There are very few ‘pretty’ pictures of my first few years as a mum.
Even fewer still are any insta-worthy memories of me and my pram, strolling along the beachfront, new baby tucked in, coffee in hand with a #yolo #mumlife underneath.
Not because I didn’t want to, or because I didn’t try my hardest to be that magazine-perfect image of a mum I’d been sold and completely bought into, but because that version of parenthood wasn’t ever going to exist for me.
We’d just gotten married and had one goal front and centre – to start a family. I imagined myself skipping along, little cherubs in overalls, collecting flowers and sitting down for Sunday picnics.
I’d done what every normal (*cough*) girl does when she decides she wants to have a baby – subscribed to 337 magazines on everything from pregnancy, to birth, parenting, natural parenting, health issues and whatever else I could find. I bought books that covered my 9 months pre-natal all the way up until teen years that covered feeding, sleeping, discipline, milestones, wonder weeks and every possible medical condition I could potential imagine encountering. If my child had a rash or back-chatted me, I was ready for it. Every single episode of Super Nanny ever recorded had been watched and I was horrified at those people who just couldn’t seem to get it together, it all seemed so obviously simple.
From the outside.
I went to the doctor at least 9 months prior to our planned conception date (Hello Honeymoon 😉 ) , started my prenatal vitamins, downloaded my ovulation calendar & thermometer, my ‘maybe baby predictor’ where you spit on a little microscope and “if it’s blooming so are you”!
*Note, spitting on a stick just prior to attempting actual baby-making is kind of counter productive*
We attended breastfeeding classes (turns out Phil is a natural, if he’d had the boobs for it), the baby expo, where I purchased every single item that could potentially make my experience as hassle-free as possible, antenatal classes, parenting classes, first aid classes, water birth classes and began squatting in preparation to push that baby out (and…turns out I was a bottle feeding, c-section mama in the end).
I was so SO ready and I totally had this parenting thing down.
Then I became one.
The shock of motherhood, or the ‘birth of a mother’ is something I never knew about until I was there.
There’s my actual birth:
A planned c-section that, although, had dashed my plans for a romanticised ‘natural’ labour, was thankfully drama free. I went in, baby came out. An hour later I was nibbling on sandwiches and drinking lemonade.
And then there was my ‘spiritual one’ where I was hit in the face with the reality of motherhood. Now, if this rite of passage into motherhood was a physical process for me, it would have looked something like this:
Being rushed along a hospital corridor bleeding out, barely breathing, nurses screaming “we’re losing her!” probably with a fire on some ward and a hostage situation taking place circa 1990’s hospital drama E.R.
Because while the physical birth of my baby was relatively uncomplicated, my start to motherhood was anything but.
Everything that could go wrong did. Everything I imagined in my mind of what “motherhood” looked like, was the opposite in reality.
The first few weeks were a blur.
My baby cried (screamed). All day. Every day. All night. Every night. For months. And months. And months.
Crying is pretty much all I did too.
I cried for all my hopes and dreams that were seemingly being shattered with every day that passed. Unrealistic, ambitious and largely unattainable dreams – even for a parent with a baby that did everything they were *meant* to.
Because babies are meant to throw up on you, pee in your face and poop all down your shirt, into your car and into the bath. It’s just not meant to be glossy magazine glam, no matter how much you put fluffy socks onto it.
My turning points and acceptance came slowly. The first was our paediatrician who hugged me and told me that I was doing an amazing job, reminding my to always advocate for my child because if I wouldn’t, who else would? I was his mum, I need to be his voice while he learned to find his own…
…And then she asked me to wait out in the hall (I think she meant a few blocks away) because no-one could hear themselves think with my baby still screaming in the room.
The next revelation was driving home from KMART (that place is just FULL of inspiration). Just randomly I realised that this was MY experience. As difficult as it was, it was still MINE. And I wasn’t about to miss the moments I HAD because I was holding out for some kind of imagined reality.
I decided to just fake it til I made it. To find joy, even in the most obscure of places, and screw the resentment and regret that I’d kept finding myself lost in.
I decided to take in the tiny moments I did have, really breathe it in, and what was real around me., instead of peering into other people’s insta windows for the moments that I didn’t.
To put it simply, I made a choice to no longer grieve for something that had never existed anywhere except inside my own mind. The birth, my ‘new parent’ experience and my skewed perception of motherhood all needed to be let go.
I took a second look at the glossy magazines that had fed me images of two-dimensional perfectly dressed mothers with their giggling, smiling (non-screaming) bundles of joy, babies who slept and ate and did everything advertising had told me they should, and I took a breath and decided one last thing.
That no matter how much I was invited to buy into it,
My experience of motherhood was not for sale.