I had this really weird day back in October 2014 when I found out I was going to have a baby and that weird day pretty much lasted for two years. It’s ok; this post isn’t going to be alllll about Mumlife and the trials and tribulations of pregnancy, I promise. But it is Mother’s Day in the UK today so it made sense for me to touch on how motherhood has changed me as a tabletop gamer and where I’m at with it nearly two years later.
One of my fears toward the end of my pregnancy was ‘everything is going to change and I won’t be able to play games anymore’. It might sound a bit silly, but it was a legitimate concern. Tabletop gaming has pretty much been my sole hobby for the past few years and when you’re a new parent and don’t know what to expect you seek out (and are told whether you like it or not) so much information about parenthood, and most of it makes your blood run cold. I just thought my life was going to be permanent exhaustion, zero free time and a non-functioning game-brain for years to come. And well I was right in some respects. Kind of. Let me continue….
Up until the day before I had my C-section and Gwen said hello to the world I played board games. Being pregnant didn’t stop me enjoying myself but it was a massive pain in the arse. I was often very uncomfortable, especially during long games. I cried over anything and everything, from dropping a card on the floor for what seemed like the 100th time and being unable to pick it up without a gargantuan effort, to accidentally spilling a drink over Doomtown: Reloaded because I was just so ungainly. Sometimes it was simply just because my whole body was hurting and I’d had enough or ‘I really want to finish this game but I physically cannot sit here any longer’. I didn’t particularly like being pregnant. I didn’t enjoy the experience. The main issue was the perpetual state of fear I existed in, and when complications started to arise I was just fully terrified.
Now this is all based on my personal experience and I’m not deterring anyone from being a parent, honestly. Because of course it has many wonderful aspects. I wish I could go back and tell post-pregnancy-me not to expect too much from myself. Don’t listen to everyone else religiously but it’s ok to let other people help. And it’s ok not to get it right and be perfect. It didn’t click into place for me right away, it didn’t feel as natural as it should have and much of this relates to my post-pregnancy health issues. All I can tell you is that for 6 months post- pregnancy I really didn’t think about games at all. All I cared about what making sure Gwen was healthy and that I was getting some sleep. Nothing else seemed to matter. It was only in December 2015 when I received board games as Christmas presents that I felt like I could even dare to start thinking about it again. But this is completely, 100%, a personal thing. I’ve seen photos of people playing games, holding their very newborn babies etc. and I think ‘wow, that’s amazing’. Because I just couldn’t do it, I just couldn’t focus on anything but Gwen and making it through each day. But what I had to hold on to and I still do when things seem hard, is that it’s a temporary state. There are so many stages and they pass so quickly, and you always wish you could go back and just enjoy them more.
I think once I felt just a little bit better and more like myself and I could start to consider gaming again I just haven’t looked back since. It’s like anything, sometimes the thought of it is scarier. Maybe that’s an anxiety thing, ‘what if the baby wakes up half way through the game? Well…maybe we just shouldn’t play then…’ but you just have to try to get out of that mindset and do it because of course that scenario has happened, a countless number of times, and it really doesn’t matter a bit.
I couldn’t play many new games for a while after having Gwen. When she was around 3 months old I went to a family gathering and was offered a game of Forbidden Stars, and I’d been looking forward to trying it. Unfortunately due to being exhausted, not being present through the majority of the rules explanation (for a reason I can’t remember but it was definitely baby related) and then having her in my arms for the rest of the game, I consequently really had no idea what was going on or what I was doing, couldn’t handle the components with ease and I really didn’t enjoy it at all. The thought of Forbidden Stars still makes me shudder. So yes, new baby+new games was a no-no for me.
I can say with absolute honesty that even though raising a child is hard work, it’s mainly the sleep deprivation that makes it harder. I genuinely believe that you can do anything you put your mind to, but everything is a million times harder when you’re functioning on a few hours sleep. I was told by a few people at several points last year that it does get easier, but you will always been tired, and I thought ‘there is no f***ing way I can live like this’ but I can now say that is so true. The sleepless nights have ended, but I am still tired. Things can be very draining, and to a degree it just does become your permanent state. But the point is you just don’t let it beat you and you fight passed it.
So Mother’s Day got me thinking about motherhood and all it entails, and how it’s changed me. I had a random conversation with a stranger when I was working in a shop last year, for some reason I felt compelled to tell my life story to this person. Some people just have that ability to help you open up, and I think I have that ability too, I’m usually a person people feel they can talk to. She told me that she believed it takes about two years to get over a pregnancy and I think she was right. It took two years for me to feel any level of confidence over being a parent, to feel like I could wear the kind of clothes and style I always have without feeling like an idiot. Two years to feel like I can function in society again and two years to claw back parts of myself I lost to pre and post pregnancy anxiety and sleep deprivation. It probably sounds like I’m complaining a lot; and to an extent I am (can’t break the habit of a lifetime) but I love being a Mum to Gwen, I wish I could convince my whole self I’m doing a good job, when a small percentage of my brain knows I am, but silly monster brain tells me I’m s**t. I wish I could give myself more credit. My daughter is amazing, intelligent, sweet and good-natured and I’ve been the main person to nurture her. I’m so proud of myself that even though I didn’t spring back to being a career woman right away, and still haven’t, that even though I didn’t become a domestic goddess (and still haven’t) I grafted to do something I wanted in my spare time, which for me was to continue to play games, grow my blog, start a YouTube channel and create stuff. I’m fiercely protective over what I do, because it’s the only thing that’s reminded me I am a separate entity from Gwen and I’m still my own person but also because I grafted at it through anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation and getting to grips with motherhood, so if I feel anyone belittles that, whether it’s nicking my material without asking me, or making me feel like what I’m doing isn’t worth anything if it’s not financially gaining anything, well let’s just say I get irked.
I’m going to end this on a sweet note- one of Gwen’s nicknames actually came from Vlaada Chavtil’s Dungeon Petz. Because everyone referred her to as ‘Gwen-Gwen’, I rhymed that with ‘Dungeon Penguin’ in reference to ‘Dunguin’ the one eyed cave dweller from Dugeon Petz. So since Gwen was about 3 days old until this very day, I pretty much sing ‘Little Miss Gwen-Gwen, Dungeon Penguin…’ at least five times a day. It’s my ode to being a board gaming mummy. I’ll look forward to explaining that to her when she’s older.
Well, happy Mother’s Day from me, and generally ‘good f***ing job to everyone who is or has been a parent’. As an aside- to anyone who is pregnant, or a new parent or is having issues with mental health, please do say hello to me. I’d be happy to listen, be a sounding board and give any advice if asked, I always say this, but i’m not as scary as I sound, I’m a total dork and a nice, caring person- it’s only when people abuse that I turn into a harpy from hell!
Thanks for reading and bearing with me whilst I’ve been getting my arse into gear, and I’m working on some actual board game content as we speak! Have a great week everyone.