I don’t think I really thought through what being a mum was going to be like. When I found out I was pregnant, I thought this baby was a miracle, an accidental miracle – a person made from myself and the person I love most.
And she is a miracle. She’s a little living thing that I made without even thinking about it. She pulls funny faces, farts really loudly, and makes cute grunt noises whilst being fed.
But parenthood is not what I expected at all. Sure, I knew that newborns were life-consuming but I didn’t realise how much they affect you emotionally, physically and mentally. I also didn’t expect my anxiety to shoot through the roof.
At the beginning I regularly woke up in cold sweats and with a jolt. Though my anxiety has calmed down a little bit now, I become anxious if I haven’t heard her in a while, if I’ve gone through to the bedroom for a rest. I’m apprehensive about trying new things with her. My brain has turned on ‘mum-mode’ and as soon as I hear her stirring I am awake, watching over her, making sure she’s okay.
There’s a lot of pressure that goes along with motherhood too. Pressure to breastfeed. Pressure to bond. I must admit that when she first arrived, after a traumatic birth, there was no instant love. I didn’t hear her first cries and weep because of how happy I was. I didn’t tear up when I saw her face for the first time. I was just glad that the labour was over, that she was out of me at long last. I was glad that she was healthy but that’s about it. I was mostly thinking about my stomach getting stitched back together again.
The worst thing about newborns is their crying. Sometimes small babies cry for absolutely no reason whatsoever. You can make sure they’ve been fed and have a new nappy on, that they are warm enough, that they are entertained, that they are in your arms being rocked – but sometimes nothing will stop their crying. And their crying isn’t like regular crying – it’s a crying that makes their whole body tense up, their face go red, and your ears bleed.
During those bouts of crying, it can be almost impossible to not lose your patience. It feels like the world is ending around you, like her crying is never going to end. Most of the time I barely look at my daughter when she is in this state, because I’m just too annoyed to even look at her face.
But then there are those little moments, those moments that thankfully occur more and more as times goes on, as the baby grows – those times of joy. When she looks at you and actually focuses on your face. When she sees you and her eyes light up. When she smiles and gets close to actual laughter. They’re magical moments. They are the rewards for those shitty nights of no sleep, the relentless crying, the cracked nipples from constant breastfeeding.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever really be able to describe what parenthood is really like. I’ve had moments when I had wished I was dead, when I thought my identity was lost, when I thought I was the worst kind of person to be raising a child. But I’ve also had moments when I’ve missed her so much, even though she’s sleeping in her Moses basket beside me. I often remember just how much I love her, because of all the sacrifices I’m already making, for my need and want to put her needs and wants before mine.
It’s a blur, a whirlwind of an experience. I’m trying to remember as much as I can because I’m not sure if I would or could do this again. I’m documenting this experience as much as possible, through endless photos and a couple of diary entries.
I know that this time of our lives, however long the days may seem, will go by so quickly. It already is.
Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is… and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.
– Donna Ball