‘How are you finding motherhood?’ People would ask shortly after the arrival of my first baby.
‘So great,’ I lied, fighting back the tears. ‘Best thing ever.’
The truth is, I felt like crap.
But I had seen the smiling new mums on Facebook and Instagram holding tiny babies in their arms. I had read the glossy parenting magazines. I knew how I should be feeling. I should be glowing with happiness at the arrival of a beautiful, healthy child. So why wasn’t I?
When we had visitors, I reluctantly showered and dressed, put on my make up and pretended to be loving this mothering stuff.
I gave everyone what they expected. I shouldn’t have done.
By not being honest I was only helping to reinforce the lie that new baby equals instant joy. The very lie that had made me feel terrible in the first place.
I should have told the truth. “I have STITCHES. I am bleeding. I am sore. I am uncomfortable. I am exhausted. My baby will not let me put her down. EVER. She sometimes cries and I have no idea why. I have sick in my hair. I need a shower. I need some sleep. How can it even be legal to look after a tiny baby on NO bloody sleep?
“I am not cut out for this. I am terrified. Quite frankly, motherhood is a bit of a dick.”
Life with a newborn was not the joyful experience I had expected. I was anxious, tired and even when my baby did actually sleep, I couldn’t sleep. I cried a lot. I was petrified by the idea that if this didn’t work out, there was no going back to my old life. This was IT. Forever. And so far this– was so hard.
I was ashamed. I felt guilty. I had a healthy, happy baby. Why wasn’t I skipping around the house like Mary Poppins?
I used to be organised and confident. Now I was drowning in mess and chaos and constantly doubting myself. I felt as thought I was swimming against the tide trying desperately to keep my head above water.
I hated myself for wasting this precious time with my young baby. Time I would not get back. Days passed, then weeks, then months. I wished that I could press pause. I needed time to breathe and to hear my own thoughts. I needed space to get my head around this parenting gig. I was a mother now, I was meant to be cherishing the hell out of all of this. Where was all the fucking joy?
The thing is, I may have been a new mother but I was also a human.
Take the baby out of the equation.
You are a normal human person who has come out of hospital after a major procedure. You are exhausted and in pain.
You are dealing with a MAJOR change in your life. You have started a new job. A job you have NO experience in. A demanding job which requires you to work 24 hour shifts with NO breaks. Finally, despite the fact you are mainly covered in vomit and deprived of sleep – you must be HAPPY BECAUSE YOU ARE BLESSED.
You are also experiencing emotions you have never experienced before. You are tired, raw and overwhelmed by love, fear, guilt and loss.
Heavy stuff! But hey, SMILE for the camera?
Bringing a child into the world for the first time is massive. Nothing will ever be the same again. It is physically and emotionally draining. Feeling happy, sad, scared or anxious are all perfectly acceptable human reactions to such a huge event. We are all different. There is no normal way to feel.
If you feel a bit crap, that is ok.
If you think ‘what the hell have I done?’ that is ok.
If you cannot stop smiling with joy that is ok.
If you have postnatal depression , one in ten women do (I had it ) It’s not unusual and it’s not your fault.
So be yourself. Be human.
Home-Start, a charity that helps families in need, released a study that reveals 6 in 10 parents feel pressure from social media to be the ‘perfect parent’. Of those polled, 51% said that fears of being seen as a bad parent would stop them asking for help. This is why sharing our Real Life Parenting experiences is vital for the mental health and wellbeing of new and young parents who set unrealistic expectation for themselves based on images they see on social media.
It has been eight years (how did that happen!?) since I became a mum and thankfully, things did get easier.
Once I stopped worrying about how I should feel or how I should be, I found my own way. I accepted that motherhood wasn’t all rainbows and lemonade but that was OK. Once I got the support I needed from Home-Start, family and my local health services, I found the joy.
I wrote more on this in my book Sleep Is For The Weak: How To Survive When Your Baby Won’t Go The F**K To sleep.
Available at Amazon and from actual book shops.