I’ve had a difficult time over the past three months. It’s been the most challenging time that I’ve experienced in motherhood and I’ve felt my sanity balance on a knife edge at times.
But it’s also been a time of immense growth and I’m appreciative of what it has taught me.
How my struggles have stretched and shaped me.
And as I’m coming out the other side, I’d like to reflect upon what I’ve learnt and am still learning.
I must come first
I always thought the analogy about putting your own oxygen mask on before putting anyone else’s on was trite. But I’ve realised that I’m good for no one when I’m on my knees with exhaustion.
So I’ve started to prioritise my needs.
I’ve made plans to get away to have some time of solitude every month and Thursday evenings are for me to have time alone. I’ve so far tried an African drumming circle, gone for drinks with friends, had dinner with my parents, spent the evening working late to do some things that I don’t usually get the chance to do in my working day.
Being free to do things as an adult, not a mum or carer, has been life changing. It’s brought me so much joy and has refreshed me for the week ahead. I don’t know how I coped without this time before.
Now that I’m over the worst, it’s hard to keep finding the discipline of time alone.
Since I’m not at crisis point, time to myself can seem less important than getting on with life. Making sure I’m pulling my weight at home. Being there for Jenson.
But then I remember that for 18 months, I gave more than my fair share to this family.
So it’s not about an even 50:50 split, but about communication and asking for what I need so that I can thrive as a mother, wife and woman.
Asking for help
I’ve asked my husband over the past months to step up with the caring of our son – we now share the bedtime routine and co-sleeping so the other can enjoy a night of disruption-free sleep.
And with me no longer taking the caring role with everything, I’ve let my husband care for me more and I’ve felt closer to him than I have in a long time.
I was so busy caring and coping before that I’d lost what it was to be a wife.
What it was to be vulnerable and gentle and soft. Cared for, desired and with desire
It’s not been easy.
We’ve had more disagreements than we have had in a long time.
I’ve pushed him and pulled him into me.
I’ve been more vocal about my needs and have confronted him when I’ve felt hurt or ignored or misunderstood.
Instead of burying my feelings deep inside me, I’ve spoken up.
But it’s been good.
Because instead of feeling complacency – a foreboding of the death of a relationship – I’ve felt fire.
And that has kindled us in a way that I haven’t experienced in a long time.
I’m not an island
I’ve also asked other people to step up and help in our lives.
Friends have rallied around to babysit Jenson and give us some precious time alone.
When Gregg’s parents or my own parents have come to visit or had us to stay, I’ve asked them to look after Jenson so I could rest and find moments of solitude. I’ve taken time for myself without worrying that I was being ‘rude’ or ‘inhospitable’.
Because I recognise that this time alone is what I need and their love for Jenson means that time with him isn’t a chore.
I remember writing on this blog, at the start of Jenson’s life, how important it would be for me to ask for help. How I longed for Jenson to know that he doesn’t need to be strong, independent, self-contained.
And I find myself reflecting back now and seeing that my desire has come true – I’m living how I want him to.
Asking for help.
Accepting the support of other people even though I can’t always give back in turn.
I’m finding myself in a new season in life.
Connecting with the beauty of nature and the spirituality of the world.
Not through any religious beliefs, but through an awakening to the ancient wisdom of the planet and the inherent spirituality I feel as a human being.
I know that what I’m saying is quite vague, and that’s because I can’t quite articulate it myself.
All I know is that I feel connected to something bigger than myself.
And with that, I’ve felt a love for myself and a self-compassion that I’ve never felt before.
I’m finding myself able to say ‘no’ to invitations that aren’t right for me.
I’m looking at my body in a way that I’ve rarely been able to in the past – with true love and acceptance for all that I am, complete with stomach rolls, a slight double chin, my wrinkles and grey hairs.
It’s all me and all worthy of love.
Over the past month, I’ve danced with joy.
I’ve cried with sorrow.
I’ve started to reconnect to the wild Amy who has been tamed by society but is bursting to break out.
And this feels like just the beginning.
I feel like I’ve broken one of the biggest taboos in the world – speaking about how motherhood isn’t always pretty.
How I have regrets for the child-free life I left behind.
How I know that I could have been happy without a child, even though I love Jenson with all my heart.
We do women a massive disservice in silencing the truth about the brutalities of motherhood.
It’s the best and the worst experience.
And yet we only speak about the beauty, and at most, laugh about the witching hour before bed or whisper to our friends in secret ‘I’m not happy’.
And I’m so proud of myself for having spoken up and started to challenge the taboo.
I’m so proud that I’ve been loud in saying how hard it is.
And I hope that others have felt permission to be truthful and honest, even if only to themselves or to me.
And so while this time has been one of the trickiest in my life, it has brought more growth than I could ever have imagined.
And I’m looking forward to seeing where this next season in life will take me.