A mother is definitely not made overnight. At least not in my case.
It took me more than a year to really find the nurturing and caring side of me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my son from day 1 (back when he was still a tiny little pea in my belly). Like many other first-time parents, the ultimate goal is to not mess him up. And like many other first-time parents, I read articles, blogs and books about parenting and followed radiant mum-instagrammers who appeared to be rocking and taking motherhood in their stride. Towards the end of my pregnancy, I felt I had this motherhood gig in the bag and could not wait for our little pea to join us.
The rise of self-loathing and self-doubt
I inadvertently formed this ideal of the beautiful and unfazed yet nurturing and selfless supermum – based on sublimely filtered stories on motherhood. Little did I know that I had been setting myself up for a grand disappointment. You can probably say it’s my fault for buying into it but the growing popularity and use of social media can only mean that I cannot be the only one.
As the sleepless nights and weeks went by, the initial feelings of elation started to wane. Stress and anxiety started to kick in, coupled with unrelenting feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy. It didn’t help that my son was forming a stronger bond with his dad than with me. Things just weren’t going as I envisioned it to be and I did not know what was wrong with me.
I tried speaking to my husband about it but our dynamic as a couple had changed and I felt I didn’t know where I stood.
Going through this experience, I was forced to take stock and look inwards. I unraveled and learned new angles to my emotions and unresolved emotions from childhood. It was a difficult if not, a very lonely place to be.
Nobody openly talked about the vulnerability that they felt as a new mum. Nobody talked about mourning for your lost identity and the guilt and the shame for measuring up to the ‘ideals’ of motherhood today. Nobody talks about the need for us to heal not only physically from birth but from all of our experiences in the past and leading up to the day we become a ‘mother’.
Eventually I found this quote:
“No one mentions the psychic crisis of bearing a first child, the excitation of long buried feelings about one’s own mother, the sense of confused power and powerlessness, of being taken over on the one hand and of touching new physical and psychic potentialities on the other, a heightened sensibility which can be exhilarating, bewildering and exhausting”Adrienne Rich (Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, 1976)
It’s easy to put the blame on my hormones going haywire but as I emerged from this place (around a year and a half later), I came to realise that ‘hey, I think this is raw motherhood’. I am coming to terms with my new purpose and identity.
We need to be given the space to express the other parts of our identity, we need to feel less judged, we need to feel listened to and seen not just as receptacles and carer of our children but as sentient human beings carrying valuable ideas, feelings and opinions.
As Alexandra Sacks so eloquently described in this TEDtalk, motherhood is a transition and it is important that we get the support that we need in this very human time.