(5 May 2017)
When reading articles, overhearing advice or on the receiving end of any pearler of wisdom about motherhood, my typical personal experience has always been that I get to breathe that long overdue and pent up SIGH OF RELIEF. Why? Because aha! I am not the only mother on this planet that (insert situation) thinks/reacts/rolls her eyes/feels this way.
Motherhood is a universal condition. Yes we get to all experience it in various ways, depths and sticky-ness, but it inevitably always comes back to the same question – is it just me or do all mums go through this?
Before I try to enlighten any parent on how I survived a no sleep, battling homesickness, friend-less, constantly-wrangling-with-a-baby-wrap-existence, first some background into me and my mini me before I start.
When I relocated from Melbourne to Wollongong 5 years ago, I had very little understanding of what I was in for. In hindsight, I don’t think it is a particularly good idea for anyone who is planning to be a new mum, to also time it around a monumental shift in your living and lifestyle situation. No matter your age. Unless SUPPORT. Me? Well simply add the following to the mix - throw in some isolation, sprinkle with ½ cup of post-natal depression, another ½ cup of husband away for work alot, 2/3 cup no family support, and some good ole lack of confidence and anxiety as a new mum, and it’s fair to say that a ‘hot mess’ is the least of your worries.
“Is it just me or do all mums go through this?”
This question must have gone through my sleep deprived, foggy head on a continual loop – starting when I came home with my mini me from hospital 3 days after he was born one very hot summers day in January 2012. I feel terrible right now that I cannot correctly recall how many days he was late (8 days I think?), but like most dates, days of the week, world events (and even my own name at times), I have encountered a great deal of both short and long term memory loss post-MOTHERLOAD.
Mini me was not much of a sleeper for well…the first 3 ½ years of his life. I could write an entire volume’s worth right here on a survival guide for parents whose child does not sleep. Hint to the uninitiated – it becomes a matter of survival. I had one particular friend tell me once her baby would sleep soundly for 12 hours straight. I would stare wistfully at her and naturally forget what we were talking about.
Despite the shock to my very existence that my mini me had brought into my life, I was also overwhelmed with my feelings towards this little human. I had been in love before. But whoa.
It was not until around the 3 month mark, that my confidence started to creep up as a new mum. By this, I am referring to that I WOULD LEAVE THE HOUSE.
What got me feeling all human again was sharing my experience with other mothers. I struggled with the high expectations I had placed on myself as a new mum.But as any new mum would know, trying to leave the house to be anywhere on time with a newborn is a challenge.
So I would pack the nappy bag the night before, leave it at the front door and for the first time since my mini me was born, I felt like there was life beyond the puffy, blood-shot red eyes looking back at me in the mirror.
I became a member of a local mum’s group that saved my life. They would meet regularly around someone’s long dining table, and talk about boobs, poo, sleep, boobs, poo, sleep…..and we would eat chocolate biscuits. It was awesome. And even a bit life affirming. I loved these women. Because they were real. And they wanted to be my friend.
My courage started to spark up a bit. So on the days when I didn’t have my chocolate-biccie-eating, poo-talking mum’s group on, I would venture out into Wollongong on my own. My son loved his baby wrap, so he would sleep and I would walk. And walk. Sometimes I would sit on a park bench in the sun, and we would close our eyes together. It was during one of these solo outings that a lovely grandmother approached me and told me about a local playgroup that meet once a week. I went to that playgroup for 3 years and formed friendships that I now have for life.
I loved the buzz I would get from going to bed in the evening knowing that me and mini me had somewhere to be the next day. And that it would involve friendship, a cup of coffee and me feeling like I would be ok.
For those women who talked me through how I was feeling, how I felt I wasn’t coping, that I felt I sucked as a mum, and then reminded me why I didn’t - you know who you are. And thankyou from the bottom of my heart. Always.
I am so very proud of how far I have come. Some of us don’t take to motherhood like ducks to water. Most of us flail about, trying not to drown in the undertow of strangers’ stares, ill-conceived advice from family, marital problems, unfair judgment and our own expectations. As if life is not hard enough.
One thing I have learned from a very dark period of my life that eventually started to feel like spring again is this – as the mother to your child, you are enough. There were many times when I felt life was committing a fairly heavy armed assault against me – one that I would often struggle to recover from. Putting one foot in front of the other helped. To keep going, helped. Even now, as I write this article, it helps. Looking back, helps. And chocolate biscuits at mother’s groups have got to be the best damn idea ever. They helped too.
And I finally get to answer my very own question - “Is it just me or do all mums go through this?”
Yes. And Yes.
(Author: Katelyn Jane Copywriting. 5 May 2017)