Updated: Jun 12, 2020
Does anyone ever feel like they’re really struggling but can’t quite put their finger on why? I’ve felt like that the past couple of days, which came to a head today when I burst into tears at the dinner table while out with my sister and her family. As she took the shambles of a human that looked a bit like her little sister outside, she asked what was wrong and at first I didn’t really know how to reply. I suddenly just felt really overwhelmed.
Talking it through with Kirst, I realised it was due to my earlier reflection on the fact that Rex is now three months old. And just how fucking hard those three months have been. But that wasn’t why I was upset. I was upset because I realised that I didn’t know of anyone else who’d struggled as much as I felt I have in these early months and it made me feel like I’m not coping or doing a good job with Rex.
Why was I, a fairly intelligent, level-headed woman, finding what everyone else seemed to make look so easy so bloody hard? It was then I realised how rare it is to hear or read about women struggling with motherhood. And how social media can be pretty toxic.
The non-reality of social media
When I found out I was pregnant, I started following many new mum and baby-related accounts on Instagram and Facebook, because I felt like I needed all the help I could get. And ninety per cent of them paint the most amazingly beautiful but entirely unrealistic picture of what it’s like to be a mum. And I do it too. We post want we want the world to see, which isn’t that your kid has been screaming for hours and you don’t know how to stop them. The truth is that very rarely is someone’s social media accounts a true reflection of their reality. Mine included.
If you were to look at my Instagram account, you would think I am the happiest mum in the world and that all my baby does is smile. The reality is that while that is true some of the time, when it’s not like that I’m struggling to stay awake, often haven’t brushed my hair and/or teeth and Rex is wailing somewhere while I’m willing him to shut the hell up. While I am very honest with my blog posts, my social media accounts make it look like this motherhood malarkey is a total piece of piss. When I actually think it’s anything but.
Don’t get me wrong, the last thing I want to hear and see is mums struggling and having a shit time 24/7. I am also not begrudging any women who genuinely find motherhood the most amazing experience all the time, in fact fair fucking play to you. I just sometimes wish there was just a bit more honesty floating about. You never know who is looking at your accounts and sometimes knowing that someone else is going or has gone through the same thing as you is massively reassuring and can help more than you realise.
That said, there are some brilliant women out there leading the way when it comes to give a true account of what it’s like to be a mum. Some favourites of mine include Sarah Turner aka the Unmumsy Mum, sometimes I feel like she is reading my mind when I read her posts. She had two boys, another on the way and is brutally honest about being a mum in the most brilliantly funny way. Another is Susie Verrill, a blogging mum of two, I genuinely look forward to her hilarious, no-holds-barred daily Instagram stories. And finally, Anna Whitehouse aka Mother Pukka. I found Anna about two months ago and wish I’d found her earlier. Not only does she do the most amazing work to ensure fair practise for mums in the workplace, she comes across as the most warm, funny and lovely person. If I ever feel down or sad, I take a look at her Instagram account and her posts never fail to cheer me up.
The biggest thing that drew me to all these mums is how refreshingly honest they are. At some point, they’ve all made me feel better about myself as a mum and that it’s ok to admit that it’s not all sunshine and roses all the time. So, with them as my inspiration, I am going to be much more aware when presenting myself to the world on social media by not just posting the happy shit I think the world wants to see and balance the good with the bad and even the downright fucking ugly. 🙂
The lovely Louise 🙂
I think a lot of how I feel today follows on from the birth reflections session we recently had at the RUH. I had quite a few unanswered questions about Rex’s birth so I was really keen for Eamo and I to do this. He has a very clear recollection of what happened, but a lot of it was hazy for me and what I could remember from my labour left me a little traumatized. I really wanted to try to understand what happened at each stage and why intervention was needed at the end.
We were greeted by one of the lovely midwives at the RUH, Louise, who started by talking us through my notes, the first point we stopped on being the trace of thick meconium in my waters. I knew this was the reason I wasn’t able to have a water birth but wasn’t totally sure why. Louise explained it was because Rex had pood because he’d had a moment of distress so they have to monitor him just to be safe. And there was me thinking he was like his mum and if the mood took him he could crap anywhere 😉 .
We basically skipped through my notes until we got the last hour, which was what I wanted to focus on. I wanted to understand how I went from progressing so well to things just completely slowing and then Rex needing to be delivered via Ventose. Louise explained that most first-time mums dilate half a centimetre an hour. I dilated 6cm in three hours. Go me! But then it all went a bit Pete Tong in the second stage and, for some reason, my body slowed right up. It was like it had decided it had already done enough hard work.
Turns out I was actively pushing for an hour and 45 minutes, which I couldn’t believe because I felt like I was trying to curl that baby out for a solid week. It was in the last 10 minutes of that time that intervention was needed because Rex’s heart rate had dropped twice for a prolonged period of time. The rest I knew, they put the suction cup in and on the fourth pull, Rex’s not-so-little head popped out.
Quite an entrance
Rex was psyched to be back on the Mary Ward 🙂
We then moved on to the notes about what happened to Rex directly after he was born and it was at this point I started to get a bit upset. Just casting my mind back to that particular time makes me emotional anyway, but I learnt a lot of stuff that I didn’t know at the time.
Rex was born floppy and had irregular breathing. The baby doctors had to inflate his lungs to help him breathe and suck meconium out of his throat before he breathed it in. It was here that I discovered that due to the thick meconium found in my waters, Rex would always have been taken by the baby doctors as soon as he was born. There’s a danger that babies can aspirate meconium, where it ends up in their lungs and can make them really poorly.
He was away from me for 10 minutes in total and I knew nothing about what was happening in that time. He was simply handed back to me and I was told he was fine. But the thought of him not only being quite literally dragged into the world by his head, but also being born floppy, having trouble breathing and having to have shit sucked out of his throat was just a bit too much for me to hear. Poor little sod, hardly the best start.
It’s good to talk
Good old Bob Hoskins, he knew his shit didn’t he when he did those BT adverts. It really is good to talk. After having a good old cry about how Rex came into this world, I got my shit together and found talking the whole thing through incredibly cathartic. It turns out that Louise and I are very similar in our thoughts and approach to parenting and it was really reassuring for me to talk to her about how I struggled with being a mum in the first few weeks, and still do sometimes. She told me she felt the same initially, and, in fact, she summed up how I feel perfectly when she said that some people naturally take to motherhood and in others it’s a role that grows over time.
I am definitely the latter. I’ve never been overly maternal and I really struggled when Rex was born and over the first few weeks with how I felt about it all. I didn’t feel the way I thought I should. I didn’t have that initial rush of love when Rex was born, I just felt numb, which really upset me for a time. I knew that there was a bond between us, but for a for a while I just felt shocked and unable to really work out how I felt about everything.
I remember having a conversation with a midwife early on who said to me not every woman falls in love with their baby immediately. It’s not always love at first sight. And I remember thinking that wouldn’t be me. I would see him and instantly be so in love with him that I’d want to burst. I’d never heard or known of anyone else who didn’t feel like that so it hit me like a fucking bus when all I felt was numb when I first met him.
For weeks I found it hard to admit that I didn’t feel the way I know many women do when they meet their child for the first time. I thought it made me a bad person and an even worse mum that I didn’t get the fairytale ending I imagined. And I was gutted. But sometimes life doesn’t go the way you planned. Some people get to the finish line going a completely different route. And that’s ok. I know that now.
Having Rex is, without a doubt, the hardest thing I have ever done, both mentally and physically. But like everything I do in my life, I am doing my utmost to be the best I can be. Day by day, Rex and I gain a better understanding of each other. And every day, things gets a tiny bit easier and a tiny bit lovelier as I feel the bond with and love I have for him deepen. I count the relationship between Rex and I as the most beautiful piece of work in progress, which, while we may deviate from the path occasionally, is headed in exactly the right direction. 🙂
Back in the day room for a cuppa and the best toast in the South West 😉