Time to talk about the ups and downs of parenthood
15:14 19 February 2014
It really is good to talk. At first I was glad I was too tired, hormonal, in pain and, ultimately, unable to string a sentence together immediately after my daughter’s birth, because my take on motherhood would have read something like: “Arghhhh.” Closely followed by: “I’ve changed my mind. Please take her back.”
Not quite the ringing endorsement most people, me included, expected.
In truth, even five-and-a-bit months on, there are times when I still feel overwhelmed, but whereas at first it was weeks, then days, then hours of “how do people do this?”, now it’s more a fleeting few minutes when she has woken up for the 500th time in the night or I’ve spent an hour getting her down for a nap and she has woken after 10 minutes (yes, sleep, or the lack of it, is very much a theme). Still, for some reason, the idea of writing down all those dark thoughts almost seemed like a betrayal; not just of my daughter, but of the sanctity of motherhood itself. I knew it would be hard. I expected it.
Maybe it has something to do with the rather traumatic delivery, the horrendous first weeks recovering from a C-section and caring for a newborn. Or perhaps it is the fact that my poor little bear is allergic to cows’ milk protein (a recent diagnosis) which made feeding a nightmare. All things considered, it has been so much worse than I ever dreamed possible. And I still feel like a traitor writing that.
The few warnings I received from friends with children were: “Once you get through the first six weeks things get easier.” Only, for us, they didn’t. Every day they got a little bit worse. Relentlessly so.
But what added to my general trauma was that I didn’t feel I could talk about how hard I was finding things. Having lost two previous pregnancies, it seemed like becoming a mother, especially at the grand old age of 37 with a fresh diagnosis of endometriosis, was looking ever more unlikely.
At that point, I remember reading posts on Facebook from pregnant friends or those with children having a moan about swollen ankles or sleepless nights and thinking: “They don’t know how lucky they are. If I am ever blessed with a child, I will never complain.”
So when I became pregnant again and then had my healthy, beautiful girl, I, for the most part, stuck to that.
At one point I spent an entire week crying at home every morning alone with the baby – who we now know was screaming in pain because her food was upsetting her tummy – distraught that I didn’t seem able to: a) Make her stop crying and b) Cope.
My body was a mess, I was in pain and really wasn’t enjoying something that I had longed for to the point of obsession.
I was worried that if I said anything people would judge me, as I judged them. In my head, I felt that the only feelings I should be showing were feelings of gratitude, and while I was grateful, there were still many days, usually ones that started at 3am, when I could not see how I was going to get through it. And that really didn’t seem like something I was supposed to be saying out loud.
On one of those awful mornings though, red eyed from crying (me and the baby) and zombie-like through lack of sleep, I went to visit a friend who is an experienced mother and somehow it all came pouring out.
Once I had started I couldn’t shut up. And bless her, she made me feel like it was perfectly normal and understandable, given everything we had been through, that I wasn’t enjoying it because, frankly, it wasn’t enjoyable. And that was OK, that was part of being a parent. Since then, I have opened up to more friends and they have all shared different experiences.
Of course, talking about it isn’t going to make her sleep or eat, but it helped me to see that I wasn’t a rotten mum for sometimes being overwhelmed.
I look at my girl now, peacefully asleep on my lap as I type this, and things are sometimes still tough, but when she stares at me with her big blue eyes and smiles or when she makes me laugh by attempting to blow a raspberry, things seem to be evening out.
While some people sail through those early weeks and others have more of a struggle, I think we should talk more about the good and bad as it might just help someone else get through a difficult day.
Are you going through a tough time as a new parent, or do you have survival tips to share? Post your comments below.