I wrote one of my first posts on fragility in motherhood – that it is ok to have bad days because ultimately we’re strong and resilient and will survive the darkness that is the early days of motherhood (or the later days…). Then one of my new favourite mum bloggers (ok, mom bloggers – she’s American), Table Manners, wrote a post about “Giving into Motherhood.” It was so, so good you guys. Read it now.
It’s got me thinking about feelings.
If you know me IRL (‘in real life’ for those of you born before 2000), you would probably say I’m an ’emotional’ or ‘dramatic’ person. No offence taken. I am fully aware of this, and it’s actually kind of what makes me who I am. It’s why I played ‘Happy Hank’ – the lead dwarf – in the local children’s theatre 1994 production of Snow White Goes West so convincingly. It’s why my mother threatened to take me to Hollywood every day when I was little, which I actually thought was an empty wood of holly bushes and it made my blood run cold. Drama and I have a longterm relationship.
So, it probably goes without saying that I have felt A LOT OF FEELINGS since having a baby. I have felt – to name a few – joy, fear, frustration, sadness, regret, intense love, sheer happiness, boredom, anxiety, and a bit of depression thrown in for good measure.
I wake up some mornings thinking what life would be like if I still worked for the State Department, or still had a career really at all. I feel nostalgia for that international woman of mystery who now resides on a LinkedIn profile and in a tupperware box in the closet with my high heels and silk scarves. I can be overcome with sadness at that life I left behind.
But, I go to bed most nights feeling deeply satisfied and at peace with my new life as a mother and as a ‘stay at home person.’ I feel excited about how Freddy is growing and changing, and wonder what surprises will await the next day. I feel relief that he is with me, and that I get to kiss his chubby cheeks all day long.
That said, I have moments, several times a week, where I worry incessantly about everything. Is Freddy developing as he should? Did I just get tetanus from that little nail that scraped my finger? Did I accidentally put something with salt into his lunch? Is the house burning down while I’m at the grocery store?
Then there are those really special moments where I’ll be holding Freddy and he’ll lean back a bit to look into my face, and give me a big smile. And I think, damn, does it get any better than this? This complete, encompassing, beautiful joy. This little human that I grew in my tummy loves me and seems really happy with life. Success.
And at least every couple of weeks I feel unjustified rage towards my husband for something totally asinine and I’ll do the silent treatment or the “EVERYTHING IS JUST FINE THANK YOU VERY MUCH” awkward response when someone asks, “Are you ok?” Like, I just need to be angry at someone and, sadly, spouses are easy targets.
Sometimes I really beat myself up for feeling any negative feelings. I feel guilty that I sometimes close my eyes and imagine myself working in Central Asia eating sheep brain or back in Washington, DC on the fast-track to world domination. I feel guilty that I get bored some days and just wish for bedtime, or for my husband to get home so I can pass the baby to him. I feel guilty that I just straight up wake up on the wrong side of the bed, and I’m not living up to my yummy-mummy potential.
I hate that I can feel so selfish, when this beautiful little person is so helpless.
But over the past month or so, I’ve just decided to let myself feel whatever feelings I need to. Some days I wake up and I’m just having a day of negativity. I feel regret, frustration, exhaustion, boredom. But rather than push those feelings deeper down, or expend energy trying to cheer myself up with pep talks like ‘You still have 60 years to work!’ or ‘No one has a clean house with a baby!’, I’ve decided to allow myself to feel whatever’s inside for as long as I need to. Sometimes I snap out of it by lunch time, sometimes I need to ugly cry when my husband gets home.
And it’s ok and normal. We are not invincible, and no one has a perfect life, no matter what you see on Instagram. So, feel what you need to. Feel those bloody feelings. Chances are you’ll wake up the next day feeling a helluva lot better (but if you don’t, there are lots of ways to get the help you need, and there’s no shame in that at all).
Anatolia, Turkey, circa 2013. My globetrotting days.