singing in beautiful harmony about how me being a horrible mother was a natural part of life right now. And Emma and I would both survive. The relief was enormous. Alison had more to say about that, based on her interest in evolutionary psychology, but you get the general gist.
Once I’d recovered from that teary moment we talked about other things and she asked how my husband was going preparing for a second baby. I said something about Toby being an only child, and not sure how this whole two children caper was going to work.
“Oh, only children always feel that way,” Alison said. “They wonder how you can possibly love two children.” I distinctly remember she starting washing her hands at this point. “They don’t realise, you just get more love.”
It was so simple. So obvious. After all, I’d been wondering the same thing – and I’m not an only child, it was just hard to imagine. And yet since Finn has been born, her words keep coming back to me. There is always enough love to go around – you just get more of it.
But Alison wasn’t done in doling out words of wisdom. She got me up on the bed and I lifted up my shirt so she could measure my belly.
“What lovely skin!” she said. Which is what every woman wants to hear, all the time, no matter what the situation. I had miraculously escaped my genetic fate and gotten to this point without any stretch marks at all, from either pregnancy. “Do you eat a lot of good fats?”
“Um, yes.” What an odd question. But as a vegetarian and the mother of a peanut butter obsessed toddler who thinks avocado is a vegetable, I guess I do? I hadn’t equated it to my skin though; mostly I was assuming it was this nutrimetics cream which I’d been using religiously.
Alison nodded knowingly. “That would be it.”
[I did get one stretch mark in the end, around the 38 week mark, when my cream ran out and I decided not to replace it. After all, how much bigger was I going to get? LOL. But also, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I actually feel a sense of pride towards it. I carried two kids in there, and then got them out here, and the mark is a part of that story.]
And so my appointment with Alison came to an end, having just changed my life – or at least, how I was feeling about my life. I wasn’t a terrible mother. I was going to get more love for the new baby. And I should keep eating good fats if I want to have nice skin. I was in love with Alison.
At my next appointment the midwife commented on my lovely skin. “The last midwife said it was because I eat good fats,” I said.
“Was it Alison? She’s always going on about good fats.” LOL.
Alison was on duty when I was in labour with Finn and I got really excited to see her friendly face but she didn’t end up being with me (which was fine).
The last time I saw Alison was a few days after Finn was born, when I had to take him back to the hospital to have his hearing test. She gave an appropriate comment about how lovely he was and then asked how Emma was.
“She loves him,” I said. “But she hasn’t forgiven us.”
Alison nodded wisely. “That’s very normal,” she assured me, making me feel 100 times better with just three words before rushing off again.
So thank you Alison. I hope you don’t mind I’ve shared your wisdom here for the benefit of others – who knows how many lives you might change.