A very dear friend of mine lodged herself firmly in my heart forever very early on in our friendship when she wrote me a text that read: ‘Jackson just did an explosion in his nappy and there is baby poo ALL over the sofa and I have just got back from the store with a bottle of vodka to clean it up. But now I am not sure whether to go with the original plan or just sit on the floor and drink the vodka.’ It was such a relief and so refreshing for someone to be so honest that I knew we’d always be friends - and I also knew what level of honesty I needed in my friendships too.
I have been really very lucky in my life with my family and friends. I am blessed with a handful of very honest, authentic relationships where I can really bring myself. Within these connections, my success and happiness is genuinely celebrated and my low points are truly acknowledged and understood. I really couldn’t ask for more wonderful people to share my journey with (you know who you are!)
But motherhood didn’t start out that way for me. Of course, my husband and my family were there for me but so few of my friends were making the same transition and I really struggled to find like-minded people to share my experiences with. The truth is I spent a lot of time drinking tea with my mum and napping with Bo – I was exhausted, had no idea how traumatized I was by giving birth the way it had happened and I’m pretty sure I was suffering from some kind of post-natal depression. But you can’t know that until you are out of it. So I just sat in the fog.
Then, slowly but surely, I began to find my way – I was drawn gently out of those early days by the invisible force that has always helped me find my feet and I began to find the people who would become so important to me. And I now feel very strongly about finding ways to support people when they make the transition to motherhood – and in the years beyond that are made up of so many moments. Motherhood is meant to be dreamy and fulfilling but, often, it can be just plain terrifying and exhausting. And I wish, as a society, we knew how to talk about things properly so that new mums wouldn’t have to pretend to be doing ok. But we don’t – and our midwives and health visitors don’t have time because they are working in a system that isn’t coping.
And the real problem is, we generally don’t share honestly with each other as mums, especially in those early days when we assume everyone else is so sorted, organized and on top of things. I remember my first NCT coffee meeting (it was also my last) when everyone went around the table comparing how long their babies were sleeping. Bo had only ever slept for about an hour straight – she just was not an easy baby – and I was too ashamed to admit it and just felt like a failure and went for another cup of tea with my mum. (Thankfully I have a seriously amazing mum.)
What I think we all need – and this goes for new parents especially – is people around us who are honest with us and who accept us wherever we are in ourselves. What we don’t need is comparison, advice or tips or ‘this is what we did’ because, when we are finding our feet, we need to feel there is a loving, secure safety net around us – just the way that a toddler needs a gentle, quiet presence to help him feel safe as he learns to walk rather than someone telling him how to do it or pointing out where he’s going wrong. We need acceptance – that is, if we need to laugh, we need someone who can go there with us and if we need to cry, we need someone who lets us cry. If we are lost, we need to feel supported to find our way and our own wisdom – and this can take time. Honest sharing with supportive, loving people helps remove the blocks to this wisdom.
A Letter to My Sister
Dear Lizzie, my precious sister
Here are a few things I would like to share with you when you start on your journey to becoming a mum.
1. Don’t believe anyone who says they have it all under control – seriously, everyone has at least one area in which they struggle. This will help you find your own way, rather than getting stuck in comparing yourself with others.
2. Be honest with other mums and people around you. Most times, people respond with relief that you are willing to share and so often they will say ‘thank God you said that, I have been feeling that too but didn’t think I could say it out loud’
3. Go easy on yourself. This is the biggest transition you will ever make in your life and it takes time to adjust – your body is new, your emotions are new and your purpose in life is changed. You have been bumped out of the central position in your life and it takes time to settle into that. The key is to remember that EVERYTHING is a phase. 'This too shall pass' needs to be your mantra... Because it always does.
4. Try to stay centred by continuing with your spiritual practices. You need to look after yourself right from the start – and start working out what that means for you and putting it into action.
5. Ask for help A LOT. If you find resistance to this, seriously get over yourself (and call me!)
6. Let yourself be loved by the trees, the sky, the earth, the stars, the sun and the moon and whenever you feel things are getting sticky, go outside and you will remember how they see you. And you will feel refreshed and ready to start all over again. (And a walk in the fresh air sorts out most baby issues too!)
7. Spend time with people who will do the washing up for you, put the laundry on, make you a cup of tea and share honestly with you. Your true friends will respect your choices as a parent and make you feel expanded and happy rather than anxious and unsure.
8. Trust your instincts, which become so strong when you become a mother. All you need to do is connect with your own wisdom and you’ll find your way. Be open to what you need to hear and learn in order to support yourself on this journey.
9. Embrace the practicalities of life. Do the laundry, washing up and hoovering with as much presence and mindfulness as possible. (Singing helps.) You will slowly realize that there is nothing else to do but what you are doing right now. (Although you must also let out your frustration when it becomes too much.)
10. Connect to the Big Source in whatever way works for you – prayer, meditation, asking for help in any form. Otherwise you simply won’t have enough energy.
I am including this in my blog in case anyone reads it and feels it might be comforting for a new mum or dad they know.
May we all feel truly heard, loved and understood on our journey, wherever it takes us, children or no children, during the highs and the lows.
Love from Hollie