This is not how I planned it…
The planning and excitement in the lead up to the birth of a baby is such a happy time and for me it was made so special with the outpouring of love from my family and extended work family at Fit Kidz. The most common remark was always “you will be such a great Mum and do it so easily with all your experience of working with children”. I agreed, this would be easy compared to caring for a centre full of children who I treated as my very own…. boy was I wrong.
Mitchell’s birth was typical, long, hard, and exhausting and although we were thrilled to have a healthy baby boy, I was waiting for that feeling of euphoria, you see in the movies. He had some breathing challenges so had to be taken to the special care nursery just for monitoring. I remember looking at my husband’s face and he was so elated, so excited to meet his son and it was so strange because I felt like I was in another person’s body.
Mitchell took to my breast easily and my husband congratulated me and said how great that was, sadly that was the only time he really took to the breast easily and there begins my feeling of failure. A midwife would try and help me and said it will get easier, my mother in law arrived to tell me it was the only way to feed a baby, she always had so much milk and easily fed all 6 of her children. I stuck with it, so desperately wanting to be the mother I planned to be, and bottle feeding was never in my plan. It never did get easier and when I conceded that we needed to formula feed, I was devastated but never shared that sadness with anyone. This was supposed to be the happiest time of my life, what was wrong with me?
I arrived home from hospital to the news my dear father had terminal cancer. This wonderful man I adored, who was going to be a wonderful grandfather to our new baby was sick, very sick and I was heartbroken. I had spent my life focusing on joy and being positive and suddenly, I felt my world was crumbling around me. I was sleep deprived, my baby could feel my anxiety and was restless and I was trying to balance work too.
The thought of reaching out for help or talking to someone about my feelings was just not an option for me. I felt I had to be strong for my Mum and family, they were already worried about my Dad and I should be so grateful that I have a beautiful, healthy baby boy. I felt incredible guilt and anger at myself for feeling anything other than happiness. What was wrong with me? I had loved children all my life and had spent my whole life wanting to have a child of my own. The job I thought I was born to do….be a mother, was far harder than I thought. I felt I was failing every day.
Mitchell is 15 now and I think as a society, we are doing much better at talking about the challenges of parenthood. Back then I felt like all new Mums were happy and doing it with ease, I did not see anyone struggling like me but then again, on the outside, I looked perfectly happy too.
I finally spoke with a friend who lives in America, I am not sure if the conversation over the phone was easier for me than looking in someone’s eyes and admitting I was struggling so badly. My dear friend shared similar feelings with me, it was painful and raw, but I felt a feeling of relief after that first conversation.
It takes time but talking is the key and I encourage everyone to speak openly, honestly and without the concern of judgement. I have learnt that parenting is the hardest job in the world, but it will bring you joy. I came out of my “new Mum daze” only to be pregnant again very quickly, then came new challenges but the happiness returns and although you constantly question everything about your parenting, I know I am a good Mum and I am very proud of my beautiful 3 sons. My only regret is that I didn’t seek support earlier because the range of emotions, from guilt to anger to fear, can be crippling. You are not alone; a mother’s strength is amazing and united we can conquer anything.