What are your most vivid memories of those first, heady days and weeks after your former belly dweller suddenly appeared earth side?
I’ve been thinking a hell of a lot about pregnancy, birth and new motherhood lately (funny that!), and I have to say that initially, it was tricky trying to tap into those amazingly intimate emotions and experiences from the days and weeks that followed my sons arrival into our lives. While it was only a reasonably short time ago (2 years and 2 months to be exact), new motherhood and life with a brand new bub seems like a lifetime ago.
It was only really when I started flicking through the photos from those days that a lot of it came flooding back. The absolute elation. The fear. The shock. The wonder. I tear up whenever I revisit those images as it’s like re-visiting a former side of myself, and a former version of my son. Seeing yourself as a new mother, when you’ve been in the game for a little while, is surreal.
There have been many, MANY times when I’ve wished fervently that I could leap backwards through time to give the person I was then the advice and comfort that she needed. ‘I wish I could have a do over,’ was something I often said to my husband and then Psychologist, especially when I finally emerged from the throes of Post Partum OCD and PND.
‘I want to go back and tell her that it’ll all be ok. That she’ll be ok. That she’s doing so well and that she IS a wonderful mother.’ I thought that if I could have just imparted that wisdom to my former self then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten so tough. Maybe she (and I) would have scrambled back to an even footing, instead of continuing to slide downwards into fear, doubt and when I’m brutally honest, a generous helping of self loathing.
As I was told over and over again however, there are no do-overs. There was and is only the here and now and that was where I needed to be. As I slowly got better, I came to accept that I couldn’t change the past and to be honest, when I look back now, I’m not sure if I would want to. It was the hardest, most soul shattering, exhausting, intense period of my life to date. It made me question everything I had ever known about who I was. It redefined my relationship with myself, my partner, my family and my wider support network. There were times when I wondered if the horror movies in my head would ever, ever end. There were times I thought that they never would. That I’d never ‘get’ this motherhood thing. That it wasn’t what I was supposed to be doing or who I really was. When I reflect on those thought patterns and the raw emotions that they were partnered with, it seems slightly bizarre that I wouldn’t want to change that. Why would anyone want to suffer through that kind of haze for 8 months?
The thing is, what I experienced has given me the unique opportunity to appreciate where I am now, juxtapositioned against where I was then. There is nothing more beautiful in my life at present than motherhood. My son still makes me tear up on a daily basis but from joy, not fear or sadness. There are days when I look at him and I actually whisper ‘Thank You” to whoever it is who might be listening. I take an incredible amount of pleasure in simply ‘being’ a mother and going through the motions of what the job entails, without the constant presence of the fear and loathing filled dialogue that once stalked my every waking moment. For anyone who has ever suffered OCD or anxiety, you’ll possibly agree that a ‘quiet’ mind is one of the most wonderful states you can experience. When your mind is free to just do its thing, focusing on whatever it is it fancies, generally the boring stuff like what to make for dinner and if there’s enough eggs to bake a cake, it’s a unique kind of peace and happiness.
The experience that I had has certainly shaped me as a mother and I’m interested to see what happens this time around. I thought I might be apprehensive about doing it all over again, and I am to some extent. I know that I never want to go back to the place I got to with Ollie. Yes, it taught me a bunch of stuff but there’s learning from the past and then there’s voluntarily sending yourself back into loonyville. I’ll be taking the first option and am working on my plan of attack for how I’ll manage after birth, especially how I’ll manage my particular triggers for OCD and anxiety. One of the things that I’m focusing on is all the good in those first few days and weeks. The little fragments of sunshine and amazingness in an otherwise sleep deprived and bewildered landscape. Cos there was so much good, mixed in with the struggles.
Here are my favourite fragments. I’d love you to share yours as well!
- Delivering my son myself, in the water, watched by my husband, doula and midwife.
- My husbands face as Ollie nestled into my chest.
- His first cry.
- How good sour worms tasted after a few days of pre-labour and labour itself (I was STARVING).
- My parents faces when they met their first grandchild.
- My brothers face when he met his nephew.
- Our first night at home, watching ‘How I Met Your Mother’ with a pizza and a baby next to the couch in his bassinet cos we weren’t sure if we were ‘allowed’ to leave him in a different room.
- A tiredness I never knew existed.
- Marvelling at tiny fingernails and tiny toenails.
- Our first walk. I think it took me 300 hours to walk 500m.
- My first proper post birth coffee.
- Saying ‘My son’ for the first time and not quite believing that I has a son and was a mother.
I’d LOVE to hear what you remember from those first days and weeks after birth. Please feel free to SHARE in the comments below.