Before becoming a parent, it’s hard to imagine just how much of a paradox motherhood can be. You’ll be the happiest, and saddest you’ve ever been, you’ll be elated, infuriated, and peaceful; and that’s all before breakfast! Clinical psychologist and mum of three Kear tells us about her own roller-coaster ride.
When my ‘threenager’ twins decline to eat the third breakfast they requested and subsequently discarded;
When they insist on having no less than six clips in their hair, and a further ten in their hands;
When we are running late for preschool (again) and the baby has a poo-nami, requiring a last-minute nappy change just as we finally make it out the door; there’s a mantra I return to that gets me through the early-morning madness, and it’s this:
Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful, it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful. – L.R. Knost
For me, L.R. Knost’s oft-quoted words accurately summarise the often-contradictory nature of the reality of modern motherhood in all its “heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary, beautiful” glory.
Hands up who loves being pregnant? I can’t say I’m a fan. Some women just adore being pregnant; it suits them. They glow and bloom, while I leak and sweat, and huff and puff; binge-watching Netflix on the couch for days, while consuming my pre-pregnancy body weight in refined carbohydrates.
This is not to say I’m not grateful for my much-wanted babies (because as mothers, we must be seen to be grateful). I was never into the whole pregnancy gig and often used to joke with my friends about the possibility of my babies being grown in jars and delivered to me once they’re ‘cooked’. Modern medical advances are not a million miles away from this already. And what started as light-hearted banter in my early twenties almost became a reality, when the kind doctor at the SIMS clinic told me I needed IVF on my 35th birthday (yes, my actual birthday!)
Long story short, it didn’t come to that in the end, for this particular ‘geriatric’ mother. (Historically, the medical world described as ‘geriatric’, any pregnancy that occurred after the age of 35. Fortunately, the increasing numbers of women entering the Geriatric Parenting Club are now described more politely, as being of ‘advanced maternal age’).
Nonetheless, my journey to becoming a mother was far from plain-sailing. Sixteen torturous months of trying to conceive drove me to the brink, and beyond. As dreams of a ‘honeymoon baby’ failed to materialise, month after month, I descended into one of the darkest times of my life. A time characterised by invasive fertility investigations, a heart-breaking miscarriage, and numerous failed attempts to get that One Good Egg to step up and be fertilised.
There were times when I couldn’t foresee a future without children, and part of me didn’t want to. If this didn’t happen for me and us, I thought I’d die. I didn’t want to go on childlessly for the rest of my days. I don’t mean to be melodramatic; that’s simply how I truly felt for the longest time.
Then finally, it did happen; naturally and on the double. I couldn’t believe my luck as I laughed hysterically through the tears at the first early scan. The Husband and I turned to one another asking: “What are we going to do now?” Ever practical he said we’d need to get a bigger car, before gallantly offering to have the ‘snip’ because, “Two children is enough, isn’t it?” Let me tell you, the car is the business. The second matter remains outstanding…
It’s ironic that when the Consultant Reproductive Endocrinologist outlined the increased chance of having multiples as he solemnly handed over the first script for Clomid at our initial consultation, I’d responded joking how that, (twins), would solve all my problems. Little did I know…
And they have, and they haven’t.
For a myriad of reasons probably best reserved for another piece, my darling girls bought me to the edge. First, through the threat of their absence, and then through the overwhelming reality of their presence.
I experienced severe postnatal anxiety and insomnia from six months postpartum, and definite prenatal dysphoria and a host of ambivalent emotions throughout my most recent pregnancy with my third child. Feelings that seemed to take a sabbatical for the first few blissful months of the Fourth Trimester, before re-emerging with a vengeance soon after, leaving me sleepless and fretful once more.
As a Clinical Psychologist and mother, I am keenly aware that women’s health is so important, but also so fragile. Never more so than during those most precious, yet vulnerable years of trying to conceive, fertility issues, pregnancy loss, and the many challenges that come with being pregnant, giving birth and beyond into mothering.
The physical and emotional health, and well-being of mother and baby/ies is inextricably intertwined. You cannot have one without the other.
And if you’re not feeling so good at any point in your journey, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad mother, it just makes you human. With timely support, help and guidance, it is entirely possible to successfully navigate our way through the darkest days of motherhood. To find lightness and joy once again, to delight in the unique individuals our precious, tiny humans are becoming, and also in the mothers they are moulding and shaping us to be.
Donald Winnicott (1953) in his wisdom, reminds us time and again that good enough is good enough. And you are, mama, you are.
Are You Struggling? Need Some Help?
If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, obsessive or intrusive ‘bad’ thoughts, insomnia, or are just having problems coping, you’re not alone.
At least one in four of us will have problems with our mental health at some time in our lives. The first stop should be your family doctor (GP), where you can find out what supports and treatment are available. Please don’t feel worried about going, as your doctor is there to help with your emotional and mental health, as well as your physical health.
If you’re feeling confused about what you’re experiencing, you might like to read the following plain mama English version outlining symptoms of PND from the fantastic Postpartum Progress Blog.
Sources Of Support
Other sources of support include:
- Cuidiu (The Irish Childbirth Trust): Support services in antenatal, and birth preparation, breastfeeding, postnatal and parenthood. www.cuidiu.com 01 8724501
- Irish Miscarriage Association: Offering Telephone Support Line, Monthly Support Meetings, and Annual Remembrance Service to parents affected by miscarriage. www.miscarriage.ie or email@example.com
- La Leche League Ireland (LLL): Voluntary organisation providing information and support around breastfeeding through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information & education www.lalecheleagueireland.com 01 8401493
- Nurture: Irish charity offering low cost professional counselling and supports surrounding conception, pregnancy, childbirth, & maternal mental health http://www.nurturecharity.org/ 01 8430930
- Parentline: Provides a listening ear; & offers support, guidance and information on all aspects of being a parent. www.parentline.ie LoCall 1890 927277 or 01 8733500
- Post Natal Depression Ireland: Support & Friendship for those suffering from Post Natal Distress. www.pnd.ie 021 4922083
- Somatic Experiencing (SE) Ireland: SE is a powerful, psychobiological method for addressing physical and emotional trauma, Post Traumatic Stress, overwhelm, and stress-related conditions www.irelandse.org
Kear, is a proud mama to three gorgeous girls; her precious pair of non-identical twins, who are three, going on thirteen, and the happiest eight-month-old baba on the block. She lives by the sea on the Wild Atlantic Way with her daughters, The Husband, and an ever-expanding menagerie of pets. She is a qualified Clinical Psychologist & Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) working in Adult Mental Health with the HSE, where she is known as Dr. Brain.
You can view the ‘everymum’ article here.
For further information about this, or other areas of emotional and mental health, please contact Kear on: 086 3842616 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The information contained in this document is the sole property of Dr. Kear Brain. Any reproduction of this material in part, or as a whole, is prohibited without the written permission of Dr. Kear Brain.