It seems like I could begin every post I’ve written in the last couple of years with the words “I haven’t posted in a while. It’s true. I wrote about pregnancy and marked the halfway point and then went silent. Despite the fact that I have hours on hand now, I also kinda don’t really. A lot of parenting is learning how to do everything one-handed and I find words don’t flow as easily through one hand if that makes any sense lol.
Baby A. She’s lovely. Everything about her is perfect. From her cradle-capped head to her funny looking toes. She’s the most perfect person I’ve ever seen.
There are some beautiful elements in motherhood. Just beautiful. The giggles, the intense eye gazes, the tight grip of her tiny fingers on… everything, the angry rolling. Parenting is amazing. I’ve always wanted children and have always been pretty good with them. So I kinda thought I knew what to expect.
But alas, it’s hard. It’s a roller coaster of emotions that are so overwhelming that I just don’t know who I am or how to deal with it. As a social worker, I make my living out of assessing people and situations, and then together determining the best foot forward. It’s something else when you realise that maybe you’re the one that needs assessing. It’s probably been the most unexpected of all the unexpecteds, the fact that you don’t actually know what you’re doing and well… the mental health stuff.
I’ve done a little bit of work in mental health over the last few years and as someone who advocates for dropping the stigma around mental health, it’s still such a struggle for me to admit that there is some postpartum anxiety going on for me. I attend a support group for women with postpartum anxiety & depression. And after spending the last few years learning cognitive behavioural therapy for social work practice – learning in order to support others, it’s strange to be on the receiving end – learning in order to apply to my own situation.
I love my daughter with an intense love like I’ve never felt before but I grieve for what I had before. Being surrounded by people doing what we loved to do – helping people. I miss having this expansive identity: social worker, music lover, foodie, friend, sister, wife, student, wanderer. Since being pregnant, mostly my identity has been wrapped around being mother: nappy changer, reluctant milk producer, laundromat, professional cuddler, rocker (and not in the musical sense – though we did go to a Billy Idol concert at around 35 weeks preggo). Part of my new life is trying to navigate all the new stuff while maintaining the stuff that makes me… well… me.
And then there’s the stuff that other women make look so easy… like breastfeeding. May I just say that breastfeeding actually sucks. I don’t enjoy it. I had many a cry and would shudder every time it was time to feed. But the age old “breast is best” line rings constantly through the ears of many mums (I am no exception). While I’m glad I persevered (mainly coz I’m too cheap to want to pay for formula), the only statement mums really need to hear is “happy mum, happy baby. That is best.”
Anxiety can be pretty hideous. A flurry of ugly and scary thoughts and fears running through your mind and it’s so dark sometimes. I am full of fear… fear that I’m doing this parenting thing wrong, fear that I’m screwing up my daughter’s life, fear that I’m not a good enough wife, a good enough mother, a good enough lover, a good enough friend. I often think back to times when I was fearless and I’d spend entire nights on the street wandering around, I’d walk home from random places during the wee hours of the morning or I’d wander around until 5am when I’d see my dad walking down the street ready to head to work (I can see why my mum told me off now). Now, I just don’t know how to turn it off. Where’s the anxiety switch and where did the anxiety even come from? I guess postnatally, all sorts of things happen with women’s emotions. It’s hormonal, it’s new, it’s a massive life changer, and it’s a time of firsts.
These past few months have been a time of firsts:
First raspberries blown, first roll, first toe suck, first thumb suck, first feed, first taste of apple, first smiles, first giggles, first face touch, first face pinch, first hair pull, the first time they wrap their little hands around your one finger, the first time they squeal during a wiggles song, the first time of many times that you wake up singing wiggles songs…
It is a rough and a beautiful journey and most days (like 98% of the time), I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Other days, I just wanna stay in bed and hide from the world. Lucky for me, I have this wonderful partner who chooses to carry on for both of us on those days I’d rather hide.