Whatever I had chosen to do this weekend, I’d be wracked with guilt. Guilt is a weird word to use because it inherently implies that I’ve done something wrong, something naughty or illegal… which I don’t think I have, but I still feel guilty. Mummy Guilt. This weekend, I’m missing out on my best friend’s hen do.
Before Pickle was born, I was determined that I’d be able to attend. Admittedly, I was nervous – I had no idea how I’d feel about leaving a baby behind and not knowing how easy or difficult I’d find it made me anxious. But I knew I wanted to go. She’s my best friend! Of COURSE I had to go. I wanted to be there to celebrate this huge milestone event. I wanted to drink cocktails and be all embarrassed by dressing up in the typical hen do regalia! How could I miss it? It was such a no brainer that I didn’t even really consider the practicalities thoroughly. I just had the vague idea that I could express my milk and it’d be nice for LPD (Little Pickle’s Dad) to have a whole weekend exclusively with the baby. Easy peasy.
Pickle was born, and bless my best friend, she immediately told me she would completely understand if I couldn’t make her hen do. Because Pickle was two weeks overdue, it meant he’d only be 8 weeks old when the occasion came. I reassured her that one way or another – I’d be there. I could do it. I could be a Mummy and a Best Friend. Surely. Other people could do it, why couldn’t I? Even if I only went for one night. I could, and I would, figure it out. I was secretly hoping I could persuade LPD to come down with Pickle to Brighton for the hen weekend too – we could book our own room in a hotel and I’d be able to enjoy the fun of the hen do, and still have Pickle close.
And then LPD dropped a bomb shell. He had booked himself two days of work over the hen do weekend. He wouldn’t be able to look after Pickle. Great. That was that plan out of the window. (I’ve tried writing something here about how I feel about LPD not being around but I can’t do it without sounded incredibly passive aggressive and bitter… because I am… so I’m just not going to write anything). But no worries, there must be another option, onto the next plan… I started to wonder whether my Mum would fancy a weekend in Brighton with Pickle and I. I felt sure she’d be up for it! I could pay for everything and she’d get a nice little weekend away with the bonus of spending lots of precious time with her lovely new Grandson. She’d be up for that? Right? And if not, I’m sure she’d be happy to have Pickle at home when LPD was working… But I’d forgotten that the weekend clashed with her already booked holiday. That was a no go as well. LPD and my Mum both were totally unavailable.
My options were dramatically reducing. And in all honesty, there isn’t anyone else I’d feel comfortable leaving Pickle with. That’s not a dig at our other family members or friends, it’s just it’s A LOT of responsibility to bestow upon someone else.
It seemed like my decision was made for me. I had no childcare. Coupled with the fact that at the deadline for the hotel room booking, I hadn’t even attempted to express my milk yet and the idea seemed quite a long way off. I kept being told it was best to wait until breastfeeding was ‘well established’ before mixing in expressed feeds and if I was to wait until the 6 week mark (the arbitrary length of time most websites seemed to think was how long it would take for feeding to become ‘established’), it left me VERY little time to build up enough milk reserves for a whole weekend of feeding. Plus, it didn’t leave much time for Pickle to get used to the idea of a bottle – let alone the idea of taking one for the best part of three days.
And then I worried – I worried that EVEN if things went really smoothly and I managed to express enough milk for the whole weekend and Pickle took well to the bottle… what if he never went back to the boob? I know it wouldn’t be the end of the world but I’d worked so hard to get breastfeeding to work, and I didn’t want those days of toe-curling feeds and cracked nipple pain to be overturned so quickly. The likelihood is, Pickle would transition back perfectly fine… but that ‘what if’ was anxiety inducing.
The day I realised I couldn’t go, I cried. Hard. I cried because I felt like a shit friend. I felt trapped. I cried because it was a very real slap-in-the-face reminder that although I may be one-half of a two-person parenting team, I was the one shouldering the VAST majority of the parenting-responsibility. And that responsibility suddenly weighed very heavy. I cried because I didn’t want to have to tell my best friend I’d be missing one of the most special weekends of her life. I cried because I felt guilty. Guilty that I couldn’t attend but also because I knew I’d also feel guilty if I had attended.
I cried because I knew that either way, either decision, I’d be crying.
I’d have cried to leave my baby behind. I’d have cried when ‘pumping and dumping’ my breastmilk over the hen weekend. And I would have definitely had a drunken cry in a nightclub toilet at 2am. I’d have cried because I’d worry he would want me or miss me. And then I’d have cried when he was perfectly fine, knowing he didn’t actually want or need me at all!
There wasn’t ever going to be a way to get through this weekend without crying. All thanks to Mummy Guilt. You’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
It was only last week that I told my friend I couldn’t make it. I think she’d guessed anyway. And that made me feel even worse! Almost like it was inevitable… God, I hope she realises just how important our friendship is to me. Especially over the past year, I literally don’t know how I’d have tackled becoming a parent without her! She’s my trailblazer. My guide. Even if I do hate her just a little bit for setting the parenting bar so ridiculously high! Way to raise the standard, Monty, you bloody Wonder Woman.
So, here I am. Writing this in a rare moment that Pickle is asleep but not on me (hurrah – an occurrence that is happening more and more frequently!), crying, and wishing from afar that my beautiful, glamourous best friend has the most MEMORABLE of weekends. May it be filled with riotous laughter (I KNOW IT WILL!), tequila, high heels and dancing. I hope you’re having too much fun to even notice I’m not there. May this weekend be a celebration like no other, because you deserve every moment of blissful happiness. I hope this weekend kickstarts not only the MAJOR countdown to your magical wedding day, but a long stretch of blissfully happy weekends as a family for many many years to come. Just maybe not as tequila filled… And with different kind of novelty inflatables!
And to Pickle… thank you. Thank you for sleeping long enough for me to write this post (it’s been wonderfully cathartic!). Thank you for a lovely afternoon of sleepy milky cuddles. And thank you for giving me some smiles earlier when I needed them the most.
And finally to LPD: you owe me big time.