The past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind and I’m only slowly coming down from it all. Actually no, I’m levelling out and about to spiral back up again because on Thursday I’m heading to Cork which will include not only an awards ceremony but a hot bath and a big bed all to myself!
“The fourth trimester meant recovering and understanding more than the physical labour of birth and focusing on the emotional labour which is the ebb and flow of a new maternal life.” My words, from an article I wrote for the Irish Times in July. “Parenthood will change you. It’s almost an affliction that rewires the internal mechanisms of your body and brain. Like a sometimes-instant switch, automatically flicked, when your baby takes their first breath.
My recovery was a long eighteen months combining so many actions on a daily basis to keep my head flying higher than the flamingo. What did I do?
I was once asked, on the radio no less to thousands of listeners, to describe what anxiety feels like. Where do you start? Anxiety isn’t simply a nervousness that makes you indecisive. I’m sure I’ll list off how I was feeling and any woman who has suffered will nod in agreement. It’s painful, physically painful. There is nausea, headaches and dizzy spells aside from the mental overload. It feels hopeless and it can pass before it hits you hard again. The lull and low of anxiety didn’t affect me all the time but it sure did like to linger and attack quickly.
Something transpired out of motherhood, rising from the ashes like a giant pink flamingo. It probably began earlier than I care to admit, but a few weeks after Devin was born, my focus was gone, my routine and schedule, all fragmented and I suddenly felt this overwhelming urge to blow up. It was less to do with the fact that we had a five-week-old baby and more to do with the extreme possibility I was suffering from intense postnatal anxiety and depression.
I haven’t been the best blogger lately have I? I used to feel guilty over having 4+ weeks gap between posts but I’ve a new lease of life lately and my number one rule is to attempt to get rid of the guilt which likes to creep in and hover of my head and every decision I make. On top of that, I find I either haven’t had time or a good enough topic to write about and god forbid I start repeating myself. I have, however, found myself connecting with parents over on Instagram as we share the load of this miraculous and sometimes incredulous life that is parenthood. If you haven’t joined me in my very many random conversations then please do pop over but for today, lets talk about Momma Bear in all her bare naked glory.
The phrase “having it all” did not necessarily begin as being strictly implied for the professional mother but somehow, over the years, we have found our way here. Career driven women who inevitably question the balance of life with work and motherhood. Making choices as though it’s a necessity to choose. Or attempting to balance the load of success in every aspect of our lives because we are the great acrobats of modern society. Because being successful is how we are supposed to measure these things, right?
We question those choices. And argue about why we can’t have it all. We debate the very idea of what it means and why we want it, searching under rocks and digging on every X. Feeling the pressure of guilt, self-doubt and judgement on every scale as it balances out of our favour. We battle an ever, omnipresent idea of being bigger, better and more than we are. As though striving to reach goals, break through glass ceilings and chase our dreams becomes a questionable commodity as motherhood calls. Almost as though we search in vain.
Something struck me the last few days. Struck me hard, like a lash of a whip or one of those instantaneous paper cuts right on the knuckle. Or a slice from tin foil which oddly happened to me last week. I’ve been overly tired – emotionally, physically and mentally the past while. I’ve been crawling through the sludge grabbing for a rope to pull me up and out. It’s been a case of being hit hard by “the overwhelm”. You know those days when everything seems to need to be done two or three times before you can move on to the next thing. And the next thing and the next thing. I’ve had friends and family worry about me this week. And I can see in the back of their eyes, a little dancing Flamingo.
Here it is. The start of a brand new year when expectations are high and disappointments seem so far away or even impossible. When new beginnings can mean everything and anything and certainly have no place for failure. When day one is exciting with a new mind embracing new challenges. What will you do in 2019?
How many times, as Momma Bear, as Papa Bear have you put your needs to the side? Dropped your needs over by the “side board of lost intentions” only to be remembered as you fall into bed, or as you sit on the loo with an audience complaining about being hungry, bored, tired or sore. How many times have you thought, yep I feel hungry, bored, tired and sore too, only for the thought to quickly evaporate as their needs outweigh yours? I wrote an article recently for the Irish Examiner about being an introverted mother and since writing this feature, I’ve relaxed a bit more and allow myself those five, ten, fifteen minutes – if I can get it – to regroup, refocus, to be still and recover from the never-ending exhaustion of a day with kids.