I want to tell you the tale of a first time mother. She had read many books in preparation, to help her become the mother she always hoped to be. A calm, centred mother who took the challenges of parenthood in her stride – who rolled with the sleepless nights, the changes to her body, the changes to her life – with complete ease.
What she wasn’t prepared for was how hard it would be. The tears she would cry. How bowled over she would be at the mammoth task she now had, no matter how much she loved her baby. She wanted to do everything so right – from the breastfeeding and the comforting to the rigid sleep routines. But nothing really seemed to go to plan at all.
Her husband would come home to find her many times, overwhelmed and distraught. She would tell him she felt like she couldn’t cope – that she wasn’t being the mum she had wanted to be. She felt tired. So very tired. They would argue that she had changed – that she wasn’t the happy go lucky person she used to be. That she snapped too much and let the little things that once passed her by, now push her to the edge. Small tasks like going out for coffee seemed at times too stressful with a little one in tow.
She started to feel anxious about having to disrupt the small semblance of a routine that her baby was showing. Sometimes it felt easier to just stay in. She felt stressed if nap times did not go to plan – if feeds did not happen on the button. She felt helpless if the nights were disrupted – constantly asking herself why this was not working out the way the books said it should. She felt down about her body, how much softer and bigger it had become – weighing herself constantly in the hope the old numbers would one day return.
Above all, she loved her baby more than anything in the world. She just wanted to do everything right. In fact, she was an excellent mother. She just didn’t believe it. She needed a little more help, but she was sometimes afraid to ask. She thought she was supposed to be coping better. Somewhere inside, she knew this wasn’t how it was supposed to be. And she was right.
I’m telling you this tale because this mother was me.
And I don’t want you to feel the same.
It’s not a tale made up to scare first time mummies into thinking life is about to get really hard. Quite the opposite in fact! It’s a tale that highlights that the only really scary thing is the amount of pressure we put on ourselves to be perfect. I know this because this is exactly what I did, and I’m learning from it all the second time around.
If I could sit and have a coffee with every new mummy out there, I’d love to tell you not to worry as much as I did. To talk to someone if you feel like everything is getting on top of you. To ask for help if you feel like something inside just doesn’t add up.
I look at my daughter now – a perfectly normal 3 year old who frustrates the heck out of me at times and knows exactly how to push my buttons! She’s happy. So very happy! (When she’s not having a tantrum over which shoes to wear) So, I know I did everything pretty right. I just didn’t think so at the time.
I look at my son now too, the smiles, the chuckles – nearly 5 months in. He’s a happy boy. Granted, not a great sleeper – he’s a 4am wide-awake type of baby that will leave you clutching for your coffee in the morning. Yes, I still get stressed. Sometimes very stressed. (Ask the husband.) But I’m cutting myself a lot more slack these days! And I know to look for the signs of feeling overwhelmed this time and take a step back if it all gets too much.
Without wanting to sound like a veteran mother (believe me, I’m far from that!) – I’m much more accepting now of the fact that things are constantly changing. I try to remind myself that it’s better to roll with the chaos than let it roll me over. To accept that the play dough is going to get mashed together in one messy multi-coloured lump!
Yes, motherhood is a real gift. But it is bloody hard work, let’s not lie! It’s a constant work in progress, a constant learning curve. And these little people are teaching me far more than I’ve ever learned in my life about patience, acceptance, love and presence – on a daily basis. So, heck – cheers to that! (*Raises nice glass of red.)
So let’s get together over stories of smiles and sleepless nights. Because the great thing is – you’re never alone. We’re all sailing this crazy ship together!
“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colours of a rainbow.”