Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Baby blues - pass the soapbox please

Forgive me in advance. But I had had a crappy Easter. I was putting on some make-up, waiting for the lunchtime news on Easter Monday and it was on TV. Yes, I caught a few minutes of 'Loose Women'. Normally this is akin to enduring a smear test - but their chit-chat topic of the day intrigued me. Terri Dwyer (actressy presenter type) was on plugging her new DIY style show - this was as dull as dishwater. But then the women moved on to the subject of how Terri apparently used to host Loose Women, but left when she had a baby. They asked the typical inane questions about her taking time to lose the baby weight etc and then they ventured into the territory of how she enjoyed motherhood. I expected the usual gush of how it had enriched her life, is the whole point of living blah blah blah - when she admitted she had struggled in the first few months and although she loved her son to death, she had found it hard to adjust to her new role and became quite depressed. She said it was a relief to go back to work; that she had struggled to breast feed and it had taken several months to get it established. She didn't automatically take to motherhood like a duck to water and felt bad because of it. Whilst she didn't have post natal depression, she definitely had the blues but was too ashamed to talk about it. Well, this chat forced me to stop applying my mascara and wave the wand around in joy. Not because I would wish any woman any kind of suffering - but because someone had actually opened up about her difficulties - even saying, and I quote 'I expected it to be all ribbons and bows and when it wasn't I felt like I had failed.'

A friend of mine had a baby just before Xmas and only recently admitted to me that whilst she didn't have depression - she cried for several weeks, completely in shock just how much her life had been taken over by her gorgeous wee one. She said she knew that being a Mother would change her life but she had been totally unprepared for the extent to which she lost her life and identity. I remember seeing her 18 days after she had sprogged and bless her - she was exhausted, looking pale and gaunt and barely able to hold a conversation. Now I know we all know how hard the first few months can be - that is a given - but I am interested in the expectations we all put upon ourselves; the image we all have of idyllic blissed-out motherhood and the disappointment we all feel when it isn't quite as we'd hope. Do we tell people? I don't know about you, but all but one midwife that visited me scared the bejessus out of me and I strived to please them the way a class swot would lick up to a teacher. I cried when husband went back to work and I was left alone with my wee mite. I loved him but oh my god, I missed my life! I remember going to the cinema when he was 10 days old and it felt as if a lifetime had passed since husband and I had taken the familiar 15 minute walk to the flicks. It was a hot humid day cooling slightly as evening approached and he held my sweaty hand and I yearned for life to be this simple again.

One midwife - a woman with twins, one of whom was disabled - admitted to me how she had struggled. How she demanded a section after fainting the first time she witnessed a 4th degree tear birth during her training. She seemed to be real and honest and didn't jolly me along impressing upon me what I should be doing to be a 'perfect' mother. I begged her to come back but my sproglet weighed so much that I had to be signed off for home visits. I shudder to think what would have happened without those visits - and yet the government are considering abolishing them! When a woman is at her most vulnerable, when she has a whole new world to cope with - the male orientated government would consider abandoning her??

I digress. It just got me thinking. I've had quite a few personal emails from friends I have sent the crummymummy blog details to - all saying that it is great to have something so honest to identify with. How many of us keep schtum when we are inwardly caving - determined to prove 'we can cope!' For fear of not being a 'good mother.' Husband often tells me I am not a natural mother - but I am a good one. Whatever this means. The way some folk can dive gracefully or whip up Ramsey style feasts or lick their toes - we all have different talents. Some of us adapt to Motherhood in an instant, instinctively knowing what to do and when to do it. It took me 7-8 weeks to get to grips with sproglet and feel like I was making progress. I had to get a train alone with him and the thought of the 2 and a half hour journey brought me out in a cold sweat and hot tears. Once I did it (sproglet slept and then stared at two pretty girls who got an hour before London) I felt like I had scaled a mountain! It gave me confidence and I went from there.

My moral is - don't suffer in silence, you'd be surprised how many of us are out there. And we get through it and live to write about the tale.

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