Becoming a parent
Becoming a parent was one of the hardest things I’ve done, if not THE hardest. But they say the harder the challenge, the bigger the reward. I guess I’ll have to wait and see …
Parenting is a lot like a rollercoaster. You don’t know quite what to expect until it’s too late. At the start, there is an incredibly steep learning curve. Then just as you get to the top, something changes and you’re spiralling out of control. Each day brings new twists and turns, highs and lows and yet it can feel like the same rollercoaster you got on yesterday.
Let me take you for a ride.
My husband and I had been together for 6 years when we decided we were ready to start a family. I had finished my GP training, we were financially stable and we had that kind of relationship where we hardly ever fought (weird, I know). How naïve we were. Nothing could truly prepare us for becoming parents, but at the time we thought we were ready.
I had subconsciously bought into some of the parenting myths and was completely unprepared for reality. Childbirth was not a beautiful experience. Somehow our baby missed the memo that an emergency caesarean-section was not part of the birth plan. When I held our baby, it was not love at first sight. I had just vomited while the obstetrician was sewing me up, I still felt queasy and was exhausted.
Then there was learning to breastfeed. For something that is natural, there are so many rules. Just because the baby is “on” does not mean he’s latched on properly. Just because he’s sucking does not mean he’s feeding, he could be soothing. Football position. Cradle position. His head is too low. His head is too high. Argh! And that’s before we get into the growth spurts and cluster feeds where I was permanently attached to the baby.
But the biggest challenge for me was the utter loss of control. I couldn’t predict when he would want a feed, when he would sleep or for how long. It drove me nuts! I had gone from having everything in my life planned and organised, to being at the whim of a little baby. A baby that I loved but also feared, especially when he hit the “witching hour”. No amount of rocking, singing, cuddling and feeding would settle him to sleep. How could I get anything done? If I managed to have a shower, it was a good day.
I really struggled being a stay at home mum with my first. It was too big a change from being a full-time doctor to full-time mum. Looking back, I probably had mild postnatal depression. It wasn’t until my husband and father sat me down for an intervention to ‘suggest’ I go back to work that I realised I was being a cranky cow. My immediate response was “don’t you think I can hack it as a stay at home mum?!?”. And to be honest, the answer is no, I couldn’t hack it. Being a stay at home mum is a tough gig. At the time I felt like I had failed. I had let the sisterhood down. But I needed work to maintain my sanity and I am now able to admit that I am a better mum for it.
So whether you’re parenting full-time, working full-time, or juggling something in-between, do what works best for you and your family.
PLEASE READ: More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience Postnatal Depression. If you are struggling, please ask for help. You don’t need to go it alone. Check in with family and friends. And if things aren’t improving after a couple of weeks please see your healthcare professional for further support.
Surviving Post-Natal Depression by Cara Aiken
The book tells the stories of ten women from very different backgrounds who have suffered post-natal depression. Their stories should be a source of strength and hope for other sufferers and should also raise awareness of the illness and the destructive effect it can have on individuals and families. The book offers positive suggestions and practical advice, based on personal and professional experience.