Lucy’s post last week about dealing with a baby struggling with wind pain and difficulty sleeping was so informative, and I love that lots of commenters shared their own stories and solutions too. Just one of many wonderful things about the blogging world.
This week Lindsay is discussing a topic extremely close to my heart.
When my Son was 2 years old, I was diagnosed with Antenatal Depression leading to severe Postnatal Depression. You might expect me to say that PND been my biggest parenting challenge. It’s been hell, it’s been dark and lonely, frightening and exhausting. It’s probably been my greatest personal challenge. But my biggest parenting challenge has to be adjusting to being a Mum.
Some of that might be due to PND but even so, it’s an area I have had to work really hard on, and I think I will for some time to come, even though I am recovering from PND at the minute.
So, what do I mean when I say adjusting to being a mum? Well, very simply, I just did not find that I had a natural instinct for being mum to a little baby. It seemed so foreign, like a new job I hated and could not get my head around, but had no choice to continue with. This was a big surprise – I have spent the last 10 years of my career working with Children and Young People, for the most part loving it and actually being quite good at it! I had no clue that I’d feel, or respond, in this way.
From day one, I compared myself to every other mum I met, passed on the street or watched on TV. Considering everything from the outfit I had dressed Reuben in; the type of travel system we had bought; and the bottles we used as an expression of my ability as a parent. In every comparison I came in last. I spent hours researching every single thing – the type and amount of formula I had chosen; the bed-clothes I put him to sleep in; the type of yogurt I should buy to feed him; even what age I was allowed to put him on a swing!! I never ever believed that I should trust in my own abilities or instincts, as far I am was concerned I didn’t have any!
Turns out I was wrong. In recovering from PND I am now beginning to believe that as Reuben’s Mum I do know best for him. He believes it. I’m not a parenting expert but I am the expert on my own child – accepting that is liberating and fun!
But that isn’t the only battle in adjusting to becoming a mum, I have faced and am still facing. The question I have asked myself, since Reuben was born is, “where do I fit into my own life now?” I feel like the tattoo of ‘wife’ and ‘mum’ is forever on my forehead, with nothing of me left. I am having to re-learn who I am, what I like and what matters to me. For months I have been trying to fit myself into my own life – like an extra tag on, but only if I find the time. That’s not how it’s supposed to be! I am trying to embrace that fact that becoming a mum doesn’t mean I have to lose myself, I just have to find my new groove!
I need to allow myself freedom to explore my future, always allowing my own opinions to hold as much weight as anything else – I don’t have to squeeze myself into the mould of what others assume I should be as a mum.
In adjusting to becoming a mum I have had to believe that this it is not the end, it is, instead, the beginning of a new chapter. A chapter that is to be enjoyed and not endured. This hasn’t ‘happened to me’, as if I have no say over where my life is now heading. I can instead embrace this season, learning what it means for me to be a Mum. Not just any mum, but Reuben’s mum. I might miss who I was before motherhood, with all the opportunities of not being responsible for a little one that afforded me, but I am choosing to believe that “There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind” (C.S Lewis). The same has to be true for me with motherhood!
Lindsay is married to Gavin and her son, Reuben, is two years old. They live and work in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Lindsay’s blog – Have you seen that girl? – includes tales of life, motherhood and recovering from Postnatal Depression. You can read it here and also follow Lindsay over on Twitter.