They tell you that when you have a child you will know what love really is, that the love you feel is like no other, it just hits you, takes full control and nothing else in your world will ever matter again. Whilst I don’t whole-heartedly disagree with this statement, I do believe it piles a heap of pressure on, what is already a very fragile ledge. Yes sure little man is adorable, my mothering instinct is on high and I would throw myself down in an instant to protect him and all he stands for. But those words leave very big shoes to fill and have the power to make you feel completely inadequate!
Firstly I want to make it clear that I love my little man deeply and that I have never had any feelings of resentment towards him. That is not supposed to make others feel bad, if you have failed to bond with your baby then mama you are not alone and it is not abnormal, do not feel ashamed. What follows is my personal experience with entering motherhood and how I felt when the front door closed and I was left alone to begin shaping my new life as a mother.
I believe my mental state was heavily linked to my physical state and if honest, I find it a wonder that I did not struggle with bonding at all. Perhaps that due to breastfeeding, perhaps not. However I spent a good two months if not longer in a haze not really knowing what was going on, what I was feeling, thinking or doing. The only real experience I had in this time was pain. Looking back now, I am regretful and feel like I actually missed out on so many special moments that I should have enjoyed. There were days I was more present in the moment and there were days where I was present only in my head. On those days I would experience a torrent of emotions and worries, about the baby, about my body and about my ability to be a good mother and provide for the little man who someone thought I was responsible enough to have in my charge.
Everybody’s always interested in the little man, how is he doing, is he getting enough milk, is he sleeping, and is he too hot or too cold. Plenty of people also showed concern over my physical state, but no one really asked about my mental or emotional state. Sure I got asked, “How are you feeling?” but in light of what I had undergone, it was always in reference to my physical injuries and pain. I never felt there as away to express to anyone what was really going on it side. Of course I am overjoyed at being a mother, I am happy and there is something about that post birth after glow that no amount of make up will ever recreate which I loved, however in my mind mixed with all these happy loving emotions were other not to nice emotions that I just could get a grasp of, Externally I radiated love and happiness, but when I got home and was alone, I would cry uncontrollable. It was like these emotions waited until I was alone and unprotected to start beating me down and kicking at me relentlessly over and over again beating me down.
So many times people have told me “motherhood suits you” and “wow your amazing, you really have your shit together” and that was lovely, but at home I would be frantically googling why baby was going this or that, why I was suffering with this or that and looking for anyone out there that I may be able to relate too. In short I felt like a complete fraudster accepting those compliments no matter how nice they made me feel.
My mother was deeply concerned about postnatal depression and watched me like a hawk, setting clear instructions for my husband on what to look out for. However I don’t to this day thing that I suffered from PND in the slightest. Yet I was worried this haze I appeared to be in could wind up being the path to it, so I knew I had to act and do something about it before the bad feelings overtook the good altogether.
After a little Internet research and working through an action plan of baby steps for me to take, these are the things that helped me get through these moments:
• Sharing my feelings. Even though not many want to know, I use my mother and my husband as a sounding board. I tell them they didn’t need to do anything, they just need to listen and I vent.
• Get out and meet with other mum’s, talk to friends who are mums and build a network of others who are going through the same stage of life as me. They may not be in my position but they can relate and they get you.
• Make time for myself. Sometimes this is just 5 minutes. Sometimes it’s a few hours and if I am really lucky once every few months I might get a day! But I also make the most of that time doing things for me, things I love and things that I used to do before baby. The last thing I want to be doing is catching up on the chores as this will only lead to more resentment. They can wait.
• Took back control of my diet and exercise. Just getting outside, even with baby in tow really does help blow the cobwebs away and lets you clear your mind. Half hour pounding the street and I come back with a whole new outlook and motivated to tackle even the toughest of jobs. Equally feeding my body correctly has boosted my energy and makes me feel better inside, when you’re not tired and sluggish it makes things a lot easy to handle
• Delegate tasks to others; husband, family, friends they all get roped in to help me do what needs to get done and share the workload. After all they say it takes a village to raise a baby.
Once I starting making these habits, I could see just how overjoyed I am at being a mother, I feel it is one of my proudest achievements. I thoroughly enjoy the challenges it throws me on a day-to-day basis, but I am tired, bone tired and exhausted mentally all at the same time. Sometimes I find myself looking for any excuse to have just 5 minutes to myself and longing for someone to come and take over so I could have just 24 hours not being a mum. However this is a natural part of the motherhood journey and I have not found one mother how would disagree.
Now 10 months into being a mother I find I have encountered and overcome many more challenges, the latest being little man is mobile and that takes exhaustion to a whole other level. However having put these things into practice I now feel more able to cope and I am finding transferring this mind-set into the next stage has helped me adjust. I also add the words “for now” to everything when I think or feel it, that way I remind myself this is only temporary and we will get through it. Baby won’t sit still, “for now”, the night feed are still ongoing “for now”. And you can see instantly that with one small adjustment to how you view or say things, it makes it all seem a bit better.
Stay strong if you find yourself in this place, it will get better, it is only temporary and there are hundreds of new mothers out there questioning themselves just the same way you are. We are not alone; we are not crazy, quite simply we are mothers.