I was afraid of putting into words what my biggest challenge is at the moment, but after speaking with some amazing mothers this week, I’ve found I’m not the only one completely overwhelmed by things. Motherhood is tough. It’s a blessing, and there are so many highs, but oh so many lows.
Pumping at 3 am, after a 4-hour marathon feed of crying babies trying desperately to get them to burp. Who knew winding a baby was an art form. And who ever said you can’t cry over spilt milk has never knocked a bottle of freshly pumped breast milk on the floor. That shit is like gold, precious gold.
Then there’s the poos, the epic poos. In fact, no one told me about the toilet trouble I might have after giving birth. I was so jealous of the boys and their ability to sometimes go twice or three times in a day. The little victories.
The trying to figure out what the cries are. “Is it more of an ‘ugh, ugh’ sound or an ‘argh, argh’ sound?” asked the crying blog post I found when I went to my oracle of knowledge, Google. I couldn’t bloody well tell you what kind of cry it was. It was the kind of cry that went on and on for no apparent reason. I can’t even remember how that night ended up, nor do I remember many things from the last three months.
I have reels and reels of images and videos on my phone, literally thousands. Some I can tell which twin is which, others I honestly can’t lie about because I don’t know who’s in the photo.
But through all of the mess, the tears, the days of wearing pyjamas, the sleepless nights and the spit ups there are these magical moments. Fleeting looks right into your eyes when they get to the stage where they aren’t just looking through you but looking at you. You. Their mother. And that’s the bit I love, when they see me and smile, even if I know it might be wind. It’s that little moment when the wriggle monsters I slowly grew inside me over nine months realize that their safety net in this world is with them and everything’s going to be fine.
Motherhood is tough, so don’t go into it alone. Having an amazing support system does help you navigate the fog; for me knowing I needed to accept home help, hearing the advice from my mum and tackling things as a team with my husband.
With that, the amazing team at Lighthouse Arabia offered the following feedback to some questions I had for them. If you are going through an endless series of terrible days and nights and can’t seem to quite get to the surface for a breather, then do reach out to them, or to me. We’re all in this together.
1: I was completely overwhelmed when I found out I was pregnant because I thought I hadn’t achieved enough, whereas my husband was ecstatic. What’s your advice to couples who are going through the same experience but feeling different emotions?
Just because you feel differently doesn’t mean that you can’t hear your partner’s perspective. Try not to make assumptions about where the other person’s perspective or feeling comes from and instead, talk about the differences you have. Listening to each other and seeing beyond the immediate reaction or emotion can help get both of you on the same page. Or at least help build understanding. From that place of understanding, you can then work at supporting each other.
2: Becoming a parent is a life changing moment, are there any tools or exercises that people can put in place for assisting with the transition into parenthood?
Couples often come to parenthood with quite different experiences of being parented themselves and ideas and beliefs about how they would like to parent. These may include fears, certain non-negotiable points, and other less defined beliefs, assumptions or expectations about parenting. Getting these on the table early is a great way of assisting with the transition, as you can iron out as many of the sticking points and create as many agreements as possible before baby even arrives. Keeping an open dialogue and creating room for ongoing discussion is also important as the one thing you can be sure of as a parent is that there is very little you can be sure of!
On an individual level, staying in touch with what your beliefs and thoughts are about parenting is a valuable way to stay present and to make choices that reflect your values. This may involve speaking with a therapist, counsellor, parent educator or other relevant professional or it may be something you can do alone. It is also important that you make time to take care of yourself and your own needs.
3: For mother’s who are struggling to deal with being a new mum, and may potentially be struggling with a form of post-natal depression, what advice would you give them?
Speak up and ask for help. Being a new Mum (even if it is not your first baby) is hard but people find it hard to speak out which can be incredibly lonely. It is easy to feel that you are the only one or that struggling makes you a bad Mum but neither could be further from the truth. The World Health Organisation estimates that around 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just had a baby experience a mental health problem, primarily depression. There is a lot of good information and support available and it is not something you have to manage alone. Speaking to a trusted family member or friend is a good place to start and they can help you access other support if you agree it is necessary.
4: For fathers, friends or family who think they might know of a mother experiencing feelings of post natal depression, what support can they offer the mother?
Don’t stand back or be afraid to ask. By asking or saying that you have noticed something, you give the mother opportunity to share how she is feeling. By reaching out without judgement and with compassion, you may make it easier for her to share her concerns. Even if there is nothing the matter, she will still be grateful to have such caring and observant people around them! That is a hugely comforting feeling for any new Mum and will mean that she gets the right support quicker, which we know leads to better maternal and infant outcomes.
Dr. Rose Logan, D. Clin. Psy (UK)