A couple of days after my second son was born I was walking along my hallway and I burst into tears. Full heaving sobs which took me quite by suprise. I’d suffered from sever PND after my first son, and antenatal depression and complications including SPD/PGP with my second pregnancy. In fact, if I’m honest taking spiderboy out of the equation (for he has made so much of it the best of times) the last four years really have been tough. Testing, trying, exhausting and often the worst of times.
Depression is not a disease I had suffered from before, and it was like an onslaught, a raging battle which left me wrongfooted, lost and lonely. God only knows quite what it did to my husband – he’s still here, but he has certainly had to keep things together with the sort of hard work and resilience required by his wedding vows. In sickness and in health and all that.
I was at my most manic and spiralling in the first months of spiderboy’s life (I’ll never forgive myself) and when I was pregnant with the latest. All fear, apprehension, anxiety, no sense of myself or who or how I could be. Newborn is only a few weeks old, but this time is different. A new country, for sure, but I don’t feel like I have no chance of finding a roadmap. I also feel far more at peace with the fact that I can’t control all (or any?) of it. I am scared of slipping down to the depths though, which is why it was such a relief when my husband asked me why I was crying and I could at least hazard a guess, knowing at some point in the next few minutes with a cup of tea and a hug I wouldn’t feel so desolate.
I realised I was sobbing because I was so relieved not to be pregnant any more, and I was no longer trapped in a tunnel of expectation. I realise, I truly do, how lucky I am to have been pregnant and carried two beautiful babies to term. My lucky stars are countless, and bathe my life in light. But I have had to fight an image of perfection in pregnancy, family life, motherhood, parenting, modern life more generally, and my sorry lack of measuring up very hard. And I really think many women suffer through unrealistic expectations of themselves which are destined merely to make them feel like that are at best bumbling along and at worst failing completely.
To be fair to me, being pregnant and depressed and having a broken pelvis, isn’t a good look for anyone. For me, once it was over I felt far less embarrassed about admitting it was awful. Last night a friend who had her first a month after I had my second noted that no-one had been honest about motherhood, and perhaps if they had people would be put off. The same could be true for pregnancy, but in my experience many women are just beyond relieved when you break the spell with them and acknowledge that for some of us pregnancy is really hard. It is a challenge physically, emotionally, in terms of the expectations of others (don’t get me started on being public property and a projection screen for other people’s neurosis when you are up the stick) and worst of all in terms of your own expectations of yourself. And crying out loud about it, just once in a while, is okay.