Before my children were born, I lived in a world of ignorant bliss. My idealistic views of Motherhood stemmed from American Soap Operas and Chick Flicks. They were, in truth, Disney influenced.
That’s why, when my children were born, I suffered so badly with guilt. As a new Mam, I’d no idea of the trials and tribulations each day would hold. My visions were cloud lined with images of me cradling my newborn, cheesy grinning, prancing abound my living room like Mary Poppins. It wasn’t that I expected it to be easy, it was how the Media had led me to believe.
I expected that my son, Tristan, would be placed in my arms and I’d cry with happiness. That I’d scoop him up in a loving embrace and declare to the rest of the world ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’. I expected that when he cried, I’d know instinctively what he wanted and how to handle him. I expected him to latch to my breast harmonious and feed like he’d been waiting for me forever. Only now, a full year on, am I ready to speak the truth.
Tristan’s birth had been slightly traumatic. I pushed for hours upon end without any medication. I’d been allowed to continue pushing because his heart rate had not faltered, he was not feeling the same distress as I. However, it became apparent that something wasn’t right. Tristan was lying on an angle that would prohibit him from coming naturally. I was taken to theatre and given a spinal block in preparation for an emergency C-Section if his heart rate plummeted whilst moving him. In the end, no C-Section was required but I was left paralysed from the armpits down.
As I lay exhausted and convulsing from the medication, the midwife cleaned Tristan up then rested him on my chest. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. The moment where I was meant to kiss his blood stained head and cry. Instead, I froze. ‘Somebody take him’ I sobbed. I didn’t have the confidence. I was tired and didn’t have control of my arms. How would I protect him if he rolled?
So there it was, the most important moment in my life and I was already a failure. But was I? The dream is, and always has been, that you’ll look dotingly into your baby’s eyes and immediately bond. I loved my son immediately, intensively but I didn’t bond with him as quickly as I’d hoped. I remember being scared of him, thinking that I wasn’t what he wanted, thinking that he didn’t like me (I know, ridiculous right?) However, many mothers feel this way. Many new mothers have experiences like myself. This doesn’t seem to stop us lying through our teeth and saying aloud what society wants us to say. We all contribute to the Media’s representation of immediate Motherhood.
So what else do we lie about? I remember being asked a million times whether my son was ‘good’. ‘Oh he’s a dream’ I’d state ‘he’s just the best baby EVER’. What I meant was ‘he cries…all the time. I don’t know what I’m doing. If he’s good then it’s definitely me that’s bad. Oh god, I must be rubbish’. I remember one awkward moment with my male next door neighbour who dared ask me this question on the wrong day at the wrong time. He got my honest response. ‘Welcome to parenthood’ he declared. ‘We all felt that way to begin’. This was a revelation. If we all feel this way, why don’t we say it?
The guilt I felt in the 1st few months will never leave me. There’ll always be a part of me that feels massively ashamed. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to soothe my crying baby within milliseconds. I felt guilty that I didn’t know how to read his mind. I felt guilty that I struggled to wake four times a night for feeds. I felt guilty that I wanted to cry so much. I felt guilty for feeling so scared. I felt guilty that I no longer had time to listen to my husband. I felt guilty for giving birth when I so clearly wasn’t equipt. I felt guilty because sometimes I found it hard to smile. I felt guilty because I was, so clearly, a million miles away from the Mary Poppins Mother I’d dreamt of being. On the whole, I felt guilty because I was the only one feeling like this. I looked at other mothers, I saw the way the beamed and glowed. I felt low and anxious that I’d never be like them. I looked at other mothers and saw the way the looked at me. I immediately believed that they’d guessed my secret, they knew how utterly weak I was.
With my second child, I vowed that I’d do things
completely differently. I wanted, because I knew the score by now, to be in control. When she arrived 9 weeks early, I was thrust into a new turmoil. Yet again, I missed my movie moment of feeling her against my chest (I had her for 30 seconds and we did cry this time, through joy that she was breathing). I thought that when she came home, I’d take over from the NICU nurses and be exactly what she wanted/needed. Yet again, I found myself pacing the floor at times unable to satisfy her and doubting myself.
It took me three weeks to fully adjust to Motherhood. That was, three weeks of making myself Ill with torture. Don’t get me wrong, and I know you’ll understand me, I LOVED my babies. I loved them so much that my heart would literally beat outside of my chest. The worry and anxiety I felt was all BECAUSE I loved them more that I’d ever known possible. The pressure I put on myself was all because I wanted to be the very best for them. It took me three weeks to learn that these feelings were normal, that many new mothers feel exactly that same as I did. It’s taken me a full year to say this out loud. And even now, I know there’ll be some who judge me. Some who will never understand because they never felt that way. I envy them but only for their ‘perfect’ transition. A full year on and I’m confident in my abilities. I hold my head high (even throughout the tantrums) and KNOW that I’m good. My children are happy, they’re blessed with a loving home. Their laughter and smiles reassure me that I’m on track and…eventually…I can say ‘it’s okay, I’ve got this’.