My Day Job Didn't Prepare Me For The Most Important Job Of All
When I found out I was pregnant I did what every non-maternal woman does: I cried a mix of euphoria and anxiety and then I started planning.
I planned because that’s what I do. It’s what I’ve always done. It’s how I negotiate my way through life and how I tame the wild chaos that rages on in my brain 24/7.
I downloaded all the baby apps, bought all the books and listened to all the podcasts.
Then I planned my way through each trimester -- working out what I would eat, what kind of exercises I would do, how much mediation I would suffer through and what kind of music I would play to my unborn child.
Around the second trimester my plans were thrown into chaos when I was diagnosed with perinatal depression. Things were bad. Then they got worse. But with the help of a psychologist and a gradual change in pregnancy hormones my symptoms abated and I was back feeling fine ahead by the third trimester.
A roller coaster doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Then Georgia came and things got bad again. Not because of her, but because of me.
Yes, there were the hormones because of course there were, but also there was my routine and my unshakable idea about how life had to be JUST SO that was about to be shaken up like a neurotic earthquake.
I couldn’t do it, this ‘mothering’ thing, I mean. I COULD.NOT.DO.IT Well, actually I could. The problem was, I sucked at it. Nothing came naturally. Not the breastfeeding, not the sleeping … nothing.
Sure, I spoke to other mothers. But they all told me the same thing -- I’m loving it. This is amazing. Isn’t it just wonderful?
And there I was, sitting on the couch, nodding like some kind of wild, deranged animal and desperately trying to love this new life just like they did.
But, instead of succumbing into some kind of natural rhythm that I assumed motherhood would create, I rebelled. Instead of leaning in, I pushed back. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t try. My God, I tried so hard. Why didn’t this shoe fit? What was I not understanding about motherhood that every single other mother out there seemed to get?
I binged on feels of guilt and self-loathing. This was such a natural thing, women had been doing this for centuries -- so why couldn’t I? What was this secret that I simply couldn’t work out?
As it turns out, there is no secret, which means there’s no real solution. And, if you’re like me, that’s probably not what you want to hear.
Motherhood is not a solution-based gig -- it is chaos, and not organised chaos, either. It is shit-your-pants-vomit-on-the-carpet chaos. And that is what I didn’t realise.
Call me naive, or clueless -- because God knows I was both. I was also earnest, and hopeful. Full of joy at the chance to bond with this special little human who I had fallen so deeply in love with that at times, I could barely breathe.
But I also had no idea that my current method of dealing with the world around me would not prepare me for having a child. See, here’s the rub: Society has changed. Women are no longer seen only as mothers and homemakers (not that there is anything wrong if that’s how you see yourself because you do you), we’re now spending our early adult years studying and working -- learning the life and personality traits that will help us navigate the corporate world that many of us now inhabit.
But those skills don’t transfer to motherhood. Critical thinking, strategising, brain storming and subsequent execution -- yeah, try applying any of those when you’ve got a colicky baby who won’t sleep.
I wish that along with birthing classes there was the option for mothers -- especially those who’ve spent most of their time working in high-powered jobs -- to sit and talk with either a counselor or psychologist, so they can mentally prepare for the tidal wave of chaos that’s about to upend their lives.
Yes, I know there are services out there, but the impetus should fall on the shoulders of medical professionals to help new mothers deal with any problems -- mental or physical -- which they might end up experiencing.
They can be as simple as learning to undo the preconceived notion that everything has workable solution … perhaps offering tips on how to meditate and mentally cope with the ‘I can’t control this and so I have failed’ stress that seems to eat away at you.
Heck, I wish someone had told me.
If you need help in a crisis, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.
Feature Image: Getty