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Monday, June 17, 2024
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Bobsledding towards parenthood …

As of tomorrow, I am 34 weeks pregnant.

We’re on the home stretch. Though, it’s less of a leisurely stroll and more of an Olympic bobsled, with worryingly loose blades, about to hurtle off the track. If you recognise the reference, congratulations, you’re a 90s kid.

Due to some health issues, bubs will be arriving slightly earlier than planned. Most people know I do my best work at the last minute. However, it seems I am not as adept at “nesting” as editing a newspaper. So, wish us luck as we Cool Runnings our way towards the finish line — preferably with no broken bones.

As I wrote in my editorial at the 20-week mark, hapūtanga [pregnancy] has been an exercise in rolling with the punches. There have been many learnings along the way.

For starters… impending parenthood is fraught with anxiety. There are a lot of unknowns — the human brain doesn’t like that. On bad days, it feels like traversing a field of buried landmines. Never-ending sleep deprivation, colic, tongue ties, the possibility of being “The Worst Mum Ever”…what’s going to explode first?

I was afraid to share my anxiety with anyone. This was our longed-for “miracle” baby — why the cold feet? Turns out, however, that fear is a pretty universal experience. And the more I opened up to trusted people, the less numerous and volatile the landmines seemed.

I’ve learned social media can be a godsend…and also a frenemy. Social media swings between two extremes: A highlight reel of our most joyous moments, or an echo chamber of unfiltered trauma. For parents, that can be a Pinterest board of designer nurseries and perfectly-groomed, angelic children…or tear-stained TikTok reels to raise awareness of breastfeeding struggles and sleep regression.

As a jumpy mum-to-be, these extremes can create unrealistic expectations…or lead to me internalising others’ worst case scenarios as my own. So, I try to take Rudyard Kipling’s advice: “If you can meet with triumph and disaster, and treat those two imposters just the same.” Life ebbs and flows — it’s wonderful, it’s hideous, it’s mundane. We just don’t tend to include the mundane on Facebook.

I’ve learned the medical community has no shortage of kind, warm-hearted, dedicated people, who have only my best interests at heart. This was, sadly, not my experience when I was struggling with infertility. Nor for my friends who, when dealing with the women’s health space, were repeatedly shamed, dismissed, and denied a voice.

I’ve learned the health system contains the best and worst of human nature. And we need to do better. We need to hold those who mistreat our wahine to account. And we need to reward those who, amid terminally stretched resources, go over and above to provide compassionate, evidence-based care. The recent midwives’ pay rise is a good start.

Finally, I have learned I am more capable than I thought. I’m learning I’m adaptable — things I was once terrified of have become routine and commonplace. I’m getting better at filtering out that which steals my joy. I’m learning to manage my expectations and not sweat the small stuff.

I’m learning to have confidence in myself as a future parent. I mentioned the movie Cool Runnings earlier — and there are times when, just like Junior Bevill, it pays to look in the mirror and tell yourself you see “pride, power, and a bad-ass mother who don’t take no crap off nobody.” I hope, one day, I can help my child do the same.

Parenting will undoubtedly throw up days where we easily cruise towards the gold…and days we crash the bobsled and limp towards the finish. Chances are, we’ll survive. Either way, I’ll be coming back to work with some entertaining editorial ideas.

In a few short weeks, I’ll be meeting my son. For now, at least, the bobsled is still upright and on track.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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