Wow it has been a long long time since I opened up my computer for the simple pleasure of writing. Let's just say that spare time is a hot commodity for me these days and a LOT of it has been spent resting. My baby turned one recently and I can't help but reflect back on this past year, especially as 2018 comes to a close.
These past 365 days have been some of the most difficult, and the most joyful times of my life so far. I have absolutely loved watching my little monkey grow. What has surprised me the most is how my love for her grows that little bit more with each passing day. I feel a huge sense a pride and I find myself often just watching her with admiration when she plays on her own or interacts with others. It's all terrifying and breathtakingly beautiful all at the same time. But here's the thing, life isn't a straight line. It's a bumpy road, with highs and lows, and this past year for me has definitely not been all rosy. As always, I promise to be honest and raw in my writing so here goes.
Let's start from the beginning...
The first few weeks after giving birth are a bit of a blur to me, but there are definitely some moments that are crystal clear. I remember the joy of meeting my baby girl, and after an incredibly long and arduous labour, how much of a relief it was to finally have her in my arms. I remember her latch on my breast for the first time and how incredible it felt.
Now here's what I also remember. Tears, a lot of tears in those first few weeks. Tears from physical pain, tears from exhaustion, tears from feeling lost, tears from feeling completely and utterly overwhelmed. Lots of tears. I think you get the point. The first time it all came out was a few days in when my milk came in. One word. Engorgement. And another word. Excruciating. I have always thought of myself as having a pretty high physical pain threshold but this was brutal. Coupled with pain down under (hello infection), lack of sleep and of course hormones flying all over the place, I couldn't help but cry; and not the quiet, cute sobbing kind of cry. Nope. I'm talking about that loud, unattractive blubbering kind of cry.
There were a few moments I really struggled. Feeding baby for hours on end in the middle of the night... Desperately rocking a crying overtired baby to sleep for what seemed like hours... Just to name a couple...
I could not understand what was going on inside of me. My emotions were all over the place and had taken a life of their own. In those moments, I wasn't able to pause or step away from the situation as I usually was able to. I couldn't make sense of anything and I felt pretty lost. Luckily my support system, mostly composing of my husband and sister were there and they helped me through some of those more difficult times. Oh yes and of course my breath, nature and walking helped too...
That was my reality. And every time I cried, or felt sad or complained to a loved one, I remember noticing (and still do) that little demon inside of me: Shame, Guilt or whatever you want to call it and it would say "Shame on you. Be grateful". And to that I would quickly shut it down with a big "F*** you". None of my sadness or cries took anything away from the immense gratitude I felt and the unconditional crazy love I had for this gorgeous perfect little miracle.
“It’s the weirdest thing being incredibly happy, terribly tired, extremely confused about life and immensely grateful at the same time”
I do think that the reason mums hide how they feel is because of this shame or guilt. I don't think that our society understands it yet. The more we continue to just show the picture perfect side of childbirth and having a baby, then the further away we are moving from supporting our women.
It's ok not to understand mental health issues. Growing up, I never did. But here's one way I think we can all support each other. TALK. Talk to each other. And when you ask someone the good old "How are you?", then mean it and listen. Enough of the meaningless small talk, it's gotten us nowhere. And if someone trusts you enough to confide in you that they suffer from anxiety, or depression, or sadness they can't quite understand, then just listen. And for the rescuers amongst you: just be there for them. Get out of your problem solving and rescue mode. One thing that I have learnt in the last few years is that when you try to rescue someone, you take away their power. You take away the power they have within them to heal themselves. I know your intentions are good, but trust me on this one: for now, just be there.
I've talked your ear off enough now so to finish, here are a few words from me to all of you: Everything you are feeling is ok. You are NOT alone. You are worthy. You are loved. You are enough. You are more than enough. Just breathe and trust. All is as it's meant to be.