Wednesday, 30 June 2010

We are one!

Last week Ella turned one. What a huge milestone and what a celebration. Ella is growing so fast and is such a delight. I love seeing her personality develop and as she learns I feel like I am getting to know who she really is bit by bit. It is funny cause when she was born I loved her, but I didn't know who she was. A year on I can see bits of me and bits of her Dad but there are parts of her which are pure Ella. It is like slowly unwrapping a gift and glimpsing more and more but still having the joy of anticipation.

I have to admit though as her birthday came and went I kept thinking about this time a year ago and how little I knew about what the last year would hold for us as a family and particularly me. This year has officially been the most difficult, painful, shocking, amazing, joyous and miraculous of my entire life. I imagine many people must feel like that after having their first child.

As her birthday dawned I thought about being in labour and her birth, holding her for the first time, but then the terrible slide into darkness and unreality that was depression for me. And I am so sad about that. And it really was horrific. But then I think about how quickly life improved and that now I am managing being a Mum, holding down a job and feeling pretty fantastic. Actually probably better than I have felt for years. So on the other side now I can see how even though it was absolutely awful, I would never want to give back all the strength I have found, the change in me and my family through sharing such a challenging time and the new hope I have now. And most of all the compassion I feel for new mothers and the challenges we all face as parents.

I have always been so terrified of the hard things in life, the tragedy and trauma that we all have to face. But I can say that I have walked through the fire and I am okay, complete with my scars which are still healing. When I think back to who I was I much prefer the new me that is being created and the deep joy I know in my life now.

Thank you Ella for sharing your first year with me.

What makes my soul sing?

Recently I have been hit by one bug after another. I got so run down and just couldn't recover. I decided since my GP could only say "take a paracetamol" that I would see a naturopath. Six weeks later and I am feeling so much better. Apart from pills and potions she had a good look at my week and saw how busy I was. So I have scaled back my life and tried to make sleep a priority. She also challenged me about not doing enough to make my soul sing, the things that make me feel alive.

Coming away from the appointment and still feeling awful I felt like I could take all the supplements and do less but the most challenging part was to do things which I love to do. It is so easy with a small child and work and life in general to feel there just isn't space for me and to feel powerless to do anything about it. I was having a pity party to a friend, saying I just can't do the things I love, like going to the movies and read, while being a Mum. And she called me on it. And she is right. That is a lie that leads nowhere but dissatisfaction and resentment.

So I have started trying to prioritise the things I love but also trying to think creatively about how they can work with the way my life is now.

Here is my list:
  • Cooking - bought two foodie mags and am cooking my way through the recipes.
  • DVDs - if I can't get to the movies then I can try to watch some DVDs on a Friday night cuddled up with hubby and something scrummy.
  • Reading - I am being patient about this but I am trying to make some time for reading on a Saturday morning while Ella is at swimming with the other half.
  • Gardening - doing the vege garden at work is pretty fantastic!
I am still working on a few other things like going for a massage, a horseride and possibly to a film fest film. But I am committed to keeping on being me and not waiting for some distant time when life is less busy. Cause I don't think that time will ever come.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

The falacy of freedom

Why do we believe so strongly in individual freedom? If you think about it, no-one is really "free". We all have responsibilities and people whose feelings and needs we consider before doing whatever we like. So why when I became a Mum were so many people and books so keen for me to have my "freedom" back? I have noticed the same things with weddings. A couple of ceremonies I have been guest at had vows which emphasised our fear of having to sacrifice our wants for someone else. The vows went something like this - "I love you, but... you must not stand in the way of anything I want to do and you must support me in anything I choose to pursue". Seems that it might not be worth getting married if it seems such a risk and there is so much to lose. And maybe the same is true for having children.

Because children need us to put them first. And in reality it is for such a short time. Last night I went out without Ella for the first time since she was born. I went to a friend's place for dinner and left Ella asleep at home with her Daddy. It was really nice spending time with friends and just hanging out. But after a couple of hours my cell rang. Ella was awake and I could hear her sobs in the background. When I got home she was do upset she was gagging and once she finally went to sleep she sobbed as she slept for another hour. I lay in bed and wondered whether my night out had really been worth it.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think Ella was permanently traumatised by the experience but in her short life and in her world me not being there when she woke was a disaster and felt horrific. She doesn't know I am just out with the girls. As far as she is concerned it is dark, she woke up and Mum is gone. If I were her I would freak out too. And to be perfectly honest, it was a nice night but sleeping next to a sobbing baby is no fun.

Even before Ella was born people would give me advice about how to leave her, how to get her used to a bottle so I could be free to go out and have some time out. Some people even said it was unhealthy not to. Can you imagine any other mammal planning to leave their baby before they are even born?

She will be young for such a short time and before I know it I will feel like I don't see her enough and will be willing her to spend time with her doddery parents. And it certainly saves money to not be out painting the town red. Maybe instead of seeing our children as impinging on our freedom we could see there dependence on us as a privilege and a season to be embraced as we learn how generous it is possible to be with our time and our bodies as we do such an important job in helping our children to grow.

Saturday, 12 June 2010


I have been MIA for the last wee while as I have been struck down with virus after virus for the last couple of months. Ella seems to pick up something just as I get a bit better and then down I go again. So last week I decided something had to change and went to a naturopath. I think they are great for when you aren't sick enough for the doctor to help but you aren't well. As a result I am on a mineral supplement and probiotics to boost my immunity as well as echinacia to ward off those bugs and a good multi vitamin. But the biggest benefit was when she drew up a timetable of my week and blocked out when I was busy. A bit shocking really. Almost all of every day was blocked out. I needed someone objective to tell me I was doing too much and that I needed to take better care of myself. I certainly hadn't listened to my Mum!

But that is the challenge for me. When I am tired and run down being around other people energises me. To a point. But it had turned into avoidance of my life and the reality that I have been burning out. And depression lurks around that ugly corner of not listening to myself and my body. So I have begun the task of dropping things and pulling back. And it is hard to admit that I can't do everything, but what I find scariest is when I am not busy I have to be with myself more. I have to sit with where I am really at and can't hide behind doing things. I am realising how unhealthy it is to feel afraid of myself and of facing my feelings. Especially those feelings which are negative, like sadness and disappointment and worst of all, fear.

When I first started to recover from PND it was so liberating to be able to leave the house and go and do things. But my new liberation needs to begin. To be able to say no and stay home and be still, well as still as you can be with a toddler.