What is early motherhood really about?
I often watch future mums getting ready for the arrival of their children, studying everything about a birth, being happy that they are ready for everything… There is nothing wrong with it. I don’t know one mother who would think otherwise in pregnancy.
However, I always see these mums being astonished when the baby comes into the world. Suddenly they find that the birth is just a beginning. Despite studying of 20 books, attending pregnancy yoga regularly and consulting everything beforehand with experienced mums, they feel they were not ready for anything. There is nothing wrong with that either. The truth is that no mother can be ready for what really comes with motherhood.
What is it that comes with motherhood then?
Let’s take it step by step.
I am not saying I know every mother in the world, or that it is up to me to speak for all women. However, from what I have experienced and seen, I can be almost certain that every mother is mentally unwell for at least some time after delivery. Why? As to her surprise, instead of overflowing with love and feelings of happiness, she often feels sorrow, emptiness, or even depression… Logically, she therefore feels there is something wrong with her. I am supposed to feel happy! She thinks. Wrong! Sadness and depression are totally common and natural feelings of a new mother. Often even during the pregnancy…
Apparently, it’s because the arrival of a child is the biggest change in one’s life that overturns your world by 180 degrees. Suddenly, you no longer do what you used to do before. You cannot even go to the shop freely. You realise what’s changing. Suddenly, you have in front of you a little child that constantly cries and you don’t know why and how to help them. You don’t sleep, you are desperate and drifting out to sea. You were prepared for a lot of crying and lack of sleep, but you were not prepared that both of these things would be happening at the same time. Moreover, the love between you and your child is initially not as strong as you might have expected. Maternal love does not come with a birth. It is a process that shapes itself and develops over time. The first weeks and months are therefore especially about a huge pressure on the psyche and looking for the right balance.
How come they don’t know about this then?
That’s the thing, they do. However, we are sweeping it underneath the carpet as leftovers until we get to the point when we crave even the slightest crumb. That is when we start to search for information from the real life and find out how many things we had missed up to this point.
I am sure you all have met with the definition of baby blues or postpartum depression. However, the truth is, that we mostly meet these terms only on a theoretical level. Even the statistical data of ‘up to 80% of women suffer from baby blues’ does not make it significant in our eyes, unless you experience it.
On the other hand, on the “most interesting”, practical level, we encounter the topic of motherhood mostly in the best possible light. Let’s just look around us. Everywhere we look we see happy, smiling faces of new mothers… Celebrities take pictures with their babies and their smile underlines the title ‘I experience the most beautiful time of my life’. The media and the indirect influences of the environment have always created the impression in us that motherhood is a synonymous to the greatest happiness. Why would we think the opposite?
Logically, we expect that the sense of unlimited happiness enters our lives with a child. It is true that feeling will come, but certainly not immediately. In the first stages, it is rather the opposite.
Why don’t mummies talk about it? It is simple. Since we are from each direction fed with the illusion that a mother has to experience feelings of pure happiness, if they don’t arrive, a mum feels bad and guilty. She feels she is failing and often falls into depression. It’s a vicious circle.
I also suffered from postpartum depression and I also felt that I had to hide it from others. It was some emotional instinct, mixed from the sense of shame and guilt that prevented me from admitting how I really felt.
However, it doesn’t have to go as far as depression. It’s enough if a mum doesn’t sleep and for a couple of hours a day constantly listens to a baby’s crying. For me personally, this combination of lack of sleep and crying was probably the hardest. Often, I went out in the evening, sat on the bench and kept looking in front of me in silence. Just for the sake of sanity.
Experiencing negative feelings at the beginning of motherhood is hence as natural as breathing.
How does a mum feel then when her surroundings ask her: “How are you feeling? You must be happy!” At times like this she got a feeling of guilt in the pit of her stomach, she smiles politely and without a thought says: “Yes, of course I am.”
Vicious, endless circle.
However, it doesn’t have to be like this. Together, we can start to change it. Together, we can help other mums. Together, we can promote the true face of motherhood and reduce the consequences or occurrence of depression. All we have to do is be honest about motherhood. Honesty and openness will help us and it will help others. In addition, it will connect us on a totally different level with other people and bring us closer.
Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re having a bad day. That you don’t feel well. That you cry. That you’re overwhelmed. That sometimes (or often) you feel hopeless. There is nothing wrong about that, nor is it special. You don’t have to worry about people judging you. Do you really think that there is one perfect mum in the world that can allow herself to judge you and look at you from above? Mum like this exists only in our imagination. Real mums feel the same as we do.
You wouldn’t believe how relieved mums are when I tell them how I really feel, or how I’d felt at the beginning… Suddenly, a blood red returns to their faces and they begin to talk about themselves and their feelings. And I find that my story doesn’t really differ from others.
I believe that if mums were ready for reality, they would handle it more easily. It’s true that no mother can prepare for what comes with motherhood. What she can prepare for though, is that it will take some time for the feelings of happiness to arrive.
However, the good news is, they will come eventually. Sooner or later love of such an extent will arrive, that you cannot even imagine. Although the beginning is extremely difficult and stressful, as time passes, we also grow, each day we get closer with our baby, we get to know and love them more. Up until a day when they become an inseparable part of our life.
Although I become anxious or depressed even today sometimes, the level of these feelings can no longer be compared to what I was experiencing at the beginning. Today, I can’t even imagine my life without my children. I would die for them. And I feel this always, unconditionally and regardless of whether they are currently “good” or driving me crazy :).
It is strange how one can move from the feelings of deep depression to the feelings of love of such dimension. How is it possible that the most difficult time of our life suddenly turns into our greatest blessing?
I have no clue. But I know it’s a totally normal and natural process. Thanks to it we grow, we learn and we get stronger in many ways. Therefore, there is no reason to hide it. On the contrary, I think our feelings can be shown to the world with ease and pride ;).
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