PND has, at times, really stretched my relationships with others – I will post more on that another time. The one relationship that’s been truly tested and, (in all honestly) probably failed, is my relationship with ME. I blogged a little about that idea before in this post, but wanted to share further.
PND has 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 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 can 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 will admit that is hard and some days I just don’t feel I have the energy for it.
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. Let’s not even mention ‘squeezing’ into some pre-pregnancy clothes! Seriously, where have these hips and boobs come from? I am now embracing buying a few new things for my wardrobe – items that don’t come with the guilt of “I remember how perfectly these used to sit”. Last week I even binned a pair of my jeans, that used to be my favourite, because it bothered me so much how they now sat on my hips! They fitted perfectly, I just hated to be reminded that they used to ‘look different’ and I’d never get back there. So they’ve gone and I don’t have to face that battle every time I open the wardrobe door.
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 have the pleasure and the privilege of being mum to a little boy who loves me, beyond what I deserve, and who I adore. He’s funny, sensitive, confident, determined, outgoing, chatty and loves life and everything about it! He does my heart good and I am unbelievably proud of the little man that he is and will become. I could not, and would not, be without him, despite what PND has put me through . He constantly asks me “You ok, Mummy?” – such is his genuine kind and caring nature. PND has robbed me of many months with him, but I sure as hell won’t let it have anymore. Yeah, I might miss who I was before motherhood, with all the opportunities that not being responsible for a little one life afforded me, but I am choosing to believe that –
“There are far, far better things ahead than anything we leave behind”
The same has to be true for me with motherhood…doesn’t it?
Please note, I shared a slightly different version of this post with the lovely Laura Clarke, a few months ago, on her blog. You should really go and check out what she's up to!