If you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling with pre or post-natal anxieties – check in with your support people.
Motherhood is hard. Despite the countless articles, programmes and books that explore just how hard it is, there is a difference between the head knowing something and the heart experiencing it. I don’t think I was fully ready for the relentlessness that is motherhood, it’s all encompassing reach. After the birth of my son, I found myself more than a little lost.
Looking back I got swept away by the tidal wave of motherhood. What I didn’t do was connect back in with myself. I didn’t read the books that fed my soul, instead I spent hours on parenting websites reading the same dross written twenty different ways. I didn’t listen to music that made me dance or sing, instead I stuck on the radio and listened to whatever 20 songs were on repeat that week. I didn’t go into the wild places that are the reason that I live so far away from everything convenient, instead I walked a steady path pushing a buggy along the outer ring road of the nearby commuter town hoping to shed some weight. I refused invitations to meet old friends in town and instead drudged determinedly around shopping centres terrified that the baby would wake and be a baby in public. I was nervous around new friends, convinced that I wasn’t as good as them and that soon they’d realise I was a fake.
But most of all I worried. I worried that his colour was off, that he had a rash, that he was unhappy, that his reflux would never leave, that the emergency section had damaged us both, that he would be sick and I would be helpless. I nurtured those worries and they grew stronger the more energy I gave them. Home alone most days, they positively blossomed. As for the friends and family that wanted to ease those worries, I pushed them away. I didn’t want visitors or help and it was too disruptive to meet anyone, anywhere, at any stage. To say I’d lost perspective is a huge understatement. Throughout it all my fella was solid as a rock and my family keen to offer support but how do you send someone back to themselves? How do you counterbalance a thousand little worries? Slowly, gently and with a lot of love.
Three years later and I’m just trying to keep my head up and enjoy the adventure. We have a three year old and a young baby. There’s not a lot of time out, so it really is the little things that keep us ticking. There are days when I am overwhelmed by it all and days when I am overjoyed with it all. Connecting with myself and with others is one of the ways I cope with anxiety. I try to incorporate simple pleasures into my life. Small things like reading a decent book, singing along with a favourite album, being out in nature, doing a bit of yoga, anything that makes me feel like myself but takes me outside of my monkey mind.
Getting out of the house most days helps. There are a surprising amount of cool, beautiful, interesting places you can go with a 3 year old and a baby in a buggy. Weekends are a case of feel the hassle, and do it anyway. Family is wonderful and they tend to have a much higher tolerance for all things children related. Meeting with friends is essential. New ones are great because they are parents too and they get it. Meeting up with my old friends means so much; they get me. We’ve seen each other through enough to forgive stinky nappies and tantrums. It really helps to see them in person though – social networking can give me the impression that everyone else is off having the craic while I’m knee deep in breast pads and pull ups.
The biggest difference for me though is that I now consciously parent in public. I was terrified of nursing in public with my first baby, convinced someone was going to be horrible and judgemental. It never happened, nosey and unhelpful occasionally, but sure that’s normal. In some countries women are excluded from public life, why do it to yourself? I am trying to get out there, normalise it all. I will not be held hostage by some imaginary disdain.
I don’t want to teach my kids to lose themselves in love, that to parent they need to cease to be themselves. I am deeply in love with my partner and my kids but I don’t want it to be a selfless love – I want it to be me, at my most beautiful, crazy in love with the magic that is our family.
If you find yourself overwhelmed and struggling with pre or post-natal anxieties – check in with your support people, your PHN or GP and contact Nurture.