The "Happiest Day of your Life"
Can we talk about the idea that the day our child is born is supposed to be the "happiest" day of our lives?
Because that wasn't my experience. And I think it wasn't the experience of many other women... and they think that they are alone.
In fact, I have that on good authority.
I didn't experience this beautiful reunion with my son that was full of bliss and relief and "happiness"
(I have a problem with the idea that we are supposed to be "happy" all the time, there is so much more to life than happiness... but I digress)
After everything I went through in my birth, and it sounds awful to say, I was focused on me.
I was in so much pain and was so bloody traumatized by the whole ordeal and so fucking sleep deprived that I couldn't focus on anything beyond my external body.
Everything I did with regards to him in that first month came from a place of pure survival. Like, somewhere deep in the most subconcious part of my brain that I had to keep this thing alive (and in good health and free of suffering, at least, as free as a newborn can be from suffering, suddenly dragged from the perfect embrace of the womb where every need was met before it was felt - exposed to hunger and cold and heat and aloneness and noise...and someday the harsh realities of life and death and struggle of this world) - that my life as I knew it would end if I let it die. My husband would hate me and leave me and I would be expelled from my community and my family and friends would never look at me in the same way and I would probably kill myself. There's no easy way out of this. Step up or die.
Wow, that was dark. But if you can put your hand on your heart and tell me you never had scary thoughts after having a baby, you're either a liar or a saint.
Obviously, I didn't actually think it out like that. It was like a primal, animal instinct, like the need to drink water when you're thirsty, eat when you're hungry or scratch an itch.
And it scared the shit out of me.
That drive will push you through any pain, any discomfort, any amount of exhaustion.
I remember breastfeeding in those first couple of weeks. The latch was so incredibly painful, I couldn't find a single position that wasn't as painful AF, he was often pressing against my belly and scar.
But I did it anyway, and I would have put myself through much more pain to make sure his needs were met.
(Although combo feeding and allowing my husband and MIL and father to take a "mother" role, or to mother me, from time to time, made this somewhat more manageable)
That first month, nothing came from a place of love and adoration for him. It just came from that drive. That animal, cold, matter-of-fact, life-and-death, instinct.
The love came afterwards. (Phew! She's not a total psychopath!)
There were, of course, fleeting moments of bliss, of connection and love that I had never experienced before in my life. Glimses of what it all means and what we might become.
In an ocean of survival, pain, worry, guilt, overwhelm, unpreparedness, uncertainty and fear.
As I grow as a mother the pain has subsided, but the instinct to keep him alive, "happy" and healthy (and a functioning member of society) is far greater than my need for comfort.
I can't say that I'm "happy" all the time, but I go to bed with a sense that I did something important today. That I am expanding beyond the boundaries of my own physical body, that I am shaping a new human and passing on the life within me.
That there is something more important than myself, and at once, being his mum, it somehow makes me more important too.
This is going off on a tangent, so I'm going to wrap it up with a controversial idea: Motherhood isn't supposed to make you "happy" - it's supposed to give your life meaning, and there is much meaning in struggle and hardship - it's supposed to scratch an itch, fill a purpose: life's longing for itself.
Did you experience anything like this?
Working with mums these past 5 years I have been blessed to hear so many different experiences. The dynamic that we have fostered in our groups is one of honesty, vulnerability and frankness. No advice-giving, no judgement - just sharing and listening. We all have different backgrounds, birth stories and parenting styles, but when you put the mummy wars to one side, I have found that it IS possible for a workaholic like me to have a real conversation with a SAHM, or for a woman who is planning a c-section to talk authentically with someone who has magical unicorn births at home. It doesn't need to be a competition, or either a comparison, just a celebration of our plurality and difference.
I've heard so many stories about birth and motherhood and the postpartum period - all of them are filled with joy and love and wonder, but all of them also contain fear and worry and struggle. My mission is that more women will understand that they are not alone in the hardship. Others are going through the same thing, even if noone is talking about it.
If you want to learn more about what to expect in the first 6 weeks postpartum, download my free ebook here.