Don’t call me Mum. (The Journey.)

‘A woman with a child rediscovers the world. All is changed – politics, loyalties, needs. For now, all is judged by the life of the child… and all of the children’ – Pam Brown.

Yes thanks Pam.

Anybody who has ever had a bump the size of Albania bulging from under their t-shirt will be able to attest to the fact, that when you are visibly pregnant you seemingly and against your will, become public property.  

If you don’t believe me, I absolutely recommend you take a small dog, or perhaps a bean bag, and shove it up your jumper and head to the shops (Maybe not a small dog, the whimpering and squirming may put you off your stride) to test the theory.

Having a rather large bulge just above your nether regions (and I don’t mean a hiatus hernia) in simple terms, must just give the impression that you are simply desperate for everybody to come over and touch it, and/or offer you unwanted and mostly unwarranted advice.

Out of nowhere you go from not showing and having a romantic little secret, to showing and having every man and his dog run their hands/paws over your growing uterus while offering you words of wisdom and tiny pearls of poo. (I call them pearls of poo, because a lot of the advice I heard off strangers while pregnant, really wasn’t advice at all, it was poo. Pearl sized poo.)

Don’t reach up or the baby will be strangled on the chord… (Really, Aunty Pat?)
Try not to eat so much… (Rip, Sarah.)
There is no such thing as a due date… (Huh? I think you will find there is old woman!)
Don’t call the baby a stupid name… (We like Radiator Leak Doyle, what business it is of yours?)
You are huge, are you having twins?.. (SLAP!)

The list is endless, but the one which I heard, interestingly enough, from people who both knew me well and were mothers themselves (so I felt I should listen and believe them) was;

 ‘Motherhood will change you.’

‘What?’ I would stutter ‘why does everybody keep saying this to me? Do you think I need to change? You don’t think I’ll be a good mum as I am now? How will it change me?’  Was usually my nervous, insecure, blimp like and panicked reply.

‘Mwahahahahahaha’ they would cackle as they threw their heads back with evil glee ‘you will see! You will see!’  And with that they would sweep their flowing black capes from out behind them, with all their children clinging on for dear life and disappear in to the night, like terrifying visions of the ghost of Christmas future.

In fact I heard this phrase so often, combined with its partner in crime; You will feel a love so overwhelming you won’t remember life before him, that Leading up to my due date (that didn’t exist) I actually became rather worried that as soon as I had given birth, my memory of life pre-pleb (as we had nicknamed the bump) would be completely wiped out, and I would wake up as an entirely different person. Bette Midler maybe, but with a bigger nose.

Lifting my half numb legs, an hour post birth, up on to the bed that was to be my home for the next seven days, and with the little ferret parked in a plastic basting tray next to me, all wrapped up and looking like a cute prune, I began to worry, that other than being a little bit teary, absolutely knackered and in a huge amount of agony, I still felt like me.  I was officially a mother now, wasn’t I supposed to be a changed person?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I had just had a baby, so of course I was over the moon, overwhelmed and overweight, but other than the obvious changes to my anatomy, including far too many stitches and a drain, I had to be honest, I didn’t feel any different, and upon further examination, I could still remember my life before birth too. What was wrong with me? Wasn’t I supposed to have forgotten my entire life leading up to this moment?

‘Would you like some tea and toast?’ the floating head of a midwife appeared from behind my curtain and kindly asked me in a soft, sleepy voice.  

‘No, but could I please have a strong black coffee, a bag of square crisps and a pillow?’ was my reply.

Definitely still me then.

Maybe I will feel different in the morning, I thought to myself after spending an hour and a half trying to have a wee. Maybe you have to sleep on it.

We hadn’t been home for long before I was feeling intensly sleep deprived and hugely grumpy. Visitors came and went and for a while I wondered if The Irish One had started a guest house without telling me. I just wanted to shower, to sleep and then sleep some more.

(Wouldn’t it make more sense if the visitors came at least a month after you are home?  Because seriously, the last thing you want when you are having to walk like Jon Wayne and every second step makes you screech like a banshee, is a coach load of distant relatives traipsing through your house and man-handling the goods, you know?)

But anyway, moving on, The Irish One was constantly professing to me, his love for Newborn Woo. He was a doting daddy and it pissed me off. (I can’t explain this. It just did.)

‘I know,’ I would mumble, irritated, from underneath the duvet (the guests had got bored of me whacking my breasts out while they were trying to drink a brew and eat us out of house and home, and had finally buggered off) ‘I know, yes’ I would repeat as he droned on about knowing the meaning of true love ‘I love him too, but don’t tell me he is awake again, is he? He isn’t is he?’ I would panic, terrified the next round of nipple torture was about to start.

‘If you feel like that about him waking up to see you,’ he said pointedly, removing his (ginger) head from inside the moses basket, ‘Maybe it is time to stop breast feeding! He isn’t taking enough anyway and you don’t seem to have any coming out, so what harm can it do? Let’s give him a bloody bottle.’

‘Shut up!!’ I raged back! ‘How dare you!’ The pressure I felt to succeed at everything was immense. I resented his insinuation that I was failing. As it was, I am not sure that The Irish One even knows what the word insinuate means, never mind having had the energy or inclination, at that time, to follow it through! He was just worried about me, but I was too scared to see it.

Did I feel different when the decision to stop breast feeding was made? Nope. Stopping breastfeeding just confirmed my failure status. I had gone from probable failure to failure absolut with one sweep of a plastic teat. (The lanosil, is still in the fridge as a constant reminder of what could have been. I can’t be arsed to take it out. It’s next to the Jam that has been there since 2002. Some jobs I just never get round to.)

I was officially a crap mum, who could remember her past, and (shock horror!) even missed the easy going way it used to be!! I would have killed for an hour in front of the telly uninterrupted! I also wasn’t sure I was any different at all, other than my inability to hold my bladder when I sneezed, or stop eating mayo by the ton, motherhood hadn’t changed me at all!! And Yes I loved my son but (are you ready for this?) it wasn’t overwhelming!! (MONSTER!!)

I loved him because he was mine, sure. I loved him because he was gorgeous and I loved him because he was cute, and sweet and tiny. I loved him because he was my son and I had to love him didn’t I? 

I felt like I had to love him because if I didn’t who else would?

This is extremely hard for me to admit, and I have tears rolling down my face as I write this. Not because I still feel the same, but because nobody told me this could happen, so I thought I wasn’t normal. I beat myself up, and I broke my own heart. I became convinced I didn’t love him enough and there was something wrong with me.

Every new mother I spoke to would go on and on and on and on about how much they loved their child, and how easy it was, and how natural it felt to them, and how they had whipped up some mange tout while expressing breast milk in to a pre warmed bottle, while cooking a roast for their husband and then pleasuring him while changing a nappy. The pressure for ‘motherhood to change me’ and for my love for him to be ‘overwhelming’ was too much.  It hadn’t happened overnight. So I was officially a horrible, nasty, selfish freak of a person.

The health visitor arrived 8 years later, after many calls from the Irish One reminding her I still existed, to examine ‘A.J’, as she infuriatingly kept calling him, and to check on me.  She obviously had a thing about abbreviating and changing names as she surprised me by calling me ‘Mum’ while examining him. I was caught off guard and somehow ended up blabbing that I had stopped breastfeeding because of the pain. She shook her head in disappointment and said ‘That’s a shame Mum.’

Who me? I thought? Don’t call me mum! That doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t fit with me yet. I don’t feel like a mother or a mum. I can’t even breastfeed right can I? I am not his mum. I am just the person who cleans up poo, spends 40 minutes of every hour chasing an elusive burp and who will never again, drink a hot cup of tea.

My name is Lexy. Not ‘Mum!’

‘Do you feel depressed?’ she asked in response, using a totally inappropriate sing songy voice.

‘Me?’ I asked, while wiping sick of my filthy t-shirt with yesterdays knickers, ‘No! Not at all! I can’t believe he is here! He is amazing! Isn’t he beautiful? I love him so much. I think my heart may fall out. It is just overwhelming!’ I cooed while staring at him in pretend awe.

She left happy enough, after clearly ignoring all the signs, and the next time I saw her was 7 months later, when she was knocking on my door, because my Dr was concerned, I may be a potential suicide risk.

Addison had been very poorly for a good while, and I was exhausted from fighting with Dr after Dr to get them to listen. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just knackered and pissy, but nevertheless she left happy that day too. She hustled in, and hustled out. She didn’t want to help. One day I will write her a letter and tell her to get a job as a clown. She would be much better suited to a role with barely any responsibility, and her lipstick was always all over her face anyway, so it would make for an easy transition.

He is my son, and nothing will happen to him on my watch, I would profess to the Irish One during the endless days in hospital, all the while mistaking love for duty.

It was 3 months on from Allergy-Gate (as I now call it) when Addison was 10 months old and still had a grizzly bottom, that I finally snapped.

‘I bet you can’t remember life before him can you?’ My aunty Kathleen gushed at a family gathering ‘He is just simply gorgeous isn’t he? Isn’t it an overwhelming love? Motherhood just changes you completely don’t you think?’  

At the time, in fairness, Addison has just shat up his back for the third time in a three hour period and I wasn’t in the mood for a gushing, drunk relative, no matter how well placed her intentions were.

‘Actually Aunty Kathleen,’ I said bluntly, ‘Yes, I do remember life before him; it was only 10 months ago for Christ sake!! I had a baby, not a lobotomy!! I remember life before him, very well in fact! I used to get some sleep! And while we are on the subject, yes he is cute, and yes I do love him, but is it overwhelming? The only thing which is overwhelming to me currently is the need for a lie in!’

She stood glass in hand, staring at me, like a rabbit caught in headlights. (She has big teeth.)

‘And as for motherhood changing me?’ I raged in her face ‘the only thing different about me, is I am four stone heavier and my nails are constantly caked in crap!!’ And with that I flounced out of the room in search of the changing bag. (And a big glass of wine.)

It felt such a relief to finally be honest!  Although, thinking about it now, I should probably ring my Aunty Kathleen at some point and apologise.

My first Mothers day was possibly the darkest and most painful day I have experienced since having Addison.

‘Don’t give me that sodding card!’ I screamed at the Irish One, holding my beautiful boy ‘I am not a mother!!! I am just a babysitter!!! This is nothing to do with post natal depression!! This is because I am a freak!! I don’t love my son enough!! I can remember what happened before he was born!! I don’t feel changed!!! I am still Lexy!! I am not a mum!! I am a letdown!! A failure!! I hate you, I hate myself and I hate mother’s day!!! Just piss off and leave me alone!!

It was awful for everybody involved.

And then something began to happen, much like the phoneix rising from the ashes (you godda love the drama!) I slowly began to enjoy waking up at the crack of dawn and seeing my son’s face, instead of it being a chore, I began to enjoy the moments we spent laughing and watching him grow.

Instead of waiting for the light to switch on at the end of the tunnel, I began to run towards it. It happened naturally. My self-hatred slowly began to thaw and in its place something else arrived.

Hope.

Last night, exactly four hours before we were due to leave for the airport, on a holiday we have been looking forward to for months, Addison was sick. He was clinging on to me for dear life and burying his head in to my shoulder.

‘We are going nowhere.’ I told the Irish One instinctively ‘There is no way I am putting my son through this journey when he is feeling this poorly. I am absolutely gutted, but he comes first.’

Strangely, and without even properly thinking about what I was doing, I put my feelings of disappointment over a missed trip, to one side and got on with the job of cleaning him up and consoling him. He was broken, and it was my job to fix him, just like I had done all those times before.

And then, even stranger still, while walking in to the Dr’s office this morning, thinking about how I should have been landing in Spain and hugging my dad, I pulled my son to me, inhaled the smell of his head and was hit by a bolt of lightning. (Not literally, but if you had seen my hair you may have thought this was the case.)

The only thing that mattered was Addison.  I loved him more than life itself. The love I felt was; dare I say it?

Overwhelming.

‘Are you his mum?’ The locum asked while feeling his tummy for swelling.

 ‘Yes,’ I grinned back proudly, while kissing his forehead (Addison’s, not the locum’s) ‘Yes. I bloody well am.’ And against my will I puffed my shoulders out.

My boy is beautiful! And he is all mine!

I walked back to the car, dancing on air, clutching my son’s small head, to my bursting heart.

So as it turned out, motherhood did change me. It made me a better person. It just took me a while longer to feel and recognise those feelings. Yes I can still be a grumpy moose, but I am making progress.

I loved my son, I did. I just didn’t bond the instant I saw him. I loved him, but it wasn’t overwhelming from the first instant we met.

I see now, this doesnt make me a freak. This is just my journey. Everybody is different.

It took me a year to see what it is all about. It took me a year to recognise something I knew all along.

I forgive myself for that. (Except based on the fact, I did always love him, I did always care for him and I did always ensure he was happy, safe and fed, I am not sure there is actually anything to forgive myself for…)

If I was to see a pregnant woman in the street now, I would be unlikely to approach her and jump in to motherhood 101, but if she struck up a conversation with me, my advice would probably be;

‘Don’t pressure yourself in to feeling anything more than you do, in the moment. Everything you feel, at every step of the way, is unique to you and no matter what happens, the bond will grow and emotionally, so will you. Everything will turn out alright… oh, and good luck…. and join Twitter.’

‘When you are a mother you are never really alone in your thoughts. A mother always has to think twice, once for herself and once for her child.’ – Sophia Loren.

Now that, I can finally agree with.

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26 Comments on “Don’t call me Mum. (The Journey.)

  1. Tears falling from my eyes reading this whilst laughing out loud at parts too … This was me with Logan 3 years ago. You write and describe brilliantly x

  2. Wow. This is an amazing post. I can completely understand this. I was lucky that I did have the instant bond with Lyra. But taking on someone else’s baby at 6 months meant Ellie was a whole different story. It’s only now, months and months on and now that most days are good ones that I can realise how desperate I felt. But I love her now. Completely and utterly.

    Xxxx

  3. I’ve kinda always hated the concept that we all feel the same thing when our babies are born! I mean we are all different people, of course we all handle it differently! I was surprised when my firstborn was born at the feelings I was flooded with, they weren’t overwhelming love. Love was there of course but stronger than that was Fear. I had never felt anything like it. Just Fear because having a baby is such an overwhelming thing, beautiful but overwhelming. This was beautiful and it’s something that should be talked about more- so those of those that don’t feel what we feel like we are supposed to feel don’t feel so badly.

  4. Beautifully written, honest and heart-felt post. I’m sure it rings true for thousands of women and it’s great to hear someone actually telling it like it is. When my daughter was born I often felt like I was “on show” and people were judging how well I’d taken to motherhood. In fact, that’s exactly how it was – with many visitors not even trying to hide the fact they thought I was “a natural” etc. But then I spent so long trying to live up to this ideal that if I had a bad day or just needed a bloody rest and a big glass of wine, Iworried I was somehow admitting failure. I still feel that way sometimes actually. And it’s a pile of utter crap really, isn’t it?!

    So glad to have found your blog. Brilliant brilliant post. x

  5. Darling Mammy Woo. I have been wanting to read this post since I saw you post it up on Twitter yesterday. I KNOW that you are speaking for a lot of women here. You are certainly speaking for me. The love grows and when it does it is amazing. And you do have nothing to forgive yourself for. Oh, and the your advice for a new mum: brilliant.

    BM
    x

  6. This made me laugh and cry at the same time. So honest and sad and funny and familiar. PND really is crap eh? Brilliant post, brilliant blog x

  7. Heart felt and honest post. Thank you for sharing your journey. We survived my PND thanks to the unexpected strength and love from hubby and I hope your words help other silent sufferers.

  8. Thank you for posting this. It’s hard to admit because society expects us to love our children no matter what and to feel this love instantly, although what some of us actually feel is “What the hell have I done to my life?”. The bravest thing I ever did in the fight against PND is admit to people that I didn’t feel instant love for my child. I would care for her, and I wouldn’t harm her, but LOVE…al encompassing overwhelming LOVE? No. I didn’t feel that. I do now.
    I admire you for posting this thought publicly and know that this post and your blog will help many women who feel alone in the battle against PND.

    Enough of my rambling! x

  9. I love your honesty on this subject and think anyone suffering with PND would find this so much more helpful than the brief description you are given in the baby book. They should raise awareness of the issue, even by getting past sufferers into the antenatal classes to explain how it affected them. Knowing other people are experiencing the same thing really helps. I’m glad to hear you got through yours 🙂

  10. I cannot express how much I love this post. It’s great to have stories like these out there, this is more common than people would like to admit and it’s so sad when you think you’re the only one going through it because of all the sing-song happy fluffy tales told by default.

    Also, you write brilliantly. I feel I have no option but to add your blog to my regular reading list (which isn’t as regular now with a 4 month old baby as it used to be…)

  11. I truly think you are amazing. I always say pregnancy and beyond is a conspiracy. No one tells you the truth about what happens to you. It’s not always one way or the other there are so many grey areas. Just wish the health professionals could see this. Keep writing darling and go easy on yourself, your only human and truly amazing.

  12. The fear of being judged keeps to many new struggling mothers silent.
    I lived in denial for the first 6 months of my sons life. I painted on a smile to the health visitors and doctors. Only my OH saw how I ‘really’ was.

    A lot of this beautiful post rings very true to my story of PND.
    I had no immediate overwhelming sense of love. I did love him but not how people led me to believe I would.

    Thankfully after 6months of Prozac my PND was no more and I love my son more than anything.

    Thank you for writing this. It was brave and honest and I know it will help dispell the myths that first time mums are told day in day out.

    I am so pleased that you are coming out of the darkness of PND.

  13. A beautifully written, heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing with such honesty. Sorry to hear that you didn’t get the PND help earlier. Hopefully you now have all the love and support you need from your loved ones.

  14. People need to stop mums to be that they will feel an overwhelming love, it’s a pile of nonsense. You feel love because he is yours, you have a duty to care for him and keep him safe, you love him for all the reasons that you list. But it is not an immediate and unconditional love. And I’m sorry I really do feel any woman that says that is lying.

    After they’d ripped The Boy from me I didn’t feel a whoosh, I just remember thinking ‘bloody hell he’s big, why is he grimacing like that?’. I was happy, but I was also high on gas and air, pethidine, epidural, spinal block and a lack of sleep. I gave up breast-feeding at 3 weeks because I was beginning to resent it and him for hurting so much. Even when he was rushed in to hospital in an ambulance at 3 weeks I didn’t have the rush. I went into teacher mode. It wasn’t until the next day when I was on my own with him that it hit me. I could have lost him, my precious baby. I blamed myself and still do. That’s when I became his mummy properly.

    You are not alone in thinking this, this is you healing and finding your place in the world again. You need to be given more support by those around you, not be judged by them.

  15. What an amazing post. You have given an amazing perspective that is often missing. Love is often duty and love does grow in different ways. Why do we understand we are all different in so many ways but judge ourselves and others for not parenting and feeling about said parenting all the same? I am so sorry you had to miss your trip, so glad you got to be overwhelmed by your love for your son.

  16. Honestly written & without question you are not alone – A bit less judgement & a bit more empathy & support wouldn’t go amiss in every aspect of motherhood… I’m sure you have made a few women feel at least a little less alone 🙂

  17. I really think you should be proud of yourself here. You did a brilliant job of looking after your baby even though you were ill, you’re so honest about motherhood, and now you’re beating the PND. You’re truly inspirational.

    I reckon, now that you’ve posted this, you’ll be surprised by how many women say “I felt just like that too”. The identity of myself as ‘mother’ and as ‘person’ is definitely something I struggle with.

  18. you are so right about the love growing. I think there are probably a lot more mums that feel that way but are too scared to admit it, so we go through it thinking we are alone. My kids are 3 and 5 and my love for them still grows every day. The more you know someone, the more there is to love about them surely. My oldest has JUST started calling me mum instead of mummy and it makes me feel very very OLD, because that’s what I call my mum. Those early days are so very hard, it’s up and up from here on!

  19. Ahh, wonderful, heartfelt, emotive blogging as always, love love love reading your posts!
    As you know, i’m 5 weeks into ‘Motherhood’ and i am finding it hard…. i read this post nodding along with the majority of it, a large part of it feels like you’re actually talking about me. Oh god, now i’m crying, i have only admitted to my Tweetees, how i am feeling and that’s you and another girl….
    Must go, he is waking…i want to write, i really want to write, i just can’t find time 😦
    Keep going hun, you bring me joy and laughter (now i sound like a hym we sang in Primary) xxx

  20. Bless you for writing such an honest brilliant post. I hope it felt cathartic too. I know exactly what you mean, and felt very similar feelings myself. Beating up ourselves is pointless yet unavoidable when going through that horror, and you are in no way a failure for not breast feeding – I felt a massive failure for having a c-section. Every one has their own journey and well done you for coming out on the other side

  21. I don’t have children (yet, one day maybe) but what you wrote amazed me, and i can understand exactly what you said, as I’ve often wondered what if (if I ever become a mum) I wasn’t what I should be, if that makes sense? You’re so honest, and I love that about your blogs. Thank you x

  22. I have to admit a lump in my throat at this Lex. Not just because the piece itself is emotional, but because I know you have achieved something fantastic, a huge victory in the battle against PND. I am so pleased for you Lex, I want to give you a hug and yell PENIS! Just to prove you can be Mum and still be Lexy too x x x

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