Breakdown, but not out
You’re approaching R’s 1st birthday and what a year it’s been! The second child you wanted so hard and went through so much for to complete your family has bought with her the most beautiful yet complex and confusing range of emotions. At times you didn’t know how to keep going. I wish I could go back to those dark, lonely nights as you nursed R for hours and hours, day after day after day, with tears rolling down your face and doubts filling your head. I’d hug you and tell you that you will be ok again. Everything will be alright.
She’s your girl, that’s for sure. She’s a firecracker. A light of pure energy and happiness. She’s busy. She’s hard work. She’s constant. She’s loyal. She’s loving. But most of all, she’s magnificent.
Nearly six years between L and R and way back when you were younger and so much less tired too, L was such an easy baby. He slept well, he was fuss free, he didn’t moan much and you thought ‘This is it, I’m parenting like a pro. Why is everyone else finding it so much harder? Surely they just need to go with their instinct and all will be well and less frenetic’.
You got out and about lots with him and you and the the other half got out on your own too. You had the best of both worlds and being a mum came easily to you. You loved the groups, made great friends and was proud to be a stay at home parent.
A few years down the line when L went to preschool it felt like the right time to try again. But twice came heartbreak and trauma, with one miscarriage and one little boy who would never make it. His brain didn’t grow and you had to say goodbye to him. Both times it took 6 months before you were ready to try again. And so years passed. These loses nearly broke you and hurt like nothing you’d ever known. A raw, clawing, primeval pain. A screaming from the inside that only ever quietened but would never leave you completely. It was here to stay and things changed. You changed.
But you gave it one more try. Third time lucky or never again you thought. The other half wasn’t sure and would’ve been happy to have to have gone into the future as a family of three. You pushed for it though and he conceded and along came R. Early pregnancy was filled with worry and consultant appointments. At 20 weeks you and baby were given the all clear. You went on to have a healthy and fit pregnancy and loved the feeling of growing a human all over again! The most amazing homebirth topped it all off and those first 6 weeks as a new family of four rocked. You were in your bubble and in love all over again. Your family was now complete and your love for your new baby was immense.
But your head was a mess and the confusion of the last three years mixed with the unbelievable exhaustion started to creep in. The 10 hour night shifts of cluster feeding that lasted for nearly 13 weeks were so, so hard. You became foggy and detached, angry and confused. Your daughter wouldn’t nap in the day either and you spent hours between school runs walking round and round and round. You cried every day and was losing control. You didn’t know how you were coping. You went through the motions and were quite open and honest with everyone around you but inside you were breaking. The overwhelming guilt you felt that you had pushed for ‘this’ filled your thoughts and you drifted further from your man and your boy. You pushed on through feelings of despair and misery when the days bled into the nights and back into the days again. You felt ashamed. Whilst your heart was filled with love for your baby girl, you were left wondering if you had made the right decision. It was the best of times and the worst of times. You realised that you hadn’t been parenting like a pro at all. You’d just got lucky with L and he was an unusually easy going baby.
For a while you lost yourself and you lost your mind. Thankfully you knew it and sought help. Depression was an old friend and this time you went for counselling. It was possibly the best thing that you have ever done for yourself. Well done mama, you put yourself first so that you could get better for you and your family.
And as R’s first birthday approaches you can hold your head high and be proud of who you have become. You know now that you are truly strong. You are an empowered woman. You’ve handled all of that and then some and you’ve come out on the other side, understanding yourself better and more completely. You dug deep and looked inside yourself, calling out your demons and laying your soul bare. For that you must be proud.
You are always tired and some days are tough but in the same way that they are for all parents. You are happy again, clear headed and excited about life. You may not be getting as much sleep as you’d like and you may want more time to yourself but those things will come. They will return. You are balanced and in control. You have a deeper understanding of everything that has gone before and everything that lies ahead. I wish I could go back a year and prepare you for the struggles that are to come. Maybe that would have helped and may have changed things. Or maybe not. Maybe you can only weather the storm by passing through it.
Looking back, you did the best that you could at the time. You can’t know how to cope with things you never even knew existed. There were casualties but thankfully the wounds are healing well and those people love you unconditionally. Life is tough but you are tougher. Big hugs mama, you really are parenting like a pro now.