The game changer
[I’ve been sitting on this post for about a month now trying to figure out if I should post it or not. After getting the ok from my better half I have decided to just go ahead and let you read it. Hopefully I won’t regret spilling my guts on a rather delicate subject.]
I’ve been feeling a bit off my game lately. (Lately might be the understatement of the year.) It comes and goes, some days taking a bit more effort than the last. After reading the post “Lukewarm” from Anka over at Keeping it real I realised that’s the word I’ve been looking for to describe it, lukewarm. Her post really hit home on some levels.
I have plenty of moments where it’s all sunshine and roses, don’t get me wrong, and they’re mostly all Anakin related. But that’s not the issue. I’m just going to go ahead and spill the beans on the elephant in the room and then duck for cover. It’s my relationship that has become lukewarm. Now let me just make it abundantly clear that I love my partner, I absolutely do. Our family is the very best thing that has ever happened to me.
Since Anakin arrived the game has changed. While I was pregnant I was one of those naive people who claimed that having a baby wouldn’t change a thing. Oh no, my sex drive would be the same, everything would be the same, only better. Yeah, let’s just put that naive person to bed, shall we? She obviously needs to sleep it off.
For a long time I had what I call postnatal resentment. It had nothing to do with my feelings towards our baby and everything to do with me and my partner. I was too tired, too hormonal and too everything to do anything other than resent him a lot of the time. I resented him for getting to sleep, for getting to go out if he wanted to, for going to work, for pretty much every reason under the sun. Not because I necessarily wanted to do all those things, but because everything in my life had changed and so many things in his seemed to remain exactly the same. Honestly, it probably had a lot less to do with him than it did with me. Like I’ve said before, sleep deprivation does not do nice things to me. Add hormones and the feeling of being completely overwhelmed and you’ve got the recipe for postnatal resentment. I think it’s a quite common condition, although not talked about very much.
I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. Inaccurately so, I think. Or I used to think, now I am less sure what was really what. I’ve lived with depression for most of my adult life. I know it very well. And I knew that what I was feeling wasn’t depression. Sure, I cried a lot, but not because I was depressed. I was exhausted. I could very much pinpoint what my issues were and knew that as soon as the circumstances changed, I would be on my way to getting better. I had doctors and nurses try to convince me that antidepressants were the way to go, but I have never taken anything for it and didn’t intend to start when I just had a baby, especially when I was convinced they had it all wrong. What I needed was space and some peace and quiet. Time to take it all in, time to adjust, time to heal and time for our family to get used to being a family. The problem was that by the time the circumstances did change I was so worn down I couldn’t see straight. I had spent so much time trying to figure out how to be a mother, to care for my newborn and for myself while feeling like I was stuck in a corner with no room to move, I fell to pieces. And the recovery took a long time. A lot longer than expected.
On top of my crumbling tower of self I had a lot of physical pain from the birth. The episiotomy left a lot of scar tissue. Trying to “get it on” was too painful to bring on anything but tears and blood. Real romantic, right? So instead of turning to the one person I could count on for support, I shut him out because I felt like he wanted things I couldn’t give and didn’t understand what I was going through. I don’t know what becoming a father does to a man, but to a woman, or to me at least, although it was the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, it was also very much like being dumped blindfolded into an ice bath without warning. There is no preparing for what motherhood really involves. I was well prepared for the birth, but all my years of working with children still left me completely unprepared for what being a first time mum was all about. So while my heart grew and burst with this amazing, unconditional love, the rest of me had a very, very cold bath.
So, fast forward to the now. I’d like to say I’m over my postnatal resentment, but I guess I still have days where it gets the better of me. Perhaps it’s not so much postnatal anymore as just the plain, ordinary relationship dull everyone goes through. I’ve been wrecking my brain trying to figure how to jumpstart the engines again, how to get back the groove. To get us back again I think I also need to get some of me back again. The me that does other things than being a mum, the me that is an artist, that makes art, that sees friends, that has time to do things. I love spending every day with Anakin, but an hour or two doing something else would probably do us both a bit of good. I need to restore a bit more balance.
I know I haven’t been the easiest person to live with this year. I sometimes don’t take the time for the hug or the kisses I’m being given because in my brain at that instant they are obstacles between me and the dirty floors, or the laundry or whatever else is on my must-be-done-before-I-can-relax list. I sometimes don’t want to snuggle because I don’t even have any of me left for myself at the end of some days. Even when I know that a good cuddle would probably make me feel a lot better. I’m not saying it’s fair, I’m just telling it like it is. But I can change. I want to. I know I remember how to both give and receive. And I know I have enough love in me for all of us. And… I know I’ve been a total ass sometimes. But as much as I think I’m mostly to blame, it’s not entirely all on me. Thought I was going to just leave myself in the guillotine there, didn’t you?
I do a lot of the things I do because I feel like I have to and don’t do others because it is somewhat still unfamiliar to the new me. I make sure Anakin has clean pj’s for every night because I can’t imagine not taking care of such things. I don’t go out drinking or anything like that because I never know when I might be needed (and obviously because I breastfeed). Whatever I do or plan, Anakin is my number one thought. Always. My life revolves around the fact that I am his mother and he may need me any time of day. And if he does I do my very best to be there for him. I’m not saying that this doesn’t apply to fathers, because it does, but I am saying that it seems far easier to occasionally go out, have a few drinks and come home at 3 o’clock in the morning without much further consideration when you’re not the number one caretaker. Or to make plans to do things non-family related because you’re not the one who does the everyday things every single day with him. (And just to make it abundantly clear, I’m NOT saying my partner goes out drinking all the time or never has consideration. This is merely an example, so let’s not get our knickers in a twist.) Maybe we’re programmed differently or maybe I need to learn how to do some of these things too. I’m leaning heavily towards the latter.
As far as my relationship goes, it probably just needs some more time set aside for it and some practice, I think. Practice makes perfect, right? It’s not that we’ve lost anything, but more that we’ve forgotten. I love my partner no less, if anything I love him that much more. How could I not when he’s given me this beautiful boy and when he continues to love me regardless of what a monstrous bitch I sometimes am. Despite being a bit off our game, we’ve never been closer in so many ways. Maybe we just need to go out and have dinner for the first time since Anakin was born, to go on a date. To take time out for kissing. To sit down and talk about things more often. To relight the fire, so to speak. We’ve gotten a bit better, or rather I’ve got a bit better. He’s been good at the affection thing all along.
Be patient, my love. We will return. I truly do love you. Always.