It’s no secret that I found the transition to motherhood hard. I’ve banged on and on about it in the hope that honestly recounting my experience may chime with other mothers struggling and perhaps offer them a virtual life raft to hold on to. After all that’s why I started the blog and why I still write it because it’s still necessary. Despite all our efforts to dispel the myths surrounding motherhood, they still exist. New mothers (and old mothers) are still finding themselves lost in a haze of breast pumps, maternity pads and wailing babies.
The thing is, when a woman has a baby, she becomes largely invisible. I mean, we all say, ‘Well done’ and ‘Congratulations’ but beyond that, the moment she hoofs the baby out of her love tunnel, every other question is baby or birth related. Imagine how it would feel if, in the blink of a 38 hour labour, your mates went from chatting to you about relationships, Zara sales and Grazia to only asking you about whether the baby sleeps, was labour painful interrupted with the odd coo and ga-ga as they stare adoringly at the baby. They’ve gone from being the most important person in the room as everyone runs around for them while they’re gurning under the weight of full-term pregnancy; everyone is telling them to rest, to take care of themselves. They’re practically falling over backwards to help them out…and then, poof! The baby arrives and it can feel a bit like no one gives a shit.
Don’t misunderstand me – this is all great and as new mothers we are more than happy to answer the birth/baby questions; it’s just that, often they forget to ask how you are. I don’t mean, ‘How are you after the birth?’ or ‘How are you without any sleep?’; I mean, “Really, deep down in your soul, how are you coping? How are you feeling? Talk to me.” New mamas love it when you take the baby of their hands; they love it when you clean the house and bring them meals and all those things are super important. It’s just that often, people forget to stop and actually ask the mama how she’s really doing…I mean, like, really.
The problem is that the arrival of a new baby is so flipping exciting that we can’t contain our excitement. We can barely concentrate on anything other than those teeny-tiny feet, or gorgeous blue eyes but it’s important that we do. It’s important that we forget there’s a real life, adult human woman behind those tired, tired eyes and burgeoning boobs and saggy tummy. There’s a woman desperate to say, ‘Fuck me, this is hard and can you just stop cuddling that baby for one minute and look me in the eye, give me a hug and tell me it’s going to be ok.’
It’s not that anyone is selfish or thoughtless or malicious. It’s just that it’s really hard to concentrate on anything else when there’s a brand new baby in the room. They get it; they’re just as in love with that little doughy ball of humanness but it doesn’t have to be expense of her own soul. I think a lot of post-natal depression would be alleviated, or even eliminated, if we didn’t stop focussing on the mum once the baby arrived. It’s a strange feeling when people stop looking at you when they’re talking to you because you’re holding a baby. It’s even stranger when they start talking to you through the baby, for example, “Wasn’t your mama a brave little soldier? Haven’t you got an amazing mama?” (Yes, that actually happened).
I’m not here to reprimand anyone – you’re all doing an amazing job of rallying around and helping mamas cope with a new baby. Just don’t forget about the old her…the woman she used to be. She’s still there; she might be a bit knackered and lot distracted but she’ll still really appreciate a chance to chat in the old fashioned way.