So anyway, a few weeks ago i thoughtlessly pressed share on my phone after liking a cartoon on Facebook. (I am deliberately not linking to it). Suffice to say it expressed the opinion that children shouldn't be left to cry. A friend didn't like the conclusions the cartoon drew and let me know. My friend and i had a good talk about it and all was fine but it got me thinking about some tough truths for me as a mum and the impact depression has had on me and my parenting choices and opinions.
Before Ella was born and even before we lost our first child, i had been keen to read and learn all i could about parenting. I was, and still am, really sensitive. As a child I was very sensitive to those around me and wanted to be the best parent i could be and do everything right. By the time Ella born i had a mini library of parenting books and thought i knew how it was going to be. My friends from our antenatal class and coffee group will remember well how embarassingly well informed i was. Now there is nothing wrong with being well read and informed about having kids, but i do think you need to know what is behind your need to know. And my reason was fear of hurting my child and of not doing it "right". It really had not dawned on me that there is no right way. That would have scared me even more!
Anyway, after Ella's birth i was hit with severe depression. Picture me lying on the couch, unable to sleep or eat, panic attacks whenever i breastfed and seriously contemplating suicide. I felt completely overwhelmed by this tiny new baby who was so dependent on me. I felt unable to cope and truly believed she would be better off without me as her mum. It still shocks me to think back to that time and how awful it was.
I was very lucky, in a way, to become so ill so soon after Ella's birth as i was prescribed antidepressants and felt better relatively quickly. But the foundation was already laid for how i would mother. I think the worst fear of any mother with mental illness is that your illness will badly impact on your child. And the research shows that children of mothers with depression are vulnerable to the impact of the often disrupted attachment with their mum and are at much greater risk of mental illness themselves, not just due to genetic factors. I was so afraid of Ella suffering because of me that i did everything i could to promote attachment. I wore her in a carrier, breastfed on demand, bed shared and refused to follow the advice of leaving her to cry, even when she was waking 5 or more times a night for months on end.
Ella was and still is a delightful, outgoing and intense person. I like to say her off button is missing. She struggled to get to sleep and if left would just become hysterical. She had the disturbing habit of coming out in a rash whenever she cried and then crying in her sleep for the entire time she was asleep if she got upset while settling. She was also impressive in her spilling to the point that it felt like i was carrying an over-full mug around which would tip copious amounts of milk on me and everywhere else at any time. Our floor resembled a Jackson Pollock painting and the amount of laundry was insane. Excuse the pun. So add in my perfectionist tendencies and then a good dose of depression and being highly sensitive and it is pretty clear why we chose to parent Ella the way we did.
Now i don't regret how we have done things. It has suited Ella and certainly hasn't hurt her. But there were times where the effort to meet her needs left me completely exhausted and vulnerable to the depression I was working so hard to protect her from. George's birth and him being so settled, the choice to formula feed, the shared parenting hubby and i are doing and being well this time around are all meaning i am recognising how unhealthy some of my choices and thinking have been and in turn i have needed to believe i was right and things were black and white. And i surrounded myself with books, people and Facebook pages which would support my choices. (i am getting to my point). Hence why i was getting cartoons such as the one i posted, on my news feed. So back to posting opinionated parenting links.
For a long time i have needed parenting to be a black and white affair while there was so much grey around. My apparent confidence and certainty was as much about my own fears and insecurities as the research i had done. I do wish i hadn't been so quick to give advice or opinions, even just in my head. Nothing is certain or simple and in the end, what i think is pretty irrelevant. The mother i am now is shifting.
I am still committed to being a responsive parent but now good enough will have to do. In the past i have not been good at recognising my own needs and limits. But another tough pregnancy, this time with a preschooler, trying to avoid depression and not being able to breastfeed have all led me to climb down from my high horse and face my reality rather than a fantasy i thought i had to live up to. I don't regret my choices but i regret my attitude and assumptions. My life, my family and myself are a hodge podge of so many beliefs, experiences and circumstances and are unique. So now i see myself as a mum who is working it out as i go along and hopefully someone who is quick to empathise with other parents as we all make the best choices we can for or families.
So if you have ever felt judged by me or that I seemed to have it all together and know what I was doing...I apologise. And I hope you realised at the time and now, that I really don't know much and am just dealing with life as best I can at the time. I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many mothers and families of all types and persuasions, who inspire me and share life with me. thank you