This post has been a while in the planning - and with my most emotional writing I need to press 'Publish' before I think of a million reasons to delete or refine it out of existence. Back in June in my post Confessional or slander? mentioned some bloggers who have inspired me to write about this subject, they have finally prompted me to take my first step to blog about this subject. I hope that you enjoy the read.
Motherhood should be natural, easy and wonderful. It should be a coming together of generations and a way to celebrate the continuity of family and love. I say that it should....When Pickle was born I was besotted by her, I could watch her for hours, just marvelling at her perfection. We bonded, she latched on and everything seemed to be perfect. I remember the forms that the health visitor got me to fill out about my emotions and I ticked all the happy boxes and felt like the perfect new Mum.
Time went by and life was not that simple. I was living first with my step son then my step daughter (both recently out of University) who took the news of a younger sibling as an invitation to have emotional meltdown, and I was to be the lightning conductor of their bile. On the surface things were fine and they were always superficially normal, but their was a strange and unsettling atmosphere in the home that made life poisonous. I longed for the happy family I had never experienced, but I was still high on euphoria of what I had - and that was an amazing daughter and husband I adored.
Little by little my facade started to crack. Work was shit (I even had to consult a lawyer) and the Pickle was not a great sleeper. I realised that things were not perfection, despite waking up feeling happy and loved, in unguarded moments I just found myself crying. I was functioning well, I was not acting out of character and it was not impeding my ability to be a wife and mother but I knew that something was amiss.
I went to the Doctor and asked for help - and left with the possible offer for a prescription if I pushed it further and an A4 print out of possible sources of help from the Samaritans to unaffordable therapy. I binned the flyer and dug deep in myself and found reserves and solutions to keep on going.
Shall I introduce you to my inner self? I am quite amazing! For over 20 years I have been assembling the jigsaw of my psyche. Most of my tools have been common sense, meditation and New Age philosophies - and most importantly a sunny disposition and an amazing ability to listen and see things from many perspectives. I have put in thought and effort into making myself a well functioning adult who can have mutually supportive relationships with friends and a couple of long term lovers (and when I found Mr.Right I had the sense to settle down with him). However I am also self aware enough to realise that life has been complicated and my emotional foundations could be a little shaky!
Motherhood affects us all differently, some of us have excellent role models and others of us are careful not to repeat dysfunctional patterns. I love my Mum, she has always done her best, but motherhood just is not her thing. There is a saying that the child of lovers is an orphan and my Mum's love for my father obliterated her bond for her children to the extent to which I remember asking my Nanny who the kind people were giving us such nice presents on Christmas day before they disappeared for their adult lunch: they were my parents! My hands on approach to motherhood could not have been more different to my mother's, immersing myself the love the Pickle and my family was the richest reward.
I think that my emotional status quo would have been maintained, but sometimes life prompts you to take action. I read Oliver James' They F*** You Up: How to Survive Family Life - and it started me to question not only myself but more importantly myself as a mother. He advocates that everyone should do an emotion stock check of their lives and work out what messages their upbringing has enforced on their lives. There was one thing feeling a little weepy at times but the knowledge that inadvertently be passing on negative behavioural patterns to the Pickle was of real deep concern to me.
In spite of having drifted away from my New Age philosophies of old, feeling slightly amused by some of the platitudes and fluffiness of their certainties there were some common threads that I could see. Even James discussed how some elements of the theories were gaining scientific credence. Armed with the fruits of my past soul searching and the tool kit described in the book I saw that this was an area that demanded closer scrutiny. I read other books, including the excellent Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby's Brain by Sue Gerhardt and started a re-examination of my life, the messages that informed who I was and how I act and those messages that I could be passing on.
The past 18 months have been revelatory, my understanding of myself and family relations have been transformed. The thread of my relationship with my mother has been woven through many posts in this blog - and maybe that could have been both the effort and rewards of my battle with delayed post natal depression. Maybe...but in reality it has been a stepping stone. It has taken me several seasons to find the words to describe the start of the journey - time for me to take a deep breath and hope that I can return with the next chapter in this particular journey.