Wednesday, September 21, 2016
The first night with my first baby I was in for a shock. Somehow it didn't occur to me that the sleep-deprivation would start immediately - and on this particular night I had just given birth! After 24-hours of contractions, culminating in pushing a baby out of myself, I had never felt more in need of a good night's sleep in my life - the same night that I would discover that a good night's sleep was no longer available to me. Frankly, I was horrified.
Obviously I had to suck it up and get over my horror pretty swiftly, but a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me how much the past three years of my life have been an ongoing, extended version of the same phenomenon. The phenomenon of being more deserving of self-indulgence than ever before, whilst being - for the first time in my privileged life - largely incapable of self-indulgence.
I was prepared for the one-way relationship with my actual child; that I would be giving, and not taking, the care and the love. But I didn't quite factor into the equation the fact that I would also have less time and energy to give to myself (I didn't know how much I used to give to myself!), nor the extra burdens I would face as an individual. What I noticed recently, is that even outside of the actual caring for and raising of my children, I've been through a lot.
The statistics. In the past less-than-four years I have survived:
- 18 months of pregnancy
- 41 hours of labour
- 2 births
- 7 months of breast-feeding (aka having-the-life-literally-sucked-out-of-me)
- 25 months of alcohol deprivation
- 10 kilograms weight lost (not including babies)
- 20 kilograms weight gained (not including babies)
- 187 visits to medical professionals (I'm not actually going to do the sums... it might be more!)
- 2 courses of combined-hormone contraceptive pill, 1 course of progesterone-only implant, 1 course of pill overlapping with implant
- 1 year on anti-depressants
- 1 month coming off anti-depressants
- 75 meetings with mortgage broker, real estate agent and tradesmen (again, I'm really not doing those sums)
- 1 mortgage acquired
- 1 house painted
- 2 house moves
- 1 paid, professional job maintained
- 3 years of not having a really proper night's sleep (and I'm a lucky bitch with two mostly-sleeping-throgh-the-night babies)
I am being flippant, publishing "the stats" (as well as putting out a blatant call for awed sympathy). The fact is, it's been a tough time. It's been a tough time on top of looking after two babies, now toddlers. It's been a tough time that I haven't had a break from, and that I've largely had to ignore in the face of my babies' greater needs.
I'm not a martyr, the kind of mother who gives her entire self to her children then blames them when she is drained; I'm a feminist, and an unapologtic selfish creature - I look after my own needs. But between the physical work of being a parent, the emotional journey it itself takes me on, and perhaps hardest of all - for an emotive character such as myself - the strain of managing (which sometimes means hiding) my private emotions for the sake of my children, it has occurred, largely beyond my notice, that I have suffered in silence.
Just occasionally I get a reminder of the trials. This post came about because while I was suffering a few withdrawal symptoms from my meds, it occurred to me that pre-child me would have been feeling quite sorry for myself, and expecting the world to give me a bit of a break from being a fully together adult. Pre-children the trialling-not-taking-anti-depressants situation would have been enough, on it's own, for me to ask for sympathy. But in my current life I barely even get a chance to contemplate my problems, let alone deal with them.
Don't go getting worried about me, though. Yes, it's been tough. And yes, I've had to put myself second to my children (not last, I come second... sorry husband! Not sorry friends / family / employer / world.) But the scariest thing is that it's okay - I can do it. It turns out, these beautiful children don't just take, they do give. They have, just be being so god-damn loveable, given me strength. They have, simply by existing, made their mother a better person. Which is just as well - I fucking need to be.