Quite late on in my pregnancy my no nonsense midwife told me that becoming a mum would make me or break me.
She wasn’t exactly clear as to which she thought it would be which was, on the one hand rather worrying but on the other quite comforting because at least I knew she wasn’t just going to tell me that everything was fine without actually believing it.
Everyone who knew about my pregnancy and my struggle to accept everything that was happening to me would tell me, without fail, that everything would be fine. They told me that I would be a wonderful mother and all the problems that I’d battled against would melt away when I looked at my baby.
So many people told me these things; their belief that everything would work out seemingly unshakable and my midwife was one of the few people that didn’t share this collective opinion that the only possible end result was that everything would be fine.
As a result she was one of the few people that I considered believing when she proffered the opinion that I could be a good mother.
Once I emerged from the initial fog that comes with having a newborn and getting up five times or more per night I honestly thought that I had made it.
I had safely delivered a tiny person and was continuing to keep him safe. Admittedly he’d twice been an inpatient on the children’s ward before he was two weeks old but that went because I’d done anything wrong or failed to do something right. It was just unfortunate that he was very jaundiced and there wax nothing I could have done to prevent it.
I was slowly getting to know my baby; learning what he needed and when he needed it. I knew when he was hungry, when he was tired and when he needed a nap. I knew how to make him smile, how to make him giggle and I could stop the tears from a bumped head or a tummy ache just by giving him a big, squidgey cuddle.
People would tell me how well I looked, how happy and sociable and well behaved Squidge was and what a wonderful job I was doing with him.
I felt so good about myself and my capabilities that by the time Squidge was five months old I decided that I felt well enough and confident enough to go back to work. This was a huge step for me as, almost since the day I’d first been signed off work by my GP I’d panicked about my ability to go back. Now here I was, ready, willing and able to balance being a nurse and being a mum.
I was able to get up at stupid o’clock in the morning, do a 13 hour shift and still be to drive home at the end of the day just in time to give Squidge his late night feed.
I was able to spent my working life looking after critically ill babies and supporting their families, knowing that it could so easily have been me sitting next to an incubator feeling as though my heart was being ripped out but still managing to keep my working life and my home life separate.
I held hands, shed tears and dealt with death before life had even really begun on almost a daily basis. I gave part of myself to them, these broken parents, sharing their grief without giving more than I was able to give and always keeping something back to give to my own baby.
I truly believed that becoming a mum had been the making of me.
Then everything started to go downhill and over the past few weeks I’ve started to think the opposite; I’ve been in such a bad place mentally and emotionally that I honestly felt that motherhood had broken me.
I’m sure every Mum goes through phases of ‘what ifs’.
What if I’m doing everything wrong.
What if I’m actually a bad Mum.
What if I do everything to keep my child safe and make them happy and it still isn’t enough.
What if I’m not enough.
These are all thoughts that, in addition to many others have been swirling around my head over the past few weeks, to the extent that I’ve been unable to settle down to write or read or blog. Over the last week in particular I’ve spent most of my waking hours walking, hoping that by exhausting myself physically that I might be able to quiet my mind.
It’s not worked.
As soon as I’ve woken up in the morning the fear and panic has erupted spectacularly, leaving me cowering under the duvet desperately seeking the solace and escape that only sleep can bring. Its stayed with me throughout the day, bubbling just below the surface, ready to break free and take over the second my concentration slips.
The only reason that I’ve been able to sit down and actually write something today is because the three of us (me, Squidge and the Northern One) are visiting my parents. This means that not only do we get lots of help looking after Squidge, we also get a lie in and a willing pair of babysitters so that we can go put for the evening.
There is also plenty of wine, hence the writing.
But wine or no wine I am writing, even as the panic rises and my fingers contract and try to pull themselves away from the laptop keys.
I am writing and sharing my scary, painful, overwhelming emotions and I am not broken.
I am not broken.
I am bruised and battered.
There are bits of me that I feel as though I’ve lost or that are damaged beyond repair.
I am scared.
I’ve stood on the edge of the abyss, staring into the dark and feeling the edge crumble beneath my feet and yet I have not fallen; I haven’t succumbed to the fear and the panic.
I haven’t given in.
It may have taken me nearly two weeks to be able to sit down and make myself write but I’ve done it. I can still write.
I’m still here.
Motherhood may not have made me in the way that I thought it had and there are still plenty of days when I feel as though I can’t go on but I still wake up every morning and I manage to get up every day.
It may not have made me in the way that I’d hoped; the image that I clung to so that I could make it through the darkest days of my pregnancy but it has not broken me.