When you become a mother, particularly for the first time, everyone – and I mean everyone – seems to offer you words of “wisdom” and provide advice. From experienced family members to complete strangers. Some of it is useful and supportive, some of it is infuriating, some of it rude even. One of the statements that used to irritate me the most (and to a certain extent, it still does) is the comment “Enjoy every minute”. This is usually followed by some cliche of “You won’t get this moment again, so cherish it!”
It infuriates me because actually, I don’t enjoy EVERY minute of motherhood. There, I said it. It’s out there now, for everyone to see. But it’s true and do you know what? It’s ok!
I love my daughter so much. Until I had her, I didn’t even imagine the overwhelming love I would have for her. I would not be without her. I can’t imagine life without her. That however, doesn’t mean I have to enjoy every single moment spent with her.
In the early days, I would say the first 6 to 8 weeks, there were moments where I would sit and cry with BG! I distinctly remember one evening in particular… my Husband had returned to work after his paternity leave and was on a set of night shifts. My Mum had gone home after her much-welcomed “support visit” (I had attempted to suggest this wouldn’t be necessary at the time, but Mother insisted – and I am so glad she did! I am looking forward to the future where my daughter can say “Mum is always right!). This was the first night that I had been alone with BG. BG had ‘mild reflux’ mainly because she was prem and was often sick after a feed. We were having a particularly challenging evening where she wouldn’t settle, kept wanting to feed, then throwing up the feed. She was waking every couple of hours. I was in my fourth (and last) pair of clean pyjamas after BG had been sick on all the others, when BG was then monumentally sick on these. I just sat cuddling her – both of us crying. I remember thinking “I didn’t think it would be like this.”. As she got bigger and the reflux passed, things got easier, she was sick less and she slept for longer between feeds. That or I just stopped caring about clean pyjamas…
We were generally blessed with a baby that slept well (compared to some of the stories from my NCT mum group – we were lucky!). But there were the tag team nights where my husband and I would take it in turns to get up with BG in the night, every couple of hours. (Who doesn’t love a sleep regression?!) – I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy those moments. I also didn’t enjoy the “Who is more tired?” game that followed afterwards between my husband and I, like it’s some kind of competition – why we do this, I don’t know!
There have been days where BG has only wanted to be with me, putting her down resulted in her screaming – I didn’t enjoy those moments.
There were days where I both wanted to leave the house but also just stay inside my little bubble in equal measure. There were times where I would take out frustrations on my very patient husband. There was an evening where he had returned from a 10 hour shift at work. A job which has a 90 minute commute each way. When he got home, he naturally wanted to have a shower, get changed, decompress the day a little – but all I wanted was a break from the screaming child in my arms who had been having a particularly off day. I shouted at him for that.
There were also times where I just missed being at work. I think that hit at about week 8. Again, I shouted at my husband stating that it was ok for him… he’d got to go out to work all day and be away from pooey nappies, milky sick and a grumpy baby. He’d been able to talk to other grown ups about things other than the baby. Other than “Is she good?”, “Is she sleeping well?” and other irritating questions (more on those on another post of mine). People probably asked him what he watched on telly last night. People probably asked him if HE was ok. People probably asked about his baby last, if at all. It wasn’t fair!
Another moment that sticks in my memory was my “6-8 week check up” which was 7 weeks after I had given birth. The GP was 45 minutes late for my appointment. BG was screaming. Not only did the GP say repeatedly that my baby was very distressed (she wasn’t she was just hungry by this point), she also told me that I was still “…a bit flabby”. I could see my weight record on the screen – my weight gain was 3.5lbs (We were due to start IVF before we actually fell pregnant with clomid tablets so I had been weighed in January before we fell pregnant in the February.) BG also refused a responsive smile for the GP and so this was written down in the red book. I saw this as a criticism of my beautiful baby. As somehow a criticism of me as a mum. I had reached zero tolerance. I stated to the doctor the following: BG is not distressed, she’s just hungry – at this point the GP interjected and sympathetically nodded saying that it was difficult to schedule appointments around feed times. I responded with: well it’s not is it, I booked my appointment around usual feed times, my appointment was 45 minutes ago and you are late. It didn’t matter to me that I demand fed so BG didn’t have a regular feed time – the GP didn’t need to know that, but I didn’t want to start a feed in the waiting room and then get called in for my appointment. As for the “still flabby” comment, I firmly but politely, pointed out that her choice of words was perhaps not the best and once all the checks were completed, we left. BG smiled at me as soon as we got home… I asked the health visitor to check BG again at the clinic during our weigh-in appointment later in the week, naturally BG smiled and all was signed off. I refuse to see that particular GP now in the surgery, I always ask for a different one.
There have been a number of poonamis over the last 18 months, can’t say I’ve enjoyed any of those – especially not the one where I also got covered in it!
Now that BG is older, it’s less sick and explosive poo and the high pitched baby crying that causes the “I didn’t sign up for this” feelings, it’s the tantrums and early morning starts! At nearly 18 months old, BG has started to decide on what she wants and when she wants it, but doesn’t quite have the words to explain herself. Therefore, we tend to get a lot of shouting and the word “no” will undoubtedly result in a “throw yourself on the floor” tantrum. I don’t enjoy these.
In addition to some of these points, I also have found that people seem to ‘forget’ that you were a person, a professional before you were a mum. Sometimes it feels like you’re branded a mum before everything else and you get a feeling of a loss of identity – again, I’ve written about that in a previous post. I don’t particularly enjoy those days either.
Then I feel guilty. I feel guilty that I am not enjoying every single moment with my beautiful daughter. To a certain extent, my miracle daughter. It’s at those times I remind myself that it IS ok not to be ok. I’ll then usually pick up my phone, open WhatsApp and have a good old whinge to my NCT group. Undoubtedly someone there will say “me too” or make some form of joke that will lighten the mood and brighten everyone’s day.
I consider myself to be lucky in the fact that I didn’t suffer with Post Natal Depression, but I definitely had some dark days. The World Health Organization states that worldwide about 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. However, the NCT state that around half of new mothers’ mental health problems such as anxiety, phobia, trauma, OCD, depression, don’t get picked up. There is help out there for those who are struggling There is a certain amount of pressure on mothers to “enjoy” every single moment of motherhood. Some of that comes from social media, from other insta-mums who post only the glossiest of pictures from their life as a mother on their Instagram. It’s easy to compare yourself to another mum who appears to have all of her shit together – I’ve been guilty of that myself.
It’s time that insta-mums (myself included in this!) showed a slightly more realistic view of motherhood. If we all talk about the moments where we’re not ok, we may help someone else shake their dark cloud away.
Always remember – it’s ok not to be ok.
If you are concerned that you, someone you know or your partner may be suffering with a post natal mental health issue, there are a number of support websites that may be helpful for you: