They say that mothers have an inbuilt ‘forget and let go’ mechanism when it comes to childbirth, don’t they? So you often find a brand new mum swearing she’ll never have another child, that she’ll never go through the agony and distress of childbirth ever again. I’ve been there. I’ve made those vows. The birth of my firstborn was particularly traumatic so it’s no wonder I made those promises to myself.
And yet, a couple of years later I found myself desperate to have another child, much to the suprise of my husband who had taken the earnestness of my vows to heart.
“I thought we agreed we weren’t going to put ourselves through that again?” He looked genuinely confused. “Well, I changed my mind!” I replied flippantly.
Of course my decision hadn’t been that flippant – I’d taken medical advice on the pros and the cons given the complications of my first pregnancy and birth. And when it came to it it was a huge thing for me to contemplate revisiting the pain and distress I’d experienced during the birth and the months after it.
But what surprised me despite all that was the strength of my desire to have a second child. It wasn’t something I needed to think about. I just knew I wanted it, very much. To the extent that I found it hard to remember or get in touch with the negative memories of the first birth. It was as if they were being numbed or dulled down in my mind. And I think the phenomenon is quite common – mothers somehow being able to ‘forget’ the agony of the first time round in order to be able to contemplate a second.
Perhaps it’s nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the human species, an innate drive to procreate and to perpetuate the human race. Or perhaps it’s the societal norm or expectation, at least in the UK, of a couple having more than one child weighing down on mothers and driving them to desire a second. Who knows. But I think it’s definitely a real phenomenon.
Nature’s drive has definitely come unstuck for me now though after our 5 month NICU journey with our second little girl who ended up being born at 24 weeks. I greatly respect families who go on to have further pregnancies after the birth of a preemie, not knowing if they’ll have another preemie or go full term, but I know that I could never withstand that journey again. It took it’s toll on all of us – my husband, our eldest daughter and on me, as well as our extended family and friends. It almost tore us apart the first time; it’s not a risk we can afford to take again.
On a more light-hearted note, the ‘forget and let go’ mechanism seems to extend beyond childbirth for some parents. We went out for lunch with our two children over half term, my husband genuinely excited about the idea and me agreeing that it would be nice because we hadn’t ever done it with both girls (long shielding experience with our preemie when she came home, followed by covid lockdowns and more shielding).
We all sat down to a tiny table having wiped the high chair meticulously with an antibacterial wipe whilst trying to stop our 19 month old (corrected) from running off into the busy shopping centre. Our eldest (5) promptly spilt her apple juice which proceeded to drip through the slats in the table onto her feet that she did not think to move despite them starting to feel somewhat damp. And then they brought the ice cream before the main course, which of course our youngest immediately turned upside down and lost in her lap. Having fished a dollop of sorry-looking ice cream back into her bowl she refused to let me hold the bowl or the spoon and proceeded to ladle several spoonfuls of the stuff onto her hair before I managed to wrestle the spoon off her. At which point she threw a hissy fit and knocked the plate that had just arrived with her main course clean off the table and straight into daddy’s lap! Momentarily distracted by the flying dinner, we turned back to her to find her holding the ice-cream bowl upside down and watching the, now completely melted, mess dribble nicely into her shoes. The only solution was to remove everything from the table and my husband ended up like a cartoon character balancing 4 plates, 3 cups and 2 bowls on various parts of his anatomy while I attempted to get some food into our little one’s mouth.
We must be crazy! On what planet could we possibly have thought that it would be ‘nice’ to go to lunch with two small children?! I have a vague and distant memory of extremely stressful lunches out with our eldest daughter, but of course we had forgotten all about these! All the fault of the ‘forget and let go’ mechanism without a doubt! 🙂