Winter has been a breath of fresh air this year. Summer was suffocating. The heat, the constant baby wearing in 30+ degrees, the walks to and from school with three kids in tow wore me down in ways I could never have anticipated. It was rarely cool enough to stop and say “Hey, you need a break. How about we go for a walk in the woods?” The woods, much like the ocean, realigns me. It finds my core and heals it.
So yesterday that’s what we did. We walked in the woods near our house and it was magic.
I’m going to tell you a secret. As good as I am at taking care of other people (and I am damn good at it), I am absolute rubbish at taking care of myself. I will happily bend over backwards for people I love, I will go above and beyond to do nice things even for strangers to the point of stupidity, like working for free. (I mean seriously? What the hell? In what universe am I not worth paying for my professional services?) But I somehow just can’t do it for myself. It is as if I am blind to my own needs, or not even that because I see them, I’m just not capable of tending to them. Somehow it is ok for me to not be ok but it is not ok for anyone else to not be ok.
I have been running on empty for almost 2 years now. I live off the fumes from the few drops that somehow make it into my cup. I stumble, I fall on my face and I get back up again. Life has a funny way of piling on the chaos and even when I can do something about it, when I have the power to open my mouth and say “I am not ok with this. This is not good for me.” Or to voice what I need or accept an offer of help, I don’t. My space is not important. My welfare is not important. (But of course it is.) Somehow I have lost myself along the way or perhaps I was lost some time ago.
I remember when I was a little girl, or even when I was a teenager, I would come home shattered because someone I considered a good friend had done/said/or neglected to do something. My mother would ask me time and time again why I let these so-called friends walk all over me and treat me like rubbish. She would say “these people are not your friends. This is not what friends do to each other.” I would curl up and hurt for a bit and then find my feet again. I would patch myself up and open my arms back up to the very same people. Time and time again. Someone I used to know told me “You see the world through rose-tinted glasses.” I knew even then that this wasn’t true. I’ve never seen the world through rose-tinted glasses, I’m a harsh realist but I’ve somehow been able to cling onto this hope that people will do for me what I would do for them. “Do onto others” right?
I could tell you a long and heartbreaking story about how and why I became this person convinced that I am not worthy of the care I give others but I’ll let the details be and just give you the bigger picture. Just know that I know why. To that I am not blind.
Imagine that there’s a person in your life that keeps telling you, in one way or another, that you are not good enough or worth taking care of. You are not worthy of their unconditional love. To this person you are resistance. You are not folding or scraping the floor before them. You are not ‘easy’ because you have thoughts of your own, ideas and opinions. You are different. Though you still take every blow given, you somehow still get back up, limp on and won’t stay down. For years you seek approval and love, time or simply attention but… You are not worth it. You still have people telling you that you are but there is this one constant voice telling you you’re not. If you know anything about how the brain works you’ll know that your brain will latch on to the negative and interpret it as truth. These negative views become your own. You find yourself in relationships with people who treat you the same way, it’s like you seek them out but after a while even your stubborn brain has to admit that something isn’t right. So you start trying to fight it. You figure out that you don’t deserve this but you can’t make it stop. But because your brain is now in conflict you find yourself at war, a war with yourself. It’s an endless battle that will rage on and on, a battle that has many consequences and leaves many scars. And it’s more or less silent and invisible to everyone around you unless they look closely and know exactly what to look for. And all the while this person is still there to lash out under the false pretence of “caring”. And you take it. You say “oh but it might still change.” And you hurt. You cry more than anyone knows that you cry because it just won’t stop.
I bet you’re asking why I’ve held on, why I didn’t just shut the door, cut my losses and walk away and I’ll tell you. In my mind that would make me no better. And I know I am better. I am bigger and better. I am more forgiving, I have the capacity to love above all hurt. I am nothing like them. I believe in second chances, I believe in redemption. I don’t believe in cutting people off and I don’t believe in burning bridges. And I’ve tried. Believe me, I’ve tried so hard to protect myself as well as stay open. And it doesn’t work. It isn’t working.
For the past couple of weeks I’ve been talking about taking a time out. Time for me, away from everything. I am tired, no, I am beyond exhausted and soon I will birth another baby who will need everything from me on top of what my other children do. For days I was looking at hotels and saying I was gonna book one. But I didn’t. I tormented myself because I found it more difficult than you can imagine to just do it because it was for me and only me. “It’s too much money. We can’t afford it.” I kept going in circles. “You need this. You need a break. If you don’t do it now it will never happen. But you’ll be lonely. You’ll get depressed. But you’re already depressed.” It was relentless. I sought approval and permission from my husband. Of course when he immediately said “Book it, you deserve this.” I still didn’t do it. After a horrendous half hour one afternoon that had me mopping up a couple of litres of water off the floor, changing a dripping wet toddler and trying to salvage the laundry all the while I had two hungry kids on my hands, dinner was running late, an achy pregnant body and a husband in Korea for a week I finally did it. I booked a hotel. I booked the one I really wanted, the one bedroom apartment in a hotel with a pool. Just for me. And I was immediately struck with guilt. Then a little bit excitement. And then the war began again.
I went to bed that night torn to pieces. I had to face head on why I was struggling so much to just plan a simple weekend away. The first one ever away from my kids. That there was the first hurdle. I’m an attachment parent. It doesn’t feel good or natural for me to leave my children when they are young. And Isis is still a baby in my eyes. Too young to leave. I sleep next to my children every night. It’s where I find my peace and that’s where I belong. But even I have had to admit to myself that I am not being the parent I know I am. They need me to take a time out too. My ghosts came creeping back out. Old ghosts that never stay away long enough to gather dust. Some time long after I went to bed a thought suddenly struck me. It hit me hard, clear as day amongst the raging chaos.
“You are worth loving.”
Suddenly something in me just clicked. Suddenly I realised that I have to close that door and it won’t make me anything like that person. I have to because I am worth loving. I deserve better. And if they really, truly want to know and love me, I am worth breaking down that door for. I am worth fighting for. I am worthy of unconditional love.
I won’t lie. I almost cancelled the whole thing. Because we can’t afford it. But I’ve held on. I’ve had to rationalise it all to myself again and again. My kids deserve this. They deserve a mother who can come back and really be present. Perhaps limping a bit less and most likely with a new spark in her eyes. But most importantly I deserve this. Not only the weekend away, but to walk away from years of emotional abuse. It’s about so much more than sleeping in a different bed for two nights. So. Much. More.
It’s time to admit that it’s ok to start loving yourself. I’m doing it for me and I’m doing it for them. Because nothing and no one matters more than the family I have right here, right now with my husband. I owe it to them and I owe it to me.
And it’s ok to say enough is enough.
I’ve always had an active imagination and I want to do everything I can to make sure Anakin has a childhood full of magic and mysteries. Needless to say I fell in love with this idea the instant I saw it.
Imagine waking up one day, going about your business and then stumbling upon small, mysterious doors around the house. Perhaps one has a letterbox, perhaps a ladder or other small signs of life. How exciting!
I stumbled across this post on fairy doors over at Kate’s Creative Space. Anakin is still too young to understand it, but once he gets a bit older I can’t wait to create something like this around our house for him to find.
Perhaps there are little gnomes living there, perhaps it is the lego man and his family. I simply can’t wait to do this and hear all the stories Anakin will have about what’s going on. Love love love!!
Because I take on average between 700-1200 photos of Anakin every month for my 365 project, and for documentation in general, there are obviously a lot of photos that never make “the public cut”. As I look through them I keep finding frames that I’d hate to be forgotten in the big photographic library of Anakin, so I thought I’d start a new series of blog posts for these precious moments. Sometimes there will probably be more than just one photo from a set, sometimes not. We’ll see.
Ever since my night out our nights have become… hell. Pure, utter hell. I would rather go back to three overnight feeds than have to deal with separation anxiety.
It all seems to have coincided with another wonder week period. All of the sudden my angel has become impossible to put to bed and impossible to get back to sleep when he wakes up during the night. And he always wakes up during the night, at least once, perhaps even twice or three times.
My record for the shortest time spent holding him or holding his hand through the cot bars before he went back to sleep is 40 minutes. My record for longest time spent doing the same is just over 2 hours. And for 14 nights straight I have endured as best I can. Cue a case of slight madness setting in and absolutely no work done on my postgrad.
Feeding him no longer has any impact. Leaving him until he falls asleep is not an option as there is an insane amount of crying involved as soon as he’s out of my arms. I’m lucky if I can convince him to stay in the cot while I lie next to it with my hands through the bars. (And as I’ve written about before, we do not and will not use the method of “controlled crying”.) Co-sleeping has never looked so attractive, but alas Anakin will not have a bar of that either.
It finally looked as if it was starting to settle and then… 35 and 40 degree days, and similar nights, hit.
I know, babies are unpredictable. They continuously change. As soon as you think you’ve figured them out something different happens. But who are these freak babies I keep hearing about that just sleep through teeth, wonder weeks and everything else their young lives throw at them? They must exist, unless of course there is a horde of lying parents floating around? Next time, I’m ordering one of those babies. A sleeper. You can order them in advance, right? Prepay for certain qualities in your unborn child?
Did your kid ever suffer from nighttime separation anxiety? And if so, how did you overcome it?
It’s ok to cry because you’re tired.
It’s ok to cry because you’re in pain.
It’s ok to cry because you’ve just had enough.
It’s ok, mummy wants to cry too.
It doesn’t matter that I haven’t eaten,
it doesn’t matter that I’m all worn out.
I’ll keep picking you up to hold you, baby,
because I’m not ok with leaving you to cry alone.
Hush hush now, go to sleep,
Mummy loves you.
I’ll see you when you wake up.
(It’s been a long, hard day. I think it’s about this mummy forgets all that needs to be done and sits down with a glass of wine. Until next time, wish us a peaceful night.)
It’s finally Friday. I am more than ready to leave this week behind and head on in to the weekend.
Anakin finally pushed that third tooth out only to have three more start to bother him at the same time. Evenings have been too warm for him to get to sleep easily. Nap times have been shorter than usual and rest has been harder to find. I would do anything to take his discomfort for him. Double it, triple it, I don’t care as long as it happens to me and not to him.
Me, I did my own head in a bit this week. I let my doubts and stress get under my skin, leave me too vulnerable. Thankfully I have a little someone to help me keep my priorities straight.
On a sunnier note, 11 months ago today Anakin came into our lives and brought with him more smiles and more love than we could ever possibly have imagined.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect son. I could never have imagined how big my heart could grow and keep growing.
And good Friday to you all! I hope the weekend brings lots of smiles and comfort from those you love.
[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.
There’s nothing more irritating than strangers thinking that they’re experts on the needs or general wellbeing of your child. It’s like they think that because they’ve had a baby at some point they must be the people best suited to pass judgement and obviously hold some sort of expertise. Having a baby doesn’t automatically give you a PhD in All Things Baby.
I could have called this post “How to make someone feel like a shit mum” because frankly, that’s exactly how I feel right now. World’s worst mum, folks! Catch her right here! No applause, just rotten tomatoes, thanks!
I’ve probably mentioned that Anakin hasn’t been well for a bit. He still has a cold. Or he has what I, Doctor Mum, think is a cold combined with more teething. Anakin’s had a cold before. It comes with a very barky cough. He sounds like a seal. Last time we freaked out and rushed him to the doctor to make sure he wasn’t dying of whatever sort of disease that makes a baby bark. He was fine, it was just a cold. No need to worry. So, when the young jedi fell sick again and developed the same barky cough I monitored his condition closely, but didn’t freak out. Until today.
Today at the supermarket my little snot ball is smiling away at the checkout lady who’s busy telling me about her own kid. As you do, I suppose. All of a sudden he starts barking like something out of a zoo in a coughing fit. I watch him to make sure he’s ok. His little face goes a bit red as he coughs, but immediately breaks out in a huge smile once he’s done. He hasn’t had a fever and he’s still his excellent young self. The checkout lady looks at him then guns me down with eyes raging with blame. “That sounds like croup! My son had croup and he ended up in hospital! Have you had him checked out? He needs to see a doctor!” Wow, could you possibly have said that any louder, lady? I’m not sure the entire supermarket heard you. I can feel eyes in the back of my head staring at me, waiting for my answer. “Uhm.. no, I haven’t taken him to a doctor, but I might take him tomorrow. I’m fairly sure he’s fine. He’s just got a cold.” “A cold? Sounds like croup to me! They sounds like that when they have croup. Take him to a doctor! He could be very ill!”
I mumble something in return, grab my groceries and get the hell out of there before someone hands me a tiara and a “World’s worst mum” ribbon. Thanks, Doctor Checkout lady, for that thorough examination of my son’s health and my mothering abilities. There’s probably a thousand things you could have said to express your (unwanted) concern that wouldn’t have left me feeling like the biggest shit around. There’s nothing I care more about than the welfare of my own kid, and now, thanks to you, I am freaking out. I have googled croup and figured out that yes, there might be the slight chance that my kid has what they call mild croup. Maybe. It still might also just be a cold.
It’s not like I haven’t considered taking him to a doctor sooner, but I’m just not one of those mums who screams bloody murder every time my son coughs. I monitor, I assess, I keep a bloody close eye on him. As does his pappa. But I am taking him tomorrow. Not just because the checkout lady made me paranoid and feeling like the world’s worst mum, but because he’s been sick a bit on and off for two weeks and we’d rather be safe than sorry going in to the weekend.
For the record, I am a goddamn excellent mum. Even I know that. Most of the time.
Some of my favourite moments happen as I get Anakin ready for bed. He has his last feed which is a combination of breastfeeding and talking to me about Mister Jackolope who hangs above us on the wall. Anakin has a few words now, his favourite ones being “look” and “there” (they’re in norwegian of course). He’ll stop eating to say “look” and point to Mister Jackolope and wait for me to say his name.
But my most favourite bit is when he’s done eating. He gets his dummy and curls up in my arms with his head on my chest while I sing him a norwegian lullaby and stroke his hair. Then we say night night to the things in his room before he once again curls up in my arms while I gently rock him and hum another norwegian lullaby before putting him to bed. I kiss his face all over and tell him I love him.
Some nights I wish we could stay like that forever. I wish I could fall asleep with him, or sit there until he drifts off. Some nights I wish we had a big family bed where we all could sleep. Maybe one day we’ll have one.
Night night, my love. Sweet dreams. I’ll see you when you wake.