You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

You Do You. Losing and Regaining Your Identity

Have you ever got to a point in life where you thought, what happened to me? Some major event occurred in your life and what was important at that time shifted. Like a huge universal shift. This happened to me. And I know this happens to most parents, or anyone going through huge changes.

Before this version of me I was the partygoing, wild and crazy person. I was a “woo” girl. I still knew how to prioritise, budget and act like an adult, but high on my list of priorities was waltzing down to the local club, bar, pub, party, basically anywhere that my friends were having a “piss up”. I wouldn’t drink enough to erase my memory of the night but would drink enough to lose inhibitions so that I could dance around like a hippie at Woodstock (minus the acid). I loved to listen to music loud enough to make your ears bleed and with such randomness that you’d often hear me listening to Killswitch Engage and Edith Piaf in the same 10 minutes. I’d completed an Associate Degree in Fashion, worked my tush off with a variety of designers until I realised it wasn’t for me, then I continued partying some more. It was fun. There were minimal responsibilities and I was in the process of building a house and planning a European holiday with Shane.

If you know me, or have read any previous posts then you would be aware that what happened next flipped my world upside down and around so hard that it felt like I was slapped in the face. We fell pregnant with Zac and immediately I renounced who I was. I now had to be a mother. Mums don’t have fun. Mums don’t party, that would be ‘unacceptable’. Mums don’t spend time or money on themselves. That would be ‘selfish’. Mums simply cannot behave one iota of the way they did before falling pregnant. That would be ‘immature’. I call bullshit.

Now I know this because I spent a good few years pretending to be a mother, a person, that I was not. The pressure was mostly from myself and the lack of grit to ignore judgement from others. I psychologically beat myself up until I didn’t even know who I was anymore. This was not the first time I had done this. When difficult periods of life arose the same thing would happen.

I even found myself latching onto confident people as if they exuded some sort of contagious confidence disease that I may eventually catch. I lost myself so deeply that whenever I was placed under stress no matter how small, I would explode.

All of me was trapped inside like I was holding myself hostage. It was not sustainable and at various points I would just live each day, not feeling anything but utter emptiness. I silenced my soul, what truly made me happy and forced myself into auto-pilot mode because if I couldn’t keep myself happy then I’d better at least try to make my family and close friends happy so I didn’t feel completely useless. I did what I thought others expected of me.

This became such an issue that for a long time I recall forcing myself to laugh at things. And laying in bed at night wondering why I couldn’t legitimately laugh at anything, even if I thought it was truly funny. Fake me. Fake attitude. Fake smile. Fake life. What on earth was I doing.

I’d like to say that one day I just snapped out of it – but that would be incorrect. It took months and years of “ah ha” moments, reading, practicing yoga, watching inspiring movies (or just reality TV of people’s lives that I envied), exercising and researching on repeat just to get it through my head that if I did not start DOING something this would be my life forever. I would die not doing anything I researched about. I would die not having lived.

My son would not look at me with respect, he would look at me with pity or he would grow up in my image. Don’t speak up, Zac. Sit there, be quiet and be sure not to say what you feel because you might offend someone, Zac. Children are to be seen and not heard. Fuck that. Fuck that thought back to where it came from.

We teach him (and will teach his brother) to respect others but now especially, respect himself. Because if you don’t respect you, and who you are deep down into your core beliefs, then you will forever float through life like a mindless zombie. That type of damage is exponentially tough to reverse.

I remember apologising so often for Zac’s energetic personality that I prevented myself from seeing any good in him. A very difficult truth for me to share. He is a wonderfully motivated, bright child and how in the world could I smother the flame within him because I cared what jo-blo who I hardly know thought of him and my parenting abilities.

I want my children to grow up feeling secure, sure of themselves, confident to ask questions, because if you don’t ask then you don’t get, but also be kind and respectful. Zac is polite, manners have been taught. He is given healthy boundaries, but I simply refuse to apologise or try to mould what makes him who he is, into some robot child.

I want the same for you, whoever you are reading this. I want you to like you who are as a person and I want you to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know you are being true to yourself

The best advice I have received all year was from a midwife while I cried in the hospital room. You do you. Stuff what other people think or say. So long as you are respectful to yourself and the world. Just do YOU, and the people that truly love you will stick by you.

How, though. How do you pull out that wonderful persona back into the forefront?

Commitment. Do you know what is scarier than change? Staying in a shit situation that you hate for the rest of your life. Sometimes it takes getting to the end of your tether to be able to commit to bettering yourself.

The Penny Dropping tactic. Do you feel something is not sitting right? Like a mad scientist, observe and record what has taken place leading up to this feeling. A pattern will appear. Then “ah huh”, the penny drops and you have narrowed down what to tackle next.

Priorities. Write them down and number them in order of importance and consider if this is ACTUALLY how you want to prioritise, or are you appeasing other people rather than yourself. Now write the list again, this time numbering what you’d ideally like to come first.

Get your shit together. The less time and money spent chasing your tail, the more spent on things that you enjoy. Get a calendar or diary system that suits you. For years I tried to utilise hard copy diaries. I have doctor handwriting which made it totally illegible and I would forget to bring it with me . Now I use Google Calendar on my phone, which allows you to colour code and it syncs to your devices. Winning.

Planning and goal setting. Honestly, try it. A few months ago I mind-mapped goals for the year. what I listed what I wanted to achieve, and I am smashing through that list. Sometimes you just need a visual.

Journaling. Do a personal mind dump of the things that cloud your thoughts. Nobody has to read it. You don’t even have to read it. You can scrunch it up and use it for dunny paper if you really wish. It is all about creating space in your mind for things that hold value to YOU. Not thoughts about other people or topics that are not of personal importance.

Listen to old school music that made you happy and dance around in your lounge room like an idiot. This is probably the most important tip.

Empower yourself to be the driver of your own life. Nobody else will fix your problems. There is no magical knight riding on a unicorn that saves you from yourself. That’s why you need to remember who you are. Live life in a way that does justice to your soul. YOU DO YOU. Stick to your guns and be ballsy and daring in your own life.

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Resources

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert – Also a movie where Liz is played by Julie Roberts. It is a brilliant journey of self-discovery

Gary Vee (Vaynerchuck) – All out legend. Business mogul but the most REAL motivational speaker, even though he admits he isn’t one officially. Follow him on socials

Robin Sharma – Author of The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari and The Leader Who Had No Title. By storytelling, Robin conveys many messages regarding self discovery and building your own confidence.

Maggie Dent – A seasoned school principal but shares her most effective strategies for raising children and building their confidence and resilience

Killswitch Engage, or Korn – because when you are mad, frustrated or emotional you need to let it out and a great way to do so is by listening to metal

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

When Your Second Labour is Longer Than Your First

“Well Shaara, looks like Hubby will need to learn to deliver a baby because this labour will be much faster than the first”. Not true for everybody and I am GLAD that didn’t happen to me.

After the 2.5 hour labour with my first, my body went into shock for around 12 hours and I shook that whole time as if I was about to perform a public speech.

Doctors and experienced parents share the notion that if a mothers body has already done the stretching and adjusting once (or many) times before then it usually means the next time you birth a babe it will come out much faster. I’m sure for a vast majority of women this happens but for whatever reason my second labour resulted in 3 days of early labour and 8 hours active.

When you first discover you are pregnant with baby number one you begin to write a plan. An idealistic, dreamy birth plan that may include a fitness ball, yoga music, relaxing back massages, burning essential oils and overpriced candles while you lay in a warm birthing pool repeating mantras and affirmations in your mind as each contraction comes and goes like waves off a tropical island. Well, that is pretty much what my plan was with Zac and as you may already know, it certainly did not happen. {You can read about that here}.

Our second baby, Judd (JJ), decided to take his time.

At the beggining of last year, after our dreamy American honeymoon, we decided we had recovered from the rollercoaster of the first child and took the plunge to procreate once more. Since Zac was more independent it seemed like a good time to try for another as I was no longer helicopter mum-ing him all day, therefore thought I had enough energy. Lol. Oh the naivety of past me.

Eventually July comes along and the pee stick reveals we had another Horin on the way. I was so happy and emotional that I burst in on Shane showering, shoved the test in his face and waited for his reaction. He probably won’t want me sharing this but he had more tears than I did and struggled to get any words out. Being a Dad and growing our family meant so much to him and he was ecstatic that we managed to make another little jelly bean.

The early days were once again filled with nausea and exhaustion. But this time I knew why and I must admit that I took it much easier on myself pyschologically. This was after I thought it a wonderful idea to shovel stones and move wheelbarrows like I did when pregnant with Zac. My back was angry at me but my husband was angrier. After I’d learnt my lesson, gone was the pressure to behave like a superhuman and in came the more relaxed, self-caring version of myself. I looked forward to seeing that baby bump and feel the tiny flutters of first movements. It was a special time and apart from my back and hip issues (hello sciatica!) and initial first trimester sickness, I was astounded at how mentally stable and excited I felt. This was planned and I am a planner.

The months roll by and I was swept away on a suprise luxury getaway to Daylesford for our first wedding anniversary. It was like the babymoon we never had. I pondered whether my husband had really been working those overtime hours because the guy I married, while I love him dearly, is probably the least formally romantic guy I’ve ever met. Sorry babe, but you know you are. He books the most amazing couples massage and at this point I am a sloth like creature who struggles to stay awake for 2 minutes after dinner let alone reward the man for his efforts 😉.

Along rolls the end of January and I am waddling like an Emperor Penguin. I certainly did not expect this level of discomfort in a second pregnancy, in fact, I thought it would be easier. Again, who the hell is this naive and ignorant voice in my head feeding me lies? It was a tough pregnancy physically this time and in the height of summer. My boss let’s me finish work early as she feels sorry for me – thanks Mum (benefits of working with family). This gives me more energy and time to devote to Zac’s first days of kinder.

February comes along and a week before my due date I start to feel some light pains in the evening. Thinking nothing of it, I ignore and continue watching a marathon of The Amazing Race. After some time I realise the pains are coming at regular intervals. We time them at about 5-7 minutes apart and call the hospital. As we drive they get stronger and I get concerned we won’t make it on time. Pulling up to the door was like an antidote for labour. As I was being monitored, they plateaued and the nurse suggest I take a bath in their new birthing tub. This was an exciting moment for me. I’d wanted to labour in water but never had the chance earlier with everything accelerating quickly the first time.

Contractions continued to plummet and we left for home in the morning. The next day we decided to go for a walk to help things along. Night came and there I was bouncing on the fitness ball watching The Amazing Race again with regular pains. It did not escalate past the previous evenings levels so we stayed home and once the pains slowed I got some rest. Feeling frustrated, the next day we decided to live life as usual, seeing as baby was hesitating to exit the incubator. So we did. We dropped Zac off at kinder, cleaned the playroom and garage out and headed out to do a big grocery shop at Aldi. By the time we began packing our shopping, pains returned and were intensifying. Determined not to obsess over it, we pick Zac up from kinder. It is at this point I realise the baby would come that day. Taking deep breaths and pausing with the regular contractions, Zac’s kinder teacher explains his day to me and with empathetic eyes asks if I am having contractions at that moment. I nod, unable to speak, hoping some form of motherly telepathic powers kick in. They kind of do and the teacher empathetically glances at me and encourages me to head off.

Still determined, I agree to take Zac to the ice creamery as we had missed his company the last few days. There I was, helping Zac eat ice cream between moments of deep breathing and closed eyes, probably making me look narcoleptic. Not exactly what happens in the movies. I didnt let it bother me.

Again with that horrible guilty conscience of mine, I just wanted to spend time with my boy who I’d been unable to see those last few days. And I knew it would probably be the last moments we had together as a family of three.

We head for the car where, once driving, I instruct Shane to drop Zac off at his parents who happened to live around the corner from the ice creamery. My poor mother in law tries to talk to me but I’m at that level of being unable to speak again. It’s so bizarre when you go through labour again. You know what to expect and yet you do not. There is no way to fully comprehend and be prepared for the experience of birth at any time.

Zac was happy to have a sleepover at his grandparents, me on the other hand cried on the way to the hospital. My big baby had hardly seen Mummy lately and what was about to happen to him would change his little world forever. No longer would everybody notice just him, it would be him and his brother and I hoped he would become proud rather than jealous. An Aunty had bought him a book about becoming a big brother and I knew he was excited, but what if it went all wrong?

The midwife at the hospital was, if I am completely honest, kick ass and so boss at her job. She made lame jokes which relaxed both of us, but probably Shane moreso because he is in his Dad-joke prime right now. Lord help us when the kid are teenagers.

The contractions are stronger and the monitoring system at the hospital sends information to the obstetricians phone. He asks if I would like any intervention to speed things up but I refuse as I wanted the baby to come when he was ready. He stays at home and informs us he will return at 9pm.

They fill the gloriously large bath and I hop in. That warm water was bliss. The contractions were well and truly increasing. Because they are necessary and a sign of birth preparation, they didn’t bother me as much as the back and hip pain I’d felt all pregnancy becoming sharper with each wave of pains. The water relieves the weight of gravity and after over 3 hours I feel the need for the toilet. I did not want to be the one that pushes more than a baby out on the bed. So I request that the nurse begins emptying the bath so I can get out. With the frequency of the contractions I had no idea how I would get to the loo and do my business. I stop the midwife emptying the tub and ask her to put more water in, only to tell her minutes later I need to push. Clearly I had confused what movements were going on down there. Shane is sitting by the bath the whole time, letting me squeeze his arm like a stress ball and massaging me when asked to. That was just a precursor to what I was about to inflict on him. The midwife insists on me getting out of the bath and over to the bed for labour because the hospital is not accredited for water births. I stand up and feel the full weight of my belly and baby on my back and hips, and they begin to burn. The doctor arrives just on time, earlier than anticipated and luckily so. I walk over to the bed, having to stop and lean on the nurse as I concentrate breathing so I won’t scream like a banshee. I have to lie down on my back so that the staff can monitor our vitals. At this point I become very verbal.

“Please can I go on my knees to push. I don’t want to lie down. My back and hips!” That burning, tearing, and disjointing feeling is one I wont forget. The staff reassure me I will be able to roll over and kneel at the head of the bed. I’m fully dilated and feel that uncontrollable pushing return. Kind of like when you need to vomit and can’t stop yourself, not the most pleasant of comparisons, I know. The OB notifies me that waters had not ruptured in the bath as we had suspected and asks would I like him to break them. I’m sure I replied “Yep!” before he finished the question. He proceeds and it ups the ante. Like a tantruming toddler, I keep repeating that I do not want to give birth on my back.

It. Is. Time. With assistance, I roll over to kneel with my arms on the head of the inclined bed. Gas was offered, but after my strange out of body experience last time, I declined. That’s the planner/control freak part of me. Immediately I need to push. This time I had the OB and amazing midwife guiding my pushes. Shane again repeating their words like before but this time coaching me like pro, and I could feel the positive, encouraging vibes from him. With that, I knew I could do it. I just had to overcome the feeling that my lower back and hips were going to split halfways down the middle. This was not a quiet birth, people next door definitely heard my wails and I did not even care. I needed them. Pushing a baby out is bloody hard work. Two or three lung emptying pushes followed by a bunch of little pants and our second baby boy enters the world. I felt a rush of endorphins as I pull JJ through my legs up to my chest and roll onto my back. He is here and he is sure to let us know with his compacted and wrinkly, squelling face. I’d done it and he was perfect.

Looking down at him, tears formed. He had light coloured hair that covered him like a layer of shimmery glitter. I breathe in his smell like it’s the best drug in the world and secretly hope he will be a red head like me. I glanced over at Shane whose smile was ear to ear, eyes full of proud, happy tears. The entire room was alive yet so tranquil. Encouraging comments from the nurses, doctor and my husband were chimed back to me and it dawned on me that I’d managed to pull off a drug free labour as planned, that it was beautiful and I should be proud of myself regardless of the banshee impression. It was almost an indescribable moment, even while my placenta was being delivered. I felt love immediately, not world-upturning shock like my first birth.

I had researched all I could about breastfeeding, getting advice and watching videos. The first latch was painful and awkward and from there it became more difficult. Nurses commented on how red my nipples were and how unusual it seemed. My supply was also problematic and I could not get a comfortable latch (even with the so-called lactation consultants help, later we discover JJ has a lip tie) so after a few days I gave it a rest and pumped exclusively while mix feeding formula. The baby blues hit me and Judd was crying throughout the night. This time I bucked up and asked for help from the nurses. I didn’t want to or have to do it alone.

The nurses made my hospital stay a wonderful memory. Each supporting whatever decision I made. I hadn’t experienced that before and I left hospital with nipple shields, still expressing but knowing deep down that breastfeeding was not for me and my child. I continued to pump. Almost consumed by the idea of being able to eventually breastfeed. But the reality was that for so many reasons I was not capable. I stopped pumping after awakening to the fact that I was clutching at straws. I’d given my baby colostrum. He was mostly fed by formula. Time for me to overcome my pride and put my family first. It took weeks of grieving. Of hiding my tears and ugly crying in the shower. Hormones did not help but I felt like a failure again.

Another moment occurs when it is confirmed why I married my husband. He sits with me while I cry and tells me that I got the labour I wanted. I set out to use a fitness ball, have spaced contractions so I could process what was happening, use a birthing bath at least for pain relief, avoid medications, get back massages AND give birth any way but on my back. If I could have slapped myself I would have. Gratitude hit me and I snapped out of the grieving. I was fortunate to get something I asked the universe for. I should be grateful to have ANY type of food for my baby. I am grateful.

Physically, my recovery was swift. Mentally, that took time. It is a work in progress that I chip away at each and every day. Looking at my beautiful, healthy and loving boys I feel complete. Not in generic way but in a way where it is like your heart has grown and you don’t know how to tell other parents with one child so that they will understand how great it really is. My boys dote over each other. I had always wanted 2 boys. Ask and you shall receive.

Until next time.

Sha x

Just after giving birth
Judd (JJ)
Our boys first cuddles
Walking to help labour along

Resources

If you are a “planning/routine” Mum like me you made find The New Contented Little Baby book helpful. Take advice that is relative and leave the rest.

Your local Maternal Child Health Nurses. A lot changed in 4.5 years and our local MCHN (Cardinia Shire) are much more accepting and constructive than they were previously. I would recommend talking to them if you are not coping or need advice.

St John of God Raphael Services in Berwick are wonderful for PND or Anxiety support

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

When You Miss Half Your Pregnancy

You read it right. I’m somewhat famous amongst my friends and family. The girl who didn’t realise she was pregnant until she was 20 weeks. I was 25 at the time but I call myself a girl, not a woman, because mentally that is how I felt.

After over 6 months of organising the build on our house, I knew something felt different. I had been unwell and so incredibly nauseated the entire time. Physically I was pushing myself harder than ever before. Moving wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of bricks into skip bins. Landscaping, shoveling, cleaning and pushing my body to breaking point every day. I worked full time and did this after work, on the weekends, then going back home and adjusting to living with my now husband and his brother and brother’s wife. Amongst all of it, the paperwork, oh the paperwork relating to an owner/builder style of building is relentless. Sourcing trades, negotiating prices, losing your shit at the carpenter who is also supposed to be your mentor and assist with organising the build. It was a heck of a ride with many lessons learned but as you can tell, I didn’t have time to scratch my back let alone consider the fact my contraceptive pill had not done it’s job effectively around New Years Eve.

After weeks of bloating, random abdominal cramping, tiredness and epic mood swings, I consider getting it checked. Maybe it’s gas, I thought? Or appendicitis? Off I go to the GP to ensure it’s nothing sinister. After explaining the symptoms he pushes me out the door convincing me it is nothing, even when I mentioned pregnancy. Off I went.

3 months into pregnancy I had a Gyno appointment. Undertaking a common procedure, I mention symptoms to the doctor to get his opinion. Even after being in the vicinity of the baby making station he assures me it is nothing to be concerned about.

After these instances the most peculiar feeling begins. Tiny bubbles feel as if they are floating around and popping in my abdomen. Okay, this definitely is strange and it is at this point I decide to get a pregnancy test, you know, just in case.

The little line appeared and I felt as if I’d been winded by a kick in the guts. I cried. Actually I sobbed. Sitting there in the toilet while my partners family gathered in the kitchen. I didn’t really believe I could possibly have been pregnant until now. I was on a really expensive, new contraceptive pill that is known to stop periods so that warning sign was not relevant to me. After a while I dry my eyes, walk out and grab my partner by the hands and we walk outside. His face when I told him still amazes me. The look of complete shock where it drains the blood from your skin, then suddenly he realised I was in more shock than he. And the most amazing thing happened in the moment that I was on the brink of falling apart. He smiled the most heartfelt smile you could imagine. He hugged me tightly. And told me he was excited. We’d been together since I was 15, and he 16, and I can tell you right now that all of my instincts of him being a good Dad were coming to fruition that day. A good choice was made in staying with that guy. I stand by my decision every day.

The pregnancy feels short. Many moments occur where I fall into such mental despair that I can’t get out of bed. I wanted to be a Mum some day. But in the future after we’d settled into our house and travelled Europe for a while. Abortion never crossed my mind, yet I couldn’t comprehend how I could be strong enough to give birth and support another human being. Never disillusioned about the trials and tribulations of motherhood, I knew it would be a hard slog and I was shit scared of it.

This is when my best friend came to my house, unsure of why I was so completely upset (as I was supposed to be excited), she came to the doctors with me so I could get an understanding of how to book the hospital, what scans did I need, how do I figure this whole thing out? She remained one of my biggest supporters even when my boobs where hanging out and I needed someone to pick up a breast pump for me. The kind of friend who’d happily kill for you . It helped having someone to cry to about feeling alone and out of my depth.

I wanted to make up for all of the terrible things I’d done to my body whilst unknowingly pregnant. The guilt was unbearable and I still don’t think I’ve forgiven myself entirely. I began prenatal yoga and it was the best thing I could have done. My muscles thanked me and my brain did too. The baby didn’t mind it either.

At 36 weeks my mucus plug came out and some pretty intense cramps started. It was my now fiances birthday and we were having a small family barbecue. I stayed quiet about it for a while but then it became too much and we drove to hospital. The cramps had stopped and the baby was fine so back home we went.

At exactly 38 weeks, I awoke to my waters breaking and light cramps. After doing the usual call to the hospital, they assured me as it was my first baby it may take a while to go into full active labour. They recommended I walk around, have a shower then get some rest. I wake up my partner before my shower to let him know it was go time and he begins to pack the car on my request. Not fast enough for my liking as by the time he visits me in the shower I am having intense contractions at 2-3 minutes apart. We quickly get me dressed and into the car. Fiance asks me repeatedly if I am okay, should he park or drop me off at the hospital entrance? A pleading look in his eyes for me to reply and give him confirmation everything was alright. But speak, I could not. By the time we drove out of our street there was zero gap between contractions and by the time we hit the freeway I was desperately trying not to give into the pushing sensation. Adamant that giving birth on a roadside was not on my bucket list.

“Pull up to the door” I manage to say and as we walk down the corridor to the maternity unit. The midwife sees me half keeled over as I walk. My eyes must have darkened as I replied to her question of “Oh sweetheart, what’s the matter?!” by shooting daggers out of them. I’d just been on the phone to her, and obviously as a first timer I must have sounded as if I was exaggerating. They walk me into the birthing suite which has only just been cleaned. Mid September is apparently one of the hospitals busiest time of year. Ushered into the ensuite to give them a wee sample, my waters were still exiting at a rapid rate. I stand up to wash my hands, still hunch-backed like Quasimodo over the basin, and I freeze. The pressure was overwhelming and I needed to push. Right there and right then. I’m still sure I could have delivered in that bathroom standing up. Yet I was shuffled over to lie down and be examined and attached to the heart monitor to check baby, and offered the gas which I happily used as a distraction (it did nothing to relieve pain, only made me feel like I was another person watching over myself in labour). While the baby’s health is of utmost importance, that pushing feeling is one that is so unexplainable and fighting it is like trying to win a losing battle. The midwife does an internal examination as it is so busy no Obstetricians are available. She looks shocked and starts moving fast.

“How many centimetres am I?”. I’d watched that many episodes of One Born Every Minute, I thought I knew all the lingo and I thought I was prepared for what was to come. “You’re fully dilated. Whenever your body tells you it’s ready, you push!”. And that I did. The most ugly faced, gruntiest sounding, Deadpool Maximum Effort like pushing I’d ever done before. It was scary, daunting, yet I knew there was no turning back and I reminded myself that each contraction/push is one less I have to do. The fiance stands next to me, mimicking what the midwife says as he has mentally stalled and is just as shit scared as I am, still.

One extra large push, when you feel like no amount of pushing will get that baby out, and the sharp feeling of tearing jolts me like a lightning bolt. The upside, baby’s head is out and with light pushes to follow he enters the world in a room with utterly surprised people. The labour was 2.5 hours long. I was at the hospital for about 30-40 minutes and my midwives were somewhat unprepared for Zac to arrive so quickly, the heated crib was not even yet heated.

Relieved of intense pain, I sigh and stare at Zac’s screaming, squashed face. I was in awe of course. And struck with guilt immediately that I did not feel overwhelming love and rainbows and unicorns that every mother brags about. It had all gone so fast. 18 weeks of pregnancy (that I’d known of) where we’d moved into our house and become engaged. 2.5 hours of labour. On the inside I was just begging for something to take it’s time. Just allow me to process one portion of this gargantuan, life altering occassion before I fall into a heap. I hold our baby and feed him while the Obstetrician (who finally walks in) delivers my placenta and stitches me up. I hardly notice that pain after the ordeal that had just occurred. My biggest supporter, Shane, cries tears of joy having watched his wonderful little boy enter the world. He remarks constantly at how proud he is of me. I still love him so much more knowing that when I look like a sweaty, frizzy haired witch he still thought I was a rockstar. I felt proud that I’d given life to a wonderful little boy but the whole situation felt alien to me.

What happened next was precisely what I didn’t want to happen. 2 weeks of a crying baby that hardly slept, was not gaining weight and was beggining to look unwell and very jaundiced. Oh and reflux. Actual projectile, vomiting reflux. Add it onto the list of things I felt unqualified to handle.

It felt like an eternity and I felt so incredibly judged by the hospital lactation consultant and maternal health nurses as if I wasn’t trying hard enough to breastfeed. It’s bullshit of course because I was trying with every piece of energy I could muster. I’d feed, top up with expressed milk, pump, clean house, get a wink of sleep if I was lucky and do it all again. Poor Zac was still hungry and after crying most of the days and nights I did not believe I deserved him. He deserved a Mum that could function properly and dote over him. The most ultimate cloud of loneliness I had inflicted on myself. I could have been at an Ed Sheeran concert and still felt alone. Our friends would visit and dote over our boy. I would force a mask of “expected” gloating new mum behaviour onto my actually dishevelled and depressed face. Mastitis crept up and slapped me right in that face and with cracked and bleeding nipples, I hit rock bottom. At this time I threw in the towel. I had admitted defeat. My mother in law gave Zac a bottle of formula while I went to the 24 hour doctors to get antibiotics and, I’m ashamed to say, tablets to stop my milk production. Zac then slept. I got more than 30 minutes of sleep and those little sparks of human were beggining to return.

It was a tough decision and one that impacted me incredibly, but it needed to be done as I’m simply not a very good cow and I had to draw the line when I started thinking horrible thoughts. It was also the best decision I made. After weeks of nothing but confusion and guilt because I did not get that doting and adoring feeling you are told you should get when you have a newborn, I slowly began to look at my boy like he was the most wonderful, magnificent sight I’d ever have the pleasure of staring at. He became so healthy and happy over the next few months.

The transition into motherhood, for me, was like a bumpy old dirt road that the local council couldnt give a rats about. It just gets beaten down with more potholes that really shake up your suspension until one day, they get some machinery onto it and level that shit out. It wasn’t a glorious, starry eyed journey for me. Instead it was filled with self doubt, guilt (see previous post on this), anxiety and I neglected to say until recently, PND. As time went on I gained perspective and understood that it maybe wasn’t my ideal timing for having a child. Maybe I wasn’t really “ready”. But it was something I call the “deep end technique” where you get thrown into the middle of a foreign situation and you learn to swim or sink. I swam. And most of us parents eventually do. This journey taught me more than any class, lecture or seminar I have ever attended. It gave me a chance to turn so many factions of my life around and somewhat rewire my brain. I see how lucky I was to be surrounded by people who wanted to support me. Mum, Mum-in-law, Aunties, Dad’s, mates but most of all my husband who is the epitome of loyalty and steps in to be my backbone when it crumbles.

Zac was my first baby and together we conquered the challenges of newborn/new mum life. I have nothing but gratitude for him and although guilt plays a part in this story, regret does not. Things happened just the way they should have.

Childbirth, birth story, delivering baby, firstborn

Shortly after Zac entered the world

Final days of pregnancy with Zac
Feeling more relaxed at 6 weeks postpartum

Resources:

The Motherhood by Jamila Rizvi shares other real and somewhat brutal stories of women’s first weeks into motherhood. It also demonstrates that most first time Mums do feel lonely and would make a practical gift for someone who may be experiencing a tough time with their first baby

PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) – a website I hesitated to look at but felt so much better when I did. They do have a hotline and I did use it when I felt extremely lonely

BeyondBlue – very experienced with depression and anxiety and also has a great website/phone like resource

St John of God Raphael Services Berwick – If you are based in the South East Burbs of Melbourne. This place has counsellors that are specifically trained in PND recovery techniques

Reach out on social media;

“Due in Groups” on Essential Baby can be very helpful for finding friends who are experiencing the same new mum probs at the same time that you are. Join the forum, find your “due in” group relating to your due date month and make some new friends. They’re generally up feeding all hours of the night as you are, and they’ll totally understand your hormonally,sleep deprived induced mental breakdowns.

Mum bloggers/influencers. It seems silly and fan girlish but for me it was all about connecting with like minded people who show you can come out okay on the other side of all of this. I like Olivia White (House of White), @mrsconstancehall, @emilyskyefit, @newmumstheword and @justusjunghens

Mum Guilt: the process of letting it go

We’ve all been there at some point. You feel guilty because your baby cries and you cannot for the life of you figure out why. You get mad at them and feel so horribly guilty for it because they are so beautiful and innocent. Maybe you accidentally bumped their head on the car when putting your little one into their seat, maybe you disciplined your preschooler and they are so upset it feels like it’s tearing your heart out. You needed to go back to work because of finances or maintaining positions in your career (current feels). Or it could be ensuring both children equally get enough attention and love, and do they eat enough fruit and veg? And this one, the absolute peak of my guilt, the most I have ever experienced- “I am depriving my child because I am unable to breastfeed”.

When we look back, we usually see how trivial the guilt is, and how we were simply doing the best we could at the time. However given the fact I’m on my second baby, and I do have that foresight, I wanted to buck up and deal with it NOW so I can enjoy my baby and preschooler without the constant negativity lingering. After moping around for a couple of weeks I set out with determination and put into practice techniques I had learnt to overcome this type of situation (yet had pushed them to the back of my mind while I had my little pity party).

Us parents just want the best for our children. We’d do anything within our capabilities to secure a safe, healthy and happy future for them and instill values that ensue success. But if you are a dweller or a worrier like I am you almost create the opposite environment for them by letting all of the guilt take over from what is important. Reading this you may feel it is time to make a change, as I did. I will give some pointers but first of all, committing to putting the effort in is the guts of change.

“Do or do not. There is no ‘how’.

You are already choosing, in every moment of every day what to give a f*ck about, so change is about as simple as choosing to give a f*ck about something else”

-Mark Manson

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck

Here are the strategies I use to redirect my thoughts into more positive ones:

    1. Get that nasty and negative word vomit out in a thought diary. Buy yourself a nice little journal, Kmart have some nice plain paged options. Just pick up a pen and let all of your thoughts flow out onto the paper. I believe there is something about physically writing with a pen on paper that can tap into your psyche more so than using a note app on your phone. This helped me to reduce the amount of negative talk to myself, and helps to stop me alienating myself from my friends and family.
    2. Go outside for a walk. The vitamin D does wonders. Just getting out of your house, which apparently contains more toxic allergens in the air than being outdoors, puts you back in touch with reality. Notice the sky, trees and birds or that freshly cut grass smell. Which brings me to…
    3. Practice mindfulness. Ever find yourself completing a task and can’t remember actually doing it? Or sometimes like me I count out the scoops of formula as I tip them into my baby’s bottle, but my mind wanders to irrelevant thoughts about things I feel guilty about and I lose count. It takes time, but as soon as you feel yourself doing it, stop and bring yourself back to earth. Remind yourself of how consuming those negative thoughts are and refocus your energies only onto the task you are undertaking at that moment. For example, now I try to count out loud when filling the bottle.
    4. Write lists. We often feel guilt when we forget something. Eliminate that by writing lists such as daily tasks. Number them in terms of urgency to ensure you prioritise. Cross out the tasks when you complete them so that you have a visual of the achievement. Buy a cheap little notepad for your shopping lists (mine is from Coles and has a magnet so I can keep it on the fridge). Make it known to the family that if they want something at the shops, it needs to be written on the list. This can also apply to goal setting. Create small goals that work toward a bigger achievement. For example, my husband and I are in week 3 of the Max and Maxine’s 12 week Challenge. I need to write shopping lists and follow a written plan to execute the goals.

      Shopping list notepads readily available from Coles
    5. Yoga. Just yoga. What a way to relax and recentre. I was the first in my family to ever try yoga and have been a fan of it for about 12 years now. If you let it, it will mentally and physically strengthen you. You learn deep breathing, how to forgive yourself and literally breathe out guilt and negativity not relative to the moment. If you have tendencies of being a control freak or a bit neurotic (like me), yoga slows you down and helps you to make that space in your mind you otherwise would not have. Try YouTube or online vids for some classes if you can’t leave the house: Yoga With Adriene
    6. Eat and drink water regularly. We would all feed our kids first of course. But you cant be your best if you don’t fuel your body appropriately. Prepare your meals and snacks for the dayahead hthe night before and ensure you nourish your body. Just commit 5 or 10 minutes to it before you relax for the night. I am way more sensitive to unhelpful self talk and lashing out if I dont eat. Hangry is a thing!
    7. Take 10 minutes a day for “you time”. Don’t mistake how important this is for mental health. It seems somewhat contradictory because you might feel guilty, like you should be doing housework constantly or “living” for your spouse and your kids but if you forfeit this time you are almost guaranteed to put yourself in a mentally weaker state of mind that lets those nasty green gremlin thought and guilt patterns back in.
    8. Experience new things with your family. It doesn’t have to be much, maybe you go for a drive to a new park or drink a coffee and babycino at a nice new cafe. If you have more time or finances then book a little family getaway. Make it fun, and if you fear it will turn sour then limit the time you do it for. Memories are worth more than any gift you ever receive and this is an effective way of redirecting thoughts and generating all the happy hormones we all love and crave.
    9. Commit to a gratitude or bullet point journal. What POSITIVE, AMAZING, FUN things did you see, hear or do today? What made you HAPPY? I have never journalled religiously every day but limiting daily writing to bullet points pulled me out of a horrible guilty rut I was in when I gave up breastfeeding. It consumed me until I decided enough was enough and I wanted to direct my energies to positive things. Be it my children, feeling grateful for having a roof over head, sunshine or a nice food I tried. Anything positive small or big is good enough to talk about and before you know it you will have retrained your brain! There are some beautiful gratitude journals out there such as “I am happy, I am here”
    10. Hugs. Hugs all day, every day. Get that oxytocin flowing.
    11. Distraction and diversion. If you fudge any of the previous things up do not waste any time and get up and aim to complete one of them asap! Some guilt about life is normal but we do not need to further pressure ourselves and dwell, creating layers of it that will taking longer to dismantle. Be proactive. You’ve got this. Start with a small happiness inducing tasks and keep up the momentum as much as you can. If it slows,start from the start. Time can only help you to get better at it.

Above all, take it easy on yourself. Failure is normal and natural. We are programmed to think it is a negative experience but it is one of the biggest drivers of motivation if you let it be! Taking any action at all is better than doing nothing. And it’s less for you to fe guilty about later. I hope these tips are useful for someone out there struggling with mum guilt, dad guilt, any type of guilt really.

✌ Sha xoxo

Resources:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson

“The Happiness Project” and Happier podcast by Gretchen Rubin

“I am happy, I am here” gratitude journal

“Remarkability” by Lorraine Marks