During my first pregnancy, in those moments when I wasn’t tired, I found myself plotting my comeback. And it was going to be MEGA.
Usually this feeling would start when I heard a certain song – probably something more suitable for teenage girls, and definitely something that would make me want to shake my expanding arse. I missed nights out, I missed spending time with my girlfriends. I missed carefree dancing. Yes, you can still have fun without a drink. But if you’re the only one not drinking it’s not quite as fun and after 9.30pm everyone starts repeating themselves and people lean in to your personal space and spray your face with spit as they talk. And dancing sober? I can’t. I just can’t. It’s been unavoidable with two pregnancies and a load of weddings, but it’s not something I’m keen to revisit. It starts as an awkward side step, perhaps a little knee bend, and then I’ll try and jazz it up with a hand clap and a ‘woo’, and then I die inside. In comparison when I’ve had a drink, I AM rhythm.
A good friend was pregnant at the same time and we were both due around Christmas. We planned it together – come the Spring, the babies would be a few months old and we would be back in our gladrags, back to our pre-baby energy levels and ready to par-tay. As luck would have it, a friend of ours had her hen do when Buster was four months old. It was at a very cool house with caterers and a DJ and I was giddy with excitement. At 10.59pm I was standing on a chair wielding an inflatable willy (and possibly yelling ‘I’ve still got it’) and – I’ve been told – by 11.01pm I was weeping that I was tired and being put in to my pyjamas. I woke next to my friend who was also breastfeeding and we sat in a double bed synchronised pumping. Her pump made an ‘Um-cha um-cha’ sound whilst mine did a ‘wah-wah-wah’. It became apparent that this was not the comeback we had planned.
What came with the physicality of being away from my baby is not something I could have prepared for; the guilt and the fear, as well as the accompanying breast pump if venturing away for more than a few hours. It was also a while before I wanted to, or could, wear anything but comfy (ie elastic waisted) clothes. I wonder how many other women have wanted to burn all items of clothing they wore while pregnant and in the months after? Clothes bought for practical reasons, or because they fit. Unlike every single one of the 36 bras you now own, your boobs either spilling over the top or (more likely) hanging in a flaccid fashion somewhere at the bottom of the cup.
Putting together a snappy outfit for this comeback is therefore pretty impossible. It’s not something to worry about too much – it’s likely you’ll put some thought in to an outfit and as you’re getting ready someone throws up in your hair and your shower ends up as a quick spritz of air freshener. A friend described catching someone looking at her on one of her first nights out, thinking to herself ‘Oh I have still got it’ before her mate pointed out that a big white breast pad was poking out the top of her dress.
I also found for a good while after having babies that if I went out I felt an intense paranoia the next day. Without fail, I would wake around 5am and lie in bed convinced I’d made a total dick of myself. I’d go over conversations, I’d read in to comments people made and think they thought I was an idiot, and then would be full of regret and guilt at having left the kids. A friend recently messaged me about this after one of her first post-baby nights out. ‘When I was pregnant I just couldn’t wait to get my body and my life back and party but now I feel so divided by it all. Today I have woken up anxious, paranoid and self doubting. All night I just didn’t feel it, I was drinking for the sake of it and all I wanted to do was be at home with my family. I am spending a lot of time questioning myself; where do I fit in now? Do people think I’m a bore?’
In all honesty, for a short period after having babies, we probably are a bit dull and lacking in conversation.
These babies take up a lot of mind space as well as being physically demanding, and I’ll be honest, I had no idea what was going on in the world outside my little bubble for a good six months at least. (Keeping up with the Kardashians was my breastfeeding viewing of choice, and they don’t tend to cover a lot of world politics). After one dinner out with friends I tried to explain to Doug how I felt and asked if he thought our friends no longer liked me because I had no chat. He said ‘well you have had a big chunk of time away from socialising, you probably just need a bit more practice’. As an aside, should your friend or partner ask you something similar? Just lie. You can joke about her elasticated waists and multiple references to an episode of Come Dine With Me when, and only when, she has moved on.
The thing is We. Are. Exhausted. It’s very hard to be rational when you’re tired and a night out is going to mean even less sleep than you’re already getting? Of course it’s going to make you anxious. Coupled with the fog that I think many of us experience after having babies, it’s just not conducive to wild carefree nights. I actually found myself getting stressed about the lack of sleep I was going to get ahead of evenings doing anything, and basically sucking all the joy out of not only the night but the two running up to it as I became the Sleep-Hunter, becoming more irritable as my quest for storing up extra sleep was hopeless on account of two small children. My youngest is almost two and I still get the fear if we have a busy week with more than one post-10pm bedtime. A friend recently found herself in a swanky bar on a girl’s night out, and rather than letting go all she could think about was that they went out after her bedtime and her pants were uncomfortably tight.
My mum thinks we’re all crackers. They didn’t feel this pressure back in the day, they just stayed in. I suppose it’s a combination of feeling we should to show we still can, but also wanting to because that’s what we did in our ‘old’ life, and we miss it. We miss her.
It’s really easy to look at other people and think everyone else has jumped straight back in the saddle. Pictures of celebs strutting about in clingy outfits mere weeks after giving birth don’t help. Who knows how they’ve done it, but they may well be crying inside. Imagine having to pretend to the world you’re having a ball when your nipples are leaking and you’ve only hissed at your partner in three days? I don’t care if you’re Beyonce or Beryl, those hormones take over us all and I won’t hear otherwise. In those first months I also regularly got to 5pm and realised I hadn’t brushed my teeth yet. I’ve no idea why I simultaneously felt I should be able to hold it together to dress nicely and catch up with friends over dinner? Like many things relating to motherhood, we have these expectations we put on ourselves that no one else is expecting of us.
As well as the passing of time, some more sleep and a calming down of some pretty bonkers hormones, we work out what and who makes a good night. It might not be quite the same as the ones before kids, and there will probably be more dinner and less dancing. Then suddenly, it will happen. The stars have aligned and you’ve managed to wash your hair and put on underwear and make up. You’re not knackered and no one is sick. Heck, you actually feel pretty good. You drink, you laugh and you feel ALIVE.
Even though your tolerance to alcohol is now frankly pathetic, it’s comforting to know she’s still there. The nights out might be less frequent, they may finish a little earlier, and on occasion they may end with you being sick in to your scarf in the taxi home, but it feels good. This, my friend, is your comeback.
Did you worry you about getting back out there, or maybe do it too soon? Or do you live for a good night out? I’d love to know how you found it in the comments below. It definitely wasn’t me that yacked in to my own scarf in the back of a taxi. Definitely, definitely not…
Images: ebay.co.uk; usborne.com