Home / Motherhood Understood
Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.
Nobody ever asks me what I miss about life before becoming a parent. If they did, I would tell them this:
Sunday mornings used to be about waking up when my mind and body were ready. My eyes would gradually open and I would stay in the warmth and security of my bed, maybe flicking through social media, or thinking about the day ahead, or occasionally judging the damage I had caused myself by consuming one too many drinks the previous evening, until I felt ready to stretch, sit up and move slowly.
I’d go for a pee and put my slippers on then mosey on down to the kitchen to fill the kettle before settling down to watch “Sunday Kitchen” interrupted only by the need for more tea, the call of a bacon sandwich or light conversation with the other half.
It would be mid-day before I chose to shower and start my day, well-rested and chilled out as Sundays should be—a day of rest.
Related: To the mom who loves motherhood-but misses her freedom too
This pre-parent me would occasionally look forward to future Sundays when I would one day have children. I was sure without a doubt that we would fit the image of the family snuggled up together in a beautiful Egyptian cotton clad super-king sized bed, reading books and watching old school Sunday morning cartoons whilst eating croissants and drinking smoothies or freshly brewed coffee. We would all be laughing and relaxing together, spending quality family time and enjoying each other’s company.
The reality of Sunday mornings with children hits me weekly like a wet flannel being tossed into my face. I am awoken at an ungodly hour, at least three hours earlier than fresh faced and well rested non-parent me, by the sound of a baby behind bars screeching for freedom and milk.
No more coming around gently, scrolling social media or spending time reflecting on that lovely dream I just enjoyed in which Cillian Murphy was running me a bath—I am shot out of the water cannon straight into the circus ring.
Related: True life: I wake up feeling exhausted every day
Woe betide I ignore the cries of the little man, allowing him to escalate and then stir his sleeping (for now) older sibling. No time for a wee, I sit bolt upright straight away, knee joints cracking as I stand up and shove on my old cardigan which is now used as a stand in dressing gown because it has pockets big enough to hold the many snotty tissues produced by morning child phlegm.
Baby retrieved from his prison cell, it’s downstairs to make a brew and a bottle (sadly not gin o’clock yet, just his milk) before nappy change by which point I still haven’t even managed to get to the toilet to relieve myself yet.
Then it’s time for a string of loud, colourful, cheerful characters on the telly singing songs as the toy box I tidied and sorted through the evening before is turned over and strew across the floor. If I dare to leave the room I’m reminded by said baby that I am in fact pulling too tightly on the imaginary string that he thinks bonds our beings together for all eternity so that we must never be more than a metre apart.
Related: Are you a burned out mom? Here’s how to tell, according to a psychologist
Then number one wakes up. Upon occasion, I’m woken from my slumber by the intense feeling that I’m being watched—I open my eyes drearily to a shadow of bed head like a burst mattress inches from my face and breathing morning breath directly into my nostrils, but usually she stays asleep until she hears movement downstairs and leaps from her bed like a Disney princess singing with the birds and with the revitalized energy of the battery bunny.
Door flung open she then begins to talk at me (which consequently lasts for the duration of the day now that nap times are no longer a thing for her). I gulp my now cold tea and long for the days of Sunday Kitchen and bacon whilst attempting to pour cereal into bowls and wonder when I’ll get a few minutes to pee. It’s loud. And busy. And relentless from the moment my eyes are forced open.
Nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent. Literally, nothing. You can watch all the shows, read all the parenting books, listen to all the podcasts, observe friends and family members embark on parenting journeys and still, I guarantee, your understanding will not even come close to what it actually feels like.
Nothing can prepare you for becoming a parent.
One day you’re just doing you, then the next you’re suddenly responsible for the growth, development, nurture and happiness of another human being. To some this is a welcome prospect. To others, it is frighteningly overwhelming and to most it’s an adjustment that you have to adapt to. Whichever category you fall into, it’s ok. Your thoughts and feelings are ok, regardless of positivity, negativity, or just plain WTF.
Throw postnatal depression, no other friends with children and zero family support network into the mix, and you’ve got a shit-storm.
At four weeks old, I thought my second child was broken. He screamed and cried and threw up all day and all night long.
Having suffered from pregnancy insomnia and with a pre-schooler in tow, I hadn’t slept for four years and as it turned out it wasn’t the baby who was broken (although he was diagnosed with severe reflux at six months old), it was me.
My mother in law was the one to provide me with the lightbulb moment and suggest I speak to a doctor when my youngest was four months old. I remember sitting in the waiting room, my eyes stinging holding back tears and that gut wrenching feeling of anxiety and guilt in the pit of my stomach.
Related: Mom guilt is a symptom of a much deeper problem
Before number two, I’d had my shit together. I was a poster girl for positivity and happiness. Never in a million years did I think I would suffer from a mental health, but the overwhelming guilt and the incessant mom rage that brewed inside me, often spewing like venom in an unpredictable moment of stress proved me wrong.
I smashed a plate when my husband angered me. I rocked the baby too hard. I screamed back at my three year old when she screamed at me during a meltdown. Who had I become? Who was I? Where had I gone?
I was prescribed anti-depressants but I didn’t take them for another ten months for fear of judgment from family members. The packet sat in the back of my cupboard like a safety net until the day came when I knew I had exhausted every other avenue to get well again. How stupid I had been to wait. Within a month of taking them I had release. The clouds gradually started to lift.
I’m seventeen months into the second baby journey now and we’ve turned a corner. For the first time in four years, we have had a stretch of decent sleep. I’m working again. I smile again. I appreciate my kids again. And there will be no more babies. What have I learnt, you ask?
That I am a strong and brave motherf*cker, I am not alone… and I am a d*mn good Mother.