I am so fortunate to have a son who is a calm, contented boy most of the time. In the early months when I was readmitted then back and fore to the hospital every other day he was utterly portable, slept through everything and settled into a routine you could set your watch by. He fed, played and slept easily. I climbed inside my baby bubble and only as he reached six months and everything started to change with teething, weaning and his mobility did I start to come to terms with what happened but not before I hit a brick wall, a barrier that I feel becomes an obstacle for many women as I don’t think my experience is the worst or unique.
I believe it takes about six months for a new Mother to start to really get a handle on who she is now, to accept just how fundamentally she is changed, both physically, emotionally and spiritually. To adjust to the myriad of changes in her perception of everything she felt was important before. To contemplate the awesome power of creativity to bring forth new life but also facing, often at close quarters, the fragility of life and the knowledge that all can be lost in a moment. To navigate the change in how others view and relate to her. I have only just begun to truly comprehend that there is no ‘me’ now, only ‘us’. The wall I hit was a mixture of hormonal shift, existential crisis, and feeling the weight of the huge responsibility trying to be a good parent really is. Everything has changed and despite knowing that would happen it isn’t possible, even for the most prepared to really appreciate how overwhelming that will feel. It is no coincidence that many cases of post natal depression are diagnosed around six months post birth. A new Mother will either begin to adjust, accept and cope with what has and is happening or will be engulfed and overwhelmed by it.
I have begun to mourn the loss of the Mother I hoped I would be. I hoped to enjoy my pregnancy, it will be my one and only bash at it! I dreamed of a hypno-birth, delivering my child naturally, being the first to place a hand on him and welcome him into the world with my husband cutting the cord to separate us yet bind us all, surrounded by soft light and atmospheric music. I intended to exclusively breast-feed, nurturing my baby and healing my body as we recovered together. I wanted him to sleep next to us for several months, to watch over him, know his breath, gaze at him as he dozed. I planned to wear him against my body in a wrap, to carry him with me soothing him with my movement, with my heartbeat, to keep him close. I intended to take him swimming, to yoga to attend Mum & Baby groups, walk everywhere and show him everything. I hoped I’d be as patient with him and with myself as I have been in my previous maternal roles. I hoped that I would feel an immediate bond with him that didn’t frighten me.
I keep telling myself it doesn’t matter how he arrived; he’s here! It doesn’t matter that I have found it boring at times as he is so settled and contented, I consider myself lucky to sleep through every night. It doesn’t matter that sometimes I get annoyed that he wants to smear the mushy food I have lovingly prepared across his face and in his eyes making himself upset and sore, become exasperated when he wriggles free as I change yet another nappy, despair at having to get us both changed, again, when we’re already running late to go out. It doesn’t matter that I used to drive a zippy sports car and now I drive an automatic people carrier. It doesn’t matter that I don’t over-stimulate him with exciting experiences every moment he’s awake. It doesn’t matter that I actually like the routine I have for the first time in my life when I was so carefree and selfish before. It doesn’t matter that sometimes I simply weep as the throb of love in my chest feels like it will break me in two. It doesn’t matter that I have to switch off the news or stop reading about child cruelty or injustice now when I could read horrific case studies before. It doesn’t matter that my belly is still numb, it was never pretty. It doesn’t matter that we don’t go out every day and sometimes stay in our pyjamas until Daddy gets home. I am not the Mother I thought I’d be but that’s ok, I’m ‘good enough’ and that is all he needs and all I should really aspire to be.