A few weeks ago a stranger messaged asking, ‘do you not enjoy motherhood? Are you trying to put people off having kids?’ I was a little taken aback and it has taken me sometime to process how I feel about those words. On the back of this I want to share a story with you about the importance of talking about the tough times, as well as the good times.
I consider myself exceptionally lucky to have two amazing, healthy children and after experiencing the loss of a baby myself, a small part of me will never forget and will always mourn.
Losing our baby hit me hard, really hard. I plummeted and just kept going with no thought for anyone else, especially my husband and his pain too. I was hurting but I was also very selfish, now when I look back I do not recognise the person I became. It took me a long time to recover and grow. It was a really dark time and how it impacted me and my behaviour, genuinely added further to the trauma.
I threw myself into planning a huge wedding, the gym, work, University, anything really. I appeared (or so I thought) to have everything in control, I drank (a lot), ate salads, opened a savings account, renovated a whole house. I thought I had nailed it. Inside I was destroyed. I was exhausted, my obsession with keeping busy and trying to ‘appear’ ok was damaging my fragile mental health even further. I did not want to talk about it.
We had a beautiful wedding, everything I could have dreamed of, but the cracks were beginning to show. Then BANG! Baby Cass was born.
When you have children, your first child, everything changes. I thought it would not change so much, but it did. I struggled, really struggled. Everything was a sensory nightmare, the birth, the noise, the lack of sleep, constantly being touched by another human being, breast feeding, the visitors coming to my house all the time, not a moment to think, the mess. There was no stillness, no downtime and not a moment to think.
I was traumatised and I did not know why. I plagued myself with thoughts of, ‘it is you, you’re not doing it right. You should be happy, you are ungrateful, this is what you wanted, make it work, don’t complain, pretend you’re fine.’ But I was not fine, far from it. I used to hide upstairs and scream in the carpet as loud as I could so no one heard, I used to carry Cass in his sling and walk for miles just so that he would sleep and I could get a moment to myself. I used to sit awake all night feeding, loving and caring for him even though at times, I just wanted to rip my skin off my body because my senses were going into over drive and I was touched out.
I used to cry for hours on my own in the dark wishing for a break, for Cass to sleep so I could just get some rest. I wanted to make him happy, he just seemed so sad, I felt like I was failing as a mother. But still, I did not want to talk about it. This was meant to be the happiest time of our lives together, but for those first few weeks I just struggled to cope.
I wanted to be a mum so much but now I was I was freaking out. I did not love being a mum. I loved my baby, I loved him fiercely, but I did not want to be a mum. I did not want to talk about it. I had wanted this for so long and now my baby was here it was horrendous. I could not cope. Was it meant to be so hard? This hard? Was i meant to be this exhausted, feeding for hours on end, my body and mind broken. I just wanted to curl up into a ball and for everything to stop.
I thought that going to every single baby group would help me, I tried to get out every day and be around people. This made it worse. The noise of the baby groups, keeping up with social expectations, trying to understand new relationships with adults. When all the time I should have been trying to understand my new relationship with my baby. The fall out of trying to do so much was epic.
I did not talk to anyone about what was actually going on. I just carried on as though I was ‘fine.’ I was not fine. I had a huge nervous breakdown. It was the darkest time of my life. If I am honest I only remember fragments of how I was, which is probably for the best. something had to change and now it was out in the open for everyone to see.
Finally when I was feeling better I did want to talk about it and I had opened up to my family and my doctor about how unbelievably hard I was finding things. Not only did I receive support for everything that had happened I was also diagnosed as being Autistic. I could feel a peace within myself that had never been there before, like I was finally getting to know who I really was. I revisited old wounds and unpacked all of those emotions that I had buried deep. I spoke about the trauma of losing a child, how I had to sit in the maternity ward surrounded by pregnant women waiting for their scans. Being prodded and poked and scanned only to be told that there was no baby anymore. Being told by a GP that it happens and that I needed to ‘get on with it,’ after I attempted to seek some help.
Since receiving my diagnosis and learning to be more open about my emotions, I have given birth to our second child, Delilah. I was able to discuss my sensory and communication difficulties with the midwives before her birth and the whole experience was amazing. I have received the support that I should have had the first time round from the NHS and family and friends because now I have the confidence and understanding to ask for it. I am a different person and I am better for it.
I still find things challenging, really challenging but my awareness of myself has taken the edge off. These days I do not go to all the baby groups. I am not readily available to every single person who walks into my life, because I feel that is how I ‘should’ behave. My priority is my family and I love to spend time alone with my children. I rest, I talk with my husband and I put plans in place. I have also stopped beating myself up for finding things hard or just needing a break.
I felt like having my little boy gave me the strength to say, ‘this is really hard and I’m not willing to do this anymore.’ I needed answers in order to recognise and deal with my difficulties in a healthy way and with a bit more knowledge and understanding about myself. Cass taught me that I needed to grown up and take responsibility, I thought I was ready for kids. I was not, it was a shock. Having Delilah has allowed me to see the person that I really am and how beautiful and amazing the first year of motherhood should be. I am grateful every day for my children, what they teach me and how they have allowed me to grow. Motherhood broke me and saved me in equal measures.
Life is all about growing, facing demons, making changes and talking about difficulties. In my experience if you do not talk about the hard times then they come back for you, harder. So to all you people out there who think that you know all forms of motherhood, you are wrong, you do not. We should encourage people to talk about the happy times, but we should also ask them about the tough times too. All feelings and experiences are valid. Maybe next time try to listen.