I remember when I was on maternity leave with Little Miss, I felt very out of the loop with colleagues and friends. I was taking the standard 26 weeks maternity leave, which in itself is an incredibly short time. I would be back to work in, what now feels like, an instant. But for those five or six months with little contact from colleagues, I felt very isolated from work and it was odd heading in on that first day back. There was a sense of unnerving questions despite being excited to get back into the fold. Was I missed? Have things changed much? Can I still cope with the workload? Now that I’m not going back at all, feeling out of the loop is an understatement. I feel kind of blurred, like a nomad, forced to find my own way and a new center. And being dependent on myself to provide that centre is even more daunting.
I almost called this The Isolation of Motherhood as I’m in the thick of being a Stay at Home Mum on maternity leave but I’ve gotten to know so many Stay at Home Dads the last year through blogging and friends, so I’m being politically correct with my title. I wrote a post last year about the loneliness of parenthood which was about how your relationship can change when kids come along. I didn’t think I’d write about how lonely being a Stay at Home parent would be because I’ve read so much about it, I swore I wouldn’t let the isolation get to me. But it does. And I do wonder if dads feel the same.
I’ll be honest I’m glad to see the back of 2017. In a year when I should have been ecstatic at the fact that our baby was born without any issues, I was a mess. There’s no nicer way to say it really. I struggled for months with postnatal anxiety and I’m still not over the final hurdle. There are days that are tough but I’m managing a million times better than I was a few months ago. Even so, I’m starting this year with a particular mindframe that is going to keep me balanced and in control. I’m finding the positive again and I’m living to my full potential. Or at least trying.
November was a tough month, which is one of the reasons I’ve been somewhat quiet around here lately. Little Miss started us off with a whopper of a chest infection, followed by the flu which we’re all slowly getting over, Little Bean included, and finally she finished this bout of sickness with a vomiting bug. In all, A missed quite a bit of Preschool and desperately wanted to stay at home with Momma Bear, snuggled up in her PJs no matter the time of day. All of which is totally understandable but it’s made the days she has been able to go to Montessori somewhat difficult. Separation Anxiety has hit. Hit hard. There have been plenty of tears. Hers and mine.
I did it! One whole week without an anxiety attack. There was plenty of opportunity to feel the rush of panic with stress sitting in the corner laughing at me, needlessly taunting me. But no, this week I am Rocking Motherhood. Next week I’ll keep rocking.
Being honest and open is one thing I try to stay true to as a blogger. I write with my heart on my sleeve which is why you have read about the hardships of my pregnancy, the pregnancy scare we had, the tough days we have as Momma and Papa Bear and my recent spiralling descent into the maddening world of anxiety. If you follow me on social media you’ll know that my honesty is not only on the blog but also on my Facebook page, my Instagram and wholeheartedly on twitter which has become my favourite social media platform. A twitter friend named my anxiety and it’s stuck so let’s talk about this Frickin’ Flamingo and how social media has had an effect on it.
I’ve been blogging somewhat sporadically the last few weeks. Gone is my focus, my routine and my schedule. It’s less to do with the fact that we have a five week old baby and more to do with that fact that a little over two weeks ago I accepted the fact that I was suffering from either anxiety or Postnatal Depression. D was only two weeks old and it had hit me hard. In the beginning I questioned whether it was the baby blues as the pregnancy hormones began to leave my body and sent me into a spiral. But now that I am five weeks postpartum and I’m still experiencing the painful pang of what feels like depression mixed with anxiety and confusion, I realise that I need help. I was nervous about publishing this post because it’s incredibly personal, probably the most personal I’ve written on the blog as it leaves me somewhat vulnerable, but if even one person relates to this post and realises that they too are suffering which then leads them to get help, then this post has been worth publishing.
I’m not sure if it’s a normal occurence or if many tapped into this phenomenon, but B and I have talked about this quite a lot over the years as we look back on our first few weeks and months… ok, years with A. We developed, almost instantaneously, a Siege Mentality as soon as we brought A home from the hospital. Whether it was because we were mentally unprepared for our new life with a baby or the shock factor of how difficult and drastic a change it was, we don’t know. Either way, it was our new life as we aimed to protect our newborn and ourselves from any, whether positive or negative, outside influences from the world.
It’s common to have mood swings in pregnancy. Our hormones are, not so literally, sprawled across the floor in a tangled mess that even the most expert of puzzle makers could unravel. We are the Christmas tree lights thrown into the bottom of the box when we said, “we’ll deal with that next year.” So far, fourteen weeks into this pregnancy, I’ve had very valid and legitimate reasons to cry. I’ve cried through the fear and the panic of thinking we were losing this baby. I’ve cried over the worry and anxiety of literally believing I had to try to hold this baby in. I know, a ridiculous thought, but that’s what it felt like. And yet, it seems, the last few weeks that I am able to open the flood gates for well… anything. And a second later, I want to sing from the rooftops my joy and excitement. A euphoria that inevitably comes crashing down. The ups and downs of pregnancy emotions can be difficult to deal with. Especially when those around you don’t understand or appreciate how much of a rollercoaster pregnancy is.
I’m not talking about when you bring a newborn home and the world suddenly seems very big and very scary. Or when the weight of responsibility for a beautiful helpless human lies heavy on your shoulders. You feel so alone because you think you don’t know what you’re doing (when really you do!) I don’t mean when the excitement of the first few weeks dies down and suddenly friends and family visit less and the house is quiet and looms large with its multitude of tasks. And I’m not talking about the loneliness that comes with being somewhat isolated on maternity leave when you wish after the old norm of the daily grind which included adult conversation and hot cups of tea with colleagues.