Isaac has been so unwell on and off for the last few months, the last ten days were Isaac's first experience of gastro. I have held him and cleaned so much vomit, lost count of how many times I changed the sheets on his cot, washed a million loads of towels, barely slept, changed a million nappies (let's just say things were rarely contained to the nappy...). I have worried myself sick, desperate to know what I'm doing, to feel confident in my abilities to make him feel better, to make him feel like I have things under control.
Things are so, not under control.
I hate myself a little bit for saying this but I love it when I get a break from the mayhem. I fantasise about my old life, the life where I could do what I wanted when I wanted but took it completely for granted. I know a lot of my posts are blah blah anxiety, blah blah postnatal depression, but that's my reality right now. It's hard for me not to focus on negative things, that has always been an unfortunate part of my personality. I promise to write a more uplifting post soon, as that is what I want to be writing and what I want to be focussing on. Right now, the negative has taken over. This is partially why I write, it helps me to get out of my head and sometimes connect with people who have similar feelings to me. A big part of my depression when I first had Isaac was grieving for the life I had lost. A life of breakfast dates and sleep-ins and going to the movies. Having drinks and seeing friends and being so excited for the future with a baby in it.
I legitimately find it difficult to be happy about something that used to bring me so much joy. Pregnancy and everything related to it. The thought of a newborn. The thought of constant sleepless nights, breastfeeding, the pain, the enormity of being a parent and everything it entails. I have always wanted three children. I have one now and I don't know if I could ever go back. But I also know, I would be asking myself "what if?" for the rest of my life. What if this baby slept more? What if I didn't get PND next time? Are those questions enough to eventually try for another baby? Can I handle it? If we never try, I will never know. But then there is the other side - what if this baby sleeps even less? What if I get PND again? It's a never ending cycle of doubt and fantasy. Would I be happy to just have one child?
It's hard for me to share these things, because I feel like a terrible mother for saying it. But once again, honesty is my aim, comfort is my goal - I don't want people to feel alone in this. I have talked to a lot of parents, particularly older generations - how did you do it? How did you cope with 4+ kids? The most common reply: "things were different back then". Damn straight they were. Roles were so clearly defined, social media didn't exist, the constant barrage of advice and judgment just wasn't as common. I'm not saying it was easier for them, that's not what I mean at all, but it was definitely incredibly different. It is almost impossible in most families for a Mum not to go back to work at least part-time to help financially now. Most fathers are heavily involved in parenting decisions and domestic chores (as they should be). Mums are reading articles left, right and centre that confuse and anger them, Google is over-used and causes panic. Facebook and Instagram comparisons are anxiety-fuelling - not to mention trolls behind a keyboard seeking attention in the most cowardly way possible. Technology is everywhere. Our kids will never know a world without smart phones and iPads and Netflix. Bringing a child into the world is such a big deal. It is life changing on a whole new level, if you actually care.
I never know if I'm doing the right thing. What category of parenting do I fall into? Attachment parenting? Gentle parenting? Helicopter parenting? Everyone has a label. Every family is an open book depending on what is or isn't shared on social media and other platforms. If I was to give myself a label, the one word I always come back to is "guilt". Something I have focussed on a lot and try my best not to dwell on but it is always, always there. Do I love enough? Do I try enough? If I want a break, does that make me a bad parent? The constant questioning is something I don't think will ever stop. Every time I speak about this, I am told that the guilt is there because I am a good mother. A "good" mother means something different for everyone. Comparison is my enemy as I always feel that everyone else has things more under control than I do. But nobody really knows. People only share what they want to share, and that's their prerogative - it is my choice to share what I do, to tell people that I'm terrified and a perfectionist who can't be perfect at this. Because nobody can be. All we can do is love our children and do our best to protect them but also let them explore this world full of terrifying, hurtful but also wonderful things. I will make bad decisions and I will not always know what to do. All I can do is try. Try to let go of some of the things that hold me back and consequently hold Isaac back. I can love him with all that I am and make sure he knows that every day of his life. I can acknowledge the guilt but not let it rule me. I can take it day by day, minute by minute, second by second; and I can know that I am not alone in this. I can support other parents by being part of their tribe, someone they can talk to, someone they can trust. I can help them not feel alone. I can say the words and mean them: "I know exactly how you feel". We do the best we can. Some days that doesn't feel good enough, some days we will make small mistakes, other days big ones - but we are doing our best. If you can honestly say that to yourself at the end of every day, maybe the guilt can go away for a second and we can rest easy knowing we are doing all that we can to lovingly raise our babies in a difficult world.
The guilt wouldn't exist if we didn't care.