The one with the disclaimer.
The first thing I’ve learned about motherhood is guilt.
In starting to think about writing anything, my first thoughts went immediately to the disclaimer, ‘I really love my son, but…’. Of course I love my son. He’s perfect (to me). It’s the ‘but’ that gives me pause.
Some things are easy to let go: decisions made from a place of necessity (formula over breastfeeding, for us); practicality (letting go of my fantasies of using only cloth nappies); and even convenience (our 18 mo sleeps mostly on my face, because he shares our bed).
But. There have been days in this past 18 months where all I have wanted to do was cry. And so, I did. And as I cried, I felt like the world’s most terrible person. It’s the usual cliche: how can I be so sad when I have this beautiful, healthy baby? I was tired. I was isolated. I’d had major surgery. My hormones were a mess, and my hair was falling out. Of course I was going to fucking cry. But. You’re not supposed to feel like that. There’s not supposed to be a but.
I’m sad that we don’t talk about these realities more. There are books and articles, and diagnoses, and public conversation. But we, women, don’t talk about this enough. Not in terms that mean anything. We don’t share our knowledge with other women in order to help them. And it’s shit.
No one told me that your friends mostly desert you. You become too difficult to include, so you’re forgotten. No one told me that your body becomes unrecognisable: I look down at myself and feel like I’m looking at someone else. No one told me how boring the first 6 months are; that you’re cooped up inside with a tiny, screaming human who can’t hold a conversation or show you any empathy. No one told me that when the baby cries a switch goes off in your brain that entirely prevents you from thinking like a rational being.
When you do see another adult human, your conversation centres on the baby, or your parenting decisions. You’re forgotten, again, even when you’re standing in front of another person, who can see it’s been at least 3 days since you showered, and an eternity since anything resembling skincare came in contact with your face. And that person, seeing you like this, doesn’t ask you how you really are. They ask you if you’re breastfeeding (if you’re not: guilt). When you plan on going back to work (anything less than 12 months: guilt). If you had a natural birth (caesarean?: guilt).
And, all you want to do is scream: I’m not just a fucking vessel. I’m not a life support system. I’m still a person.
Thankfully, days where I cry all day are numbered now. But, I still often am filled with a sense of despair. And I’m still lonely. These days, my son can feed himself, and he laughs way more than he cries. But, he still needs me a lot. And some days, he needs me more than I have energy for.
And the biggest, most awful thing that I feel guilty about? Longing for a break. Wanting time for me. Wanting time to be quiet. To sit on my own. To read a book. To not be needed. To not be wrapped up in anyone else’s existence. To be reckless.
I love my son. But fuck, I still want some time to be me.