The Vulnerability of Motherhood

The Vulnerability of Motherhood

I saw her. I could see her heart thumping without seeing her heart at all. Living off adrenaline. Survival mode. Her baby, not quite 6 months old, sitting quietly on her lap with oxygen tubes attached to his face.

A hospital sleep specialist walks by to make himself a coffee. Courageously he asks, “how are you, and how is he going?”.

You could pressume that he was assigned to the baby as his specialist by the way the woman responded, you’d be wrong.

“Exhausted. I’m utterly exhausted.”, the mother replied. “This is so tiring.”

The staff members eyes widen as if to suggest he received more than he’d bargain for, and regretted asking anything in the first place. He walks away – politely but awkwardly smiling.

The room is quiet. After reading a brochure, I look up. She sits there jiggling her leg to bounce her baby. Jittering, fidgeting. This mother has not slept properly for some time.

Her inner engine is at full revs trying to get through the day. A symptom of stress all too familiar.

I blurt out, “Is he in here for sleep testing?”. Fully aware it’s likely to be for something else.

“Oh, he’s on a CPAP. We’ve just had an overnight sleep study a week ago. It was the best sleep I’ve had in ages. Because I didn’t have to worry and fuss, I knew someone was going to be there to watch him too. It wouldn’t just be me. ”

The flood gates open.

I can’t help but empathise and ask, has she got any help at home. “No. Not if you count a husband who argues with me in the middle of the night about the baby.”

She was alone. She is alone. And vulnerable. Maybe craving for someone to hear her out. And to validate that her emotions are accepted by someone. Her own opinion is not enough.

I sigh for her and share in her disappointment in the lack of support. Then spend the next 5 minutes listening to her story. The story of her baby having a “floppy airway” otherwise known as laryngomalacia. It creates an obstruction which stops him from breathing. She can’t sleep knowing this. Who could? The respiratory team and ENT battle over how to manage it, constantly.

They decided to perform a bronchoscopy recently to get a visual of it. Her son needed to be resuscitated twice in recovery. Putting on hold any surgical solution for the condition. I am overwhelmed with emotion for her.

She counted, almost 50 times she woke up to adjust his machine the previous night. She said her son had always sounded congested from birth but for some time nobody wanted to listen to her concerns. His condition is serious.

We were interrupted by each of our specialist nurses and doctors and went our separate ways.

If she were ever to read this, I would want her to know that I was privileged to hear her story. A stranger she may be, but a fellow comrade she is.

People often steer away from those who are full to the brim with the challenges in their lives, what if we were all eager to engage with them and connect with them? To hear their story, acknowledge their vulnerability and validate their feelings. How different the world could be.

This mother was at the end of her tether. Maybe she needed just one nice thing to show her that all is not dark and grim. That there is more to this life than scary things out of her control that send you pleading on your knees for mercy. To be heard, to have openness and understanding is worth more than any physical gift you can give someone.

Sending out love to all of you in my tribe who did this very thing for me recently. Your kindness makes the day shine a little brighter.

Sha x

**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth

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