There may be more. If I ever emerge from no.2, I’ll let you know.
This stage occurs pre-motherhood. Obviously. Even before you’re pregnant. When the thought of a baby is just that. An idyllic thought.
You’ll both muse how wonderful it will be to create another being together, with your eyes and his sense of humour. This is all utter s*** because in reality what will actually happen is you’ll reproduce a gremlin and then be forced to recognise all of your flaws on a daily basis, as your baby/toddler/preschooler acts them all out for you. After all, he’s your child. Where else could he have got it from?
You will want your child to have the best of everything. So you’ll buy a Bugaboo even though you need an A-Level just to work out how to open it. It will sit in the lounge looking all crisp and new and you’ll vow to wash the covers regularly and keep the wheels clean. (Ha ha.) The lounge is actually the best place for it because once you drive it off the forecourt, you can kiss goodbye to £950 of the £1,000 you paid for it, as it becomes encrusted in mud, puke and soggy rusks. Not to mention the serious body work issues as a result of all the times you’ll try to open it one handed, whilst talking a toddler down from a tantrum before flinging the damn thing across the car park. In front of an audience.
During this stage you will look permanently wistful and gooey eyed and say things like, ‘Let’s try for a baby,’ whilst rubbing your non-pregnant stomach. You will look at other people’s children with disdain before remarking that ‘our child will never be like that.’
Your fictional, imaginary child might not be.
But your real one?
Will probably be worse.
This stage happens immediately after birth and lasts until your youngest child has left home. (Some women might never get over the shock of it).
You will wander around in a bubble. Feeling as though you have been plucked from your life and shoved into an alternative reality. Where the only other women you meet are exactly like you, with limited vocabulary (if any) and that slightly harrowed, vacant look. The lights are on, but there’s no one home.
Oh, and once you’ve crossed the border? You’re not allowed back.
No matter how much you beg.
3. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Swings
This stage goes hand in hand with no. 2.
Because once you get used to the shock factor of motherhood (‘Yes, you do have to do this all again tomorrow’), it is common to want to cry at the sheer overwhelmingness of it whilst simultaneously worrying that you will die and leave your kids with your eejit of a husband who can’t even do a french plait.
These thoughts will keep you awake at 3.00 AM (if you ever got to sleep in the first place), meaning you are constantly knackered and particularly susceptible to MOOD SWINGS.
These are fun for everyone, particularly your other half who watches in bewilderment as you rant, cry, scream and laugh in the space of 60 seconds. He calls it ‘mental.’ You call it ’emotional multi-tasking.’
There will be days where you wonder who you are and forget who you used to be. Don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and nature’s way of not rubbing salt in the wound. I mean, who wants to be reminded that they once had a life with lots of freedom and very little responsibility? Not me.
And anyway, you’ll totally learn how to manage this. With the help of other mums who are every bit as screwed up as you. Oh, and lots and lots of wine.
Which leads me nicely to the next stage.
And possibly the most important.
There’s a reason ALL mums talk about wine.
It’s not a cliche. Or because we think it makes us sound funny or cool.
It’s because we drink it. A LOT. And we’re not ashamed to admit it.
We drink it at lunchtime, teatime, bedtime, you name it. To remind ourselves we’re adults. To induce partial amnesia. And to just block out the whole bloody mess we’ve got ourselves into.
We know that there are healthier alternatives. Like exercise. And adoption.
But we like wine. OK?
This stage is the biggest contradiction of them all.
Because whilst you are feeling optimistic, shocked, anxious or just plain drunk (don’t I paint a pretty picture?), there is another, more overpowering feeling simmering away in the background, that never goes away.
Yes, you will love your kids SO BLOODY MUCH that if someone offered you a million pounds for each of them, you’d probably only sell one. Two at a real push.
Because although they’ve completely ruined your mind, your body and your life, they’ve also completely made it.
And you couldn’t imagine being without them.
(Even though you spend at least 5 minutes of every day doing just that).