I’ve spent the morning chatting with two of my friends about the ups and downs of motherhood… and it touched me so much it brought me to tears. The tears come from the sadness in knowing that so many stories are similar to mine.
I couldn’t wait to become a mum, and I had no doubt that it was for me! So much so that we started our family young, I got married at 21 and I had my first daughter at 22.
Pregnancy was pretty easy and I just cruised through with the thought that everything would work out. I did all the usual planning, tested out every pram known to man, spent ages selecting the perfect items for her nursery and went to the hospital birthing classes….
When I went into labour my world came crashing down, this was the first time that I had realised I was not prepared at all… I had a posterior labour but expected to have a natural birth, yet had done no preparation. You can imagine how well that ended, can’t you? Let’s just say I did not have the natural birth I wanted and was left feeling vulnerable, violated and like all my dignity had been stripped from me. I had no support, I had no one to mother me as the mother…
This pretty much set the tone for the rest of my early days as a new mum. I am actually struggling to find the words to describe it – the only thing that comes to mind is numb. I just remember counting down the weeks and setting myself milestones
“everything will be ok if I can get to 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks”
But it wasn’t ok, and I had no idea that not everyone felt like this. I thought maybe the newborn phase was just hard, but I then realised it only kept getting harder.
My physical body took months and months, I would even go as far as to say years to heal… and my mind was no different.
I now know that through my traumatic birth my body probably didn’t produce the oxytocin it would have if I’d had a better experience – which affected my ability to bond and connect and do all the things expected of me as a mother! Instead I was in constant state of anxiety, this is because on the other side of the love hormones are the stress hormones. I was on high alert so much so that it affected every part of my daily life and I couldn’t cope.
I knew I was at risk of PND and sure people ask how you are, but I got used to putting on a smile and saying I was fine because I felt shame and guilt for the way I was feeling. I actually don’t remember staring adoringly down at my baby which I am having a hard time writing… feeling the shame as I type. That’s not to say I didn’t have those moments at all but it’s not something that has stuck in my memory.
And the more I put on a brave face the more I spiralled, into my own head, into the darkness. And then people eventually stop asking how you are. Or they tell you it’s just a phase and that motherhood is hard. But deep down I knew it wasn’t a phase, that this had become my new reality.
As time passed and I moved out of the newborn mum “phase” I found the services that were once available to me no longer were as accessible and I wasn’t brave enough to put my hand up and say something was wrong. I couldn’t afford the high price for a psychologist anyway!
I had this misconception that as a mother you just had to give birth and then get on with your life. All I had really thought about was how much fun we’d have as a family and how cute my baby would be… I didn’t really give my mental health or my mindset a second thought.
I was not ready for how much would change, even though it sounds so silly to say now!
I’d lost all sense of self. Being so young I didn’t know who I was before hand, and I sure as hell didn’t know now. I didn’t fit the mum stereotype no matter how hard I tried (hello mum bob) and most of the mums in my mothers group were at least 10 years older than me, and seemed to have their shit together…. and here I was living at home with my parents.
With my second two babies I DO remember the loving moments, the moment they were both born looking down at them and just crying, rocking them to sleep and hoping that they would stay this little forever! I had come to terms with the fact that most babies don’t like to sleep in their cots on their own and I embraced the night feeds and the prolonged snuggles. And I thought “wow, this is how it’s meant to be”
But what went wrong the first time?
Unrealistic expectations, a lack of support and a traumatic birth experience… set me up for failure.
There was no fourth trimester, no nurturing the mother and definitely no mother tribe.
The experience wasn’t all bad… it ignited a flame in me to support other mums postpartum so that no one has to feel the same way I felt.
When you think about your postpartum experience, do you feel a sense of sadness or even grief? Do you ever wonder how things could have been different… happier, more peaceful and empowering?
Maybe you wish it could be different, even now, wondering how it could be somehow better. Wondering if that’s even possible? Or if you just have to suck it up and deal with it how it is!
because from what I have experienced with my three children, and from studying and gaining a professional understanding of this exact thing… I can tell you it certainly doesn’t have to be that way.
But, we all need support, we all DESERVE support. Asking for and receiving support could be the exact thing that changes your experience from something you just have ‘cope with’ to something you thrive in.
If you’re ready to gain a new perspective, a new support network and a new way of living I invite you to join us for Melt into Motherhood.. because if nothing changes, nothing changes.