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.
**Illustration by Jamina Bone of @mommingwithtruth
I must admit, in some way, when you’ve got a baby you cannot imagine life as a mother of a school child. When you have nappies in every room of the house, in the car, in your handbag, how could you imagine a time of dropping your child off to school to be in a class of 25 kids that aren’t necessarily closely supervised for the entirety of the day. You think to yourself “over my dead body”, in terms of letting go of your baby. And you begin to conjure plans where you can disguise yourself enough to go unnoticed as you yourself supervise (stalk) your child at recess/lunchtime where your worst fears can potentially come true. Instead, you find yourself at work or at home gazing into nothing running various scenarios in your mind. Parenting is an emotional filled journey FOR SURE.
Well my friends. This year I had to Let Go. I have not (yet) inappropriately stalked my baby as he plays with his friends. Only peaked through the window on school pickup. That is restraint right there. This evolution of parenthood I have labelled as the real beginning of their independence. At kindergarten you still received detailed information on how their day plays out. It is easy to connect with the teacher because there are more of them at the one time to do so. School is much different. You can still email and chat with the teacher but there is less time and you know they have meetings and school obligations such as yard duty to tend to. The children are moved around to specialist subjects so essentially they are supervised and taught by people you probably have never even met.
A empowering a sense of trust is forced upon you as a parent. You need to trust you’ve done enough to assist your child to listen, learn and act appropriately at school. You need to trust that the teachers are doing the best that they can. With both of my boys being in childcare since 4 or 5 months old, this has been the hardest transition yet because there is much less transparency with school as the kids are now old enough to do so many things themselves.
This has led to a series of what I like to call “sneaky tears”. You can be smiling and so proud of your child then all of a sudden you sort of half hiccup and tears come out without any warning at all. This type of behaviour develops in pregnancy and there ain’t no controlling it. We are now wired for this. Case in point, technology is so flipping great nowadays that I sat at my desk watching Zac perform a dance with his class for Harmony Day on my phone via Facebook live. The camera panned over to him emotively dancing to the moves he was taught and there I sat creepily laugh/crying like the emotional mother that I am. With customers walking past. Probably wondering what the weird sound was that came from the office.
School Mum’s adjust their routines. We make lunches and prep clothes typically at night if we can. You need to manage closely when their clothes are washed. In our case Zac has 3 uniforms including one typical, one sports and one house day uniform. And he loves using whiteboard markers on the day he wears his white shirt, of course. So we need to wash these all immediately or risk a poldka-dot patterned shirt.
A lesson learnt by us has been to make sure Zac is responsible for getting himself dressed, packing his bag, unpacking his bag and lunch boxes at home after school. We feel this applied responsibility has helped him settle more into school because it demonstrates that this is now expected from him in all areas of his life. Babies grow into grown children so fast that we are somewhat guilty of doing a little too much for Zac up until this point. It was faster, more convenient and I love to take control and have things done in my time frame so another factor of letting go has been to patiently watch and encourage him to take charge of his own mess, his own belongings and his putting his own dishes in the dishwasher. I try to encourage him and resist my controlling urges to take over as he places the plates on an awkward angle.
There appears to be no child who is devoid of the odd meltdown before or after school. That was a particular recurring experience we had to deal with head on. One morning, I spent 15 minutes trying to pry Zac from my leg, which never really happened at kinder. Now I can happily say that we worked through the morning drop-off by basically practising a fly-by approach wherein I shuffle him to the door of his classroom and make a run for it, because he always plays his emotions up for Mum. He has since improved.
I think the real key in the transition to school mum life is to ensure you feel 100% comfortable with the school your child attends. With zoning, it isn’t always an option, but we are fortunate to be on the border of 2 school zones and had the choice. Zac’s school shares many of our values, has an effective Bully Buster program with a variety of electives and for me the biggest draw card was that they practice utilising a growth mindset. Which often even adults struggle to use. This means that you believe determination, hard work and goal-setting can allow you expand your abilities and achieve at higher levels. Meaning Zac will learn to believe in himself and put the hard yards in to get where he wants to in life. He will learn from mistakes and develop failures into stepping stones to succeed. His school also has a school diary with a “gratitude journal” section for each day. I’m sure each school has their own versions of encouraging the children to try their hardest, we just felt that this method was the direction we preferred as parents.
This week Zac was awarded Star of the Week because he decided he wanted to earn it. We discussed the steps he needed to take to get the award after reading through the schools values, we jointly wrote steps out onto poster paper and hung it on a wall, we worked with his teacher and discussed the goals with her and to her merit she upheld those in class also. And we stayed firm in our convictions when his behaviour went down a path leading away from bettering himself. Often asking him whether he believed his actions were productive, and how he could improve. And referring to the “catastrophe scale” of how bad a situation was that he was overreacting to. To our surprise, all of this worked.
You will never be truly ready to step back and allow this process of schooling to take place without meeting resistance from the maternal parts of you. We connect with our children very instinctually, like a lioness watching her cubs you want to have access to them to drag them away from danger but this is not how we gain wisdom into adolescence and adulthood. To date the hardest thing I’ve found with parenting is saying no to the part of me that wants to step in and fix Zac’s hair when he is at assembly about to receive an award (how seriously embarrassing that would be for him) and resist the temptation to ask him a thousand questions about his day (I have not yet mastered this). But I have discovered a part of me that is so proud of him and his own sense of pride that I am willing to let him make mistakes. I have seen how far he can go now that he knows to make the most of an unfavourable outcome.
Highly recommend following The Resilience Project on Facebook (image derived from there)
Colourful lights, beautiful decorations, Christmas music everywhere and not to mention the Christmas dinners, lunches and other events you are lucky enough to have been invited to. A time to get into the spirit and put a smile on your dial.
Unless you are Mum who already deals with anxiety.
The to-do lists are infinite and with every one task, each present bought, it feels as if 3 more sprout. Like the annoying grey hairs in your regrowth that you pluck out because you haven’t made it to the hairdressers in over 3 months. Or you stopped dyeing your hair because you don’t get the time.
Christmas is a wonderful time when you have small children but being Santa, being the homemaker, or even being the breadwinner, can feel like you have to find more than 24 hours in a day just to get all of the food and gifts prepped before Christmas.
I have spent many years winding myself up over the Christmas rush. Worrying I wouldn’t get a carpark (you eventually do), stressing that the traffic would be too bad (it eventually moves on), or that the gifts I made/bought would not be good enough (if the receiver doesn’t like it then that really is their problem), circulating these thoughts may sound like fun but it sucks the enjoyment out of the festive activities. Who would have thought.
So, when I thought of writing this post a week ago, I have since tested some theories and put them into practice to that I can report back my findings.
One may consider photo printing stores such as Officeworks a no-go so close to Jesus’ birthday but I decided to take the bull (reindeer?) by the horns (antlers?) and strap in for a lengthy wait. After some chaotic and stressful weeks I was able to shift perspective and somewhat crazily look forward to standing a line merely thinking about nothing more than the ground I was standing on. With that perspective and more relaxed attitude, I found the lines to be shorter – even making conversations with other waiting Mum’s (there were a few of us of varying ages) and assisting others to use the machines! If THAT isn’t in the true spirit of Christmas then I don’t know what is.
This technique has carried on and while some days I have become flustered, for the most part I have felt calm enough to let the pushy people push in front of me without wasting my breath telling them off, only to have people waiting behind me comment on my baby boys beautiful smile.
I observed the most delightful elderly couple, who had also commented on JJ’s smile (this happens a lot), walk together as the husband helped his less mobile wife walk with confidence, ensuring she didn’t trip or fall. Stopping to look back and smile at us occasionally. Friendliness you think has dissipated in this world.
Another Christmas anxiety-inducer is the thought that the 25th is a deadline for any fun activities. That you must complete all Christmas traditions before that time. Quickly squeeze in that trip to Santa’s Magical Kingdom when you already want to look at Christmas lights, check out the local estate Christmas party in the park while making sure you are home for Santa to drive around the streets in the firetruck (because what kid doesn’t like that). If only I had Doctor Strange’s time stone. Instead I have chosen a few achievable items on the list and otherwise spent time our family or practicing self-care by doing yoga whilst drinking some bubbles then painting my nails watching Home Alone. Merry Christmas to me! And the daily stress afterwards seemed bearable to cope with.
Anxiety is a horrid and all-consuming condition that helps you find the flaws in almost anything. It amplifies the negatives. What would typically be exciting becomes overwhelming and sickening. If you can get some quality sleep, a couple of minutes or hours to care for yourself then you have more chance of battling the crowds at the shops without becoming so irate you hip and shoulder Barbara in Aisle 5 for cutting in front of you.
My Christmas wish for all of you is that you get some you time, so you can spent the remainder of your time with loved ones living in the moment without accumulated stress or worry.
Enjoy the Holiday Season, Have a Very Merry Christmas and Happiest New Year
Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.
It took some getting used to my body not “bouncing back” this time around. 3 months after my first birth I was well on my way to becoming leaner and fitter than ever before, but with my second baby it just did not happen.
With the challenge of having 2 children to care for I had decided not to add the stress and anguish of looking as if I hadn’t had a baby this time. Whereas my first experience left me obsessing over it, somewhat unhealthily.
Having a second baby, I almost assumed my body would know what to do, how to bounce back yet again. But realistically I was 4 years older, 2 months off the age of 30, with a differing lifestyle. Going for walks with the baby in the pram has only happened a handful of times, as the opportunity was not available when I was free and willing to do so. Yet I could get out of the house daily before and walk for an hour with Zac sleeping away.
When my efforts fortified, hearing compliments became like a drug to me. “You look as if you haven’t had a baby at all!”. Had I beaten the mum-bod curse? Had I made it to the elusive MILF status? The most important question, now that I have experienced both sides, is it really that fucking important anyway?
There are enormous amounts of content bolstering motherhood, how you have earned stripes, how you should be proud of your body regardless of the opinions of others. But I found myself so hung up on them and using them to fuel myself when I should have been fuelling my own fire. When I should have been caring less about how the comments made me feel and cared more of how I felt about myself when I looked in the mirror, and what was behind the lense I was viewing myself with.
So here I am now. Another baby into my story and convincing myself it is okay to love my body when I don’t have other people telling me I look lovable by their standards.
Social media hurts to look at when you feel something between admiration and utter envy of famous personalities ability to regain pre-baby bodies within a couple of months. You almost look for those who appear to seem human and take their time and who still have mum tum in the “9 months in and 9 months out” photo.
A 15 minute workout these days is manageable on the odd occasion. For sake of sanity and for what my dismal energy stores allow. Keeping a form of muscle conditioning is important to me for the longevity and quality of my life but it cannot always take precedence over my responsibilities as a Mum, having a job and being a wife.
One day this will seem trivial. Spending time tossing up between wanting for my first post partum physique and being proud as hell for what this body aided me to do.
That little pouch sitting over my lower abs will always exist. It reminds us of the human life we grew inside there, and that miracles can seem impossible but occur right before our very eyes. Our breasts will be forever changed. They even scare you to look at sometimes. I can even see and feel that my pelvic bones changed placement with each pregnancy. That is awe inspiring. This body, those bones, literally moved great distances as far as they are concerned and birthed two children.
We may sit back and judge other women who seem to be completely unaffected by one or more pregnancies, but we never know their true story, what change was made to their physicality or what changed inside their brain.
Gumption and mental grit may be the badge of honour you earn after a second or third baby.
Gaining an understanding of temporary frustrations and learning that this precious baby and toddler phase speeds by so fast could be the perspective we gain. Maybe even the realisation that fitness can be earned, we can gain it back. It is not like a rare unicorn that can never be caught. That mental toughness though, that is brought about by dealing with the hard stuff that life will throw at you. You can read books and listen to podcasts but nothing can train your brain quite like living through a testing time and coming out the other side of it.
These thoughts get me through. And exposing myself to realistic, healthy and likeminded women or men who share honest takes of how they reach their goals.
Letting go of expectations to be like the “old me” gets easier when I feel the comfort of experience and knowledge gracing my daily mothering abilities. How good is wisdom?
That’s right. Parents have been working and parenting simultaneously for years, hop to it lady. And stop your whinging because it is not as if you are the first person to experience this. I’m saying this to myself by the way.
Get up, get yourself dressed and made up for the day, make the bed, have breakfast, feed and dress the baby, play with the baby or you’re an ignorant parent, wake and make breakfast for the older child whilst being a positive and excited Mum, eventually yell at him for not eating breakfast (you have asked him to do so at least 20 times already), ask him to get dressed, again, and again, then yell at him because he cannot hear a damned thing (constant ear problems), clean up kitchen, double check all persons bags for the day are adequately packed, pack items into the car, try to appease the crying baby and clean his refluxy spit up from his freshly changed clothes, change his clothes again, get older child to brush teeth and go to the toilet and brush his hair, sit on toilet floor while said child inconveniently poops because “he needs someone to talk to”, then argue about why he needs to brush his teeth and wash his hands, put baby in car while he screams like Chewbacca getting kicked in the nuts, request older child puts his shoes on, repeat another gazillion times until you give in and do it yourself because now you are going to be late, buckle older child into car seat whilst refusing to listen to some weird Pikachu song on YouTube, awkwardly deliver spewy baby to daycare along with wandering older child who is still mad at you for moving him from this daycare to a kinder, rush back to car, zip through school traffic to kinder while dodging other flustered parents, argue again with child this time about wearing his own backpack, sign child in and quickly get shown around the latest activities (even if you are needing to leave because your feel guilty af for yelling at him all morning), rush back to car and drive to work. Look at the time, it is not even 9am yet.
This is not any different to most parent’s mornings. In fact, I am very privileged to have the life I do, and I am aware of that. Which is exactly why I am being hard on myself. Which is exactly why I work myself up into a twisted ball of stress that is so tightly knitted, I snap at the mention of anyone expecting something slight from me. I whisper to myself, “please don’t expect any more from me.”
I have asked my Mum why I find it so hard. She managed to make it through years of working 6 days a week and running a farm while caring for us, getting up way before dawn and driving an hour from remote farmland to take us to our grandmothers only to get home at 6:30-7:00 at night and do the dinner, bath, bed routine. I don’t know how she did it. She replied to my question, “Sha, the pace of life was very different then”. She is right. We have smartphones strapped to our hands and they may as well be a part of our body because they even join us in the loo. Hey, I am the first to admit I am guilty of taking it everywhere with me. We are always accessible, always switched on, always processing information, being told via several channels how to parent, or that we do it wrong, or that we don’t eat a balanced diet, or that we should eat that tasty fucking burger that Facebook & Instagram ads so rudely shows on my newsfeed at dinnertime every night. Be polite, but don’t let yourself be walked over, be strong, but be politically correct or invest in a figurative shovel to dig yourself a hole, be an attentive parent, but research how to be that kind of parent because society says you are doing it wrong. So does the old lady in line at supermarket checkout, by the way. Just. Be. More.
I can’t stand it. And I break. It feels bloody impossible to parent the way that suits your family with the enormous aforementioned pressures being thrust into your face. The expectations add up so much so that I transform into a no-shit-taking demon like woman and god help you if you ask any more of me, even if it is to know where the loo is. I cannot afford to drop the “parenting” juggling ball as result of fulfilling another expectation. My children need me. And that expectation cloud around me soils my family goals.
My husband calls me the single-married-mum. Meaning, I am considered a married woman but he is home so very little because of his job that I am the one who keeps the cogs spinning in the house, while working and trying to be there for our kids. I closely watch other parents do the same thing and never will I ever stop being amazed at how hard they all work. Whether they work full time or not, it is nothing short of inspiring. We share the one goal. To give our children healthy, plentiful lives. We live in a lucky country and have that option thankfully. But the pressure of leading a “balanced life” is real.
You know when you are at the end of your tether and on the brink of burnout. You are so tired you could vomit, sometimes you might. It feels like you are a bottle of champagne, you get filled up to the brim with bubbly expectation, get shaken up by the need to be everything to everyone then eventually the cork pops right off and you are angrily and resentfully bursting the contents out directing it at anyone who dare stand in your way. Or, you implode, you take those feelings and you trap them inside like a turtle. A very, very sad little turtle.
So, do you know what I do? I drop the juggling ball. I have dropped the ball. I will continue to DROP THE BALL. Right now I write to you from my bedroom where I can hear my cousin-in-law babysitting our children. I asked her to come over and help me out so that I don’t go completely postal on the world. Working and mum-ing is such a huge adjustment. My baby is almost 5 months old and every inch of the mother within me is unsettled by the notion I have to leave him at a child care centre 2 days a week. Prior to this, even parenting full time at home felt like a huge responsibility because you are expected to have a cleaner, more organised house than others while teaching your pre-schooler some Beethoven on the piano. I’ve done both and both are as equally tough.
Listen here, reader. It is okay to surrender to your feelings and let them out. If you don’t you are opening up a future pandora’s box of undealt-with issues and that will snowball like a motherfucker. Take a deep breath in. We ain’t perfect. In fact, let me share with you what seems like anti self-help style advice because I’m certain I’ve never heard of Tony Robins or Louise Hay suggesting this so bluntly. Maybe you’re the kind of person that needs to receive information in this bogan-esque style…
Steps on how to drop the ball:
First, you need to accept that when you have too much on your plate, something’s gotta give.
Secondly, you need to narrow down if you need “you” time, “family” time or identify another space in your life that needs more attention.
Thirdly, accept that as a result of refocusing your attention, things such as washing, thorough house cleans or yard work may suffer. It is okay, those things don’t have feelings and you can always do it later when you get more energy again, or outsource them if you’re willing and able. Heads up, people may not like your refocussed decision. Repeat this mantra in your mind: “fuck off, it is my life”. Just kidding, but pick something to the tune of that and it wouldn’t hurt to mentally repeat it until it sticks.
Fourthly (is that a word?), be courageous and DO IT. Drop the juggling charade. Hardest step guys. This is what separates you from the pack of people stuck in a loop. You can continue a façade that you can manage it all, but ultimately it is about your lifestyle preference and what you can cope with. I attempt multitasking but it simply is not my strongest forte, so I need to separate things like a dude (P.S. not sure I believe that tale, my husband is better at multitasking than me).
The reward of this is worth more than any people pleasing task you would complete. You fill the empty “self-care” cup shoved at the back of your to do list and suddenly the to do list does not scare the bejesus out of you anymore.
Trust me, I literally did this today and I feel so much more human.
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.
Shortly after Zac entered the world
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
“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
Here we go – finally the day I set out on a journey to expose what goes on inside this head of mine. Something my husband is forever wanting to know, and immediately regrets once he finds out.
I’m from an outer burbs town in Melbourne, Australia and like many other oversharers on the internets, I too am a Mum. How original right? My household is filled with boys. Husband, Zac (4yo) and baby Judd (3mo). What I aim to do is impart my knowledge of not just mum-ing but also life-ing and the strategies and methodologies I have used to get me to the ripe old age of 30. This is in the hopes that someone out there who was once as clueless as me in many topics will find a post that makes them feel as if they are not alone, something I too have sought through late night googling when life throws a spanner in the works.
I will also share what shenanigans I get up to on the daily. Probably best that you follow me on insta for that -@shaaralee
I warn you. My life would seem somewhat ordinary to most. I’m not a full blown #fitmum or a #breastfeedingmum or an #organicmum. But I am an #openmindedmum and I have respect for every person’s decisions and believe we all tread our own little path. I love my family and my children. I have battled PND and anxiety just like most people in this decade and I have only in recent years accepted and learnt how to combat it. I’m learning to retrain my brain and by sharing what has worked for me in this lifetime, heck it may work for someone else out there.
Cheers for reading and keep on eye out for my next install ✌
It is well to fly towards the light, even when there may be some fluttering and bruising of wings against the windowpanes, is it not? — Elizabeth Barrett Browning