I recently found a piece of writing that I started scribbling over a year and a half ago, on the eve of Frida’s second birthday. I wanted to share it with you now, unedited and unchanged, exactly how I found it.
Frida will be two tomorrow. Two!
I have been reflecting a lot as her birthday nears on the profound changes that I have gone through over the last two years.
Some things bring it back, flashes of a past life which seems so far removed that it could be another country, another century. Certain music, listened to on headphones on a rare trip out where I’m not accompanied by a chatting toddler, can bring back a wave of memory and emotion so hard that I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.
Motherhood has been a journey of self-discovery far more profound than any travelling, any drug trip, any yoga class or mindfulness session. It has felt like the most seismic shift in understanding who I am, and what is important to me, accompanied by a profound sense of loss and grieving for my old self, my old life, our old life.
I have learnt that I am strong, and brave. Watching my one-day old daughter have a cannula put in her tiny, tiny hand. The physical torture of living for a year and a half on 45-minute stretches of sleep (I still don’t think I have fully processed yet how traumatic this was or how much I am still physically affected by it). Resigning from a secure and well-paid job “just” to stay at home. Putting on a jolly face for my toddler as she curiously watches a midwife take blood from my arm to confirm a miscarriage.
As I outwardly look more conservative – a married stay-at-home-mum, if only my teenage self could see me now! – I feel inwardly more anti-establishment than ever, horrified by the system of schooling and early childcare which seems fuelled more by capitalism and patriarchy than any real desire to nurture our children or society or environment. Horrified by the way in which children are viewed and treated by our society – it seems more fashionable to talk about animal rights than children’s rights these days.
It is impossible to explain this to friends who do not have children, and mostly they are not interested anyway, past a cursory “Oh, and er, how’s Frida?”, looking relieved when I change the subject back to one they feel more comfortable with. That feels lonely, too.
Being the first of your friendship group to have children is in many ways a terrible idea. I have watched my friends continue with their social lives, their careers, their lovers, and their mental-headspace to think about important things – things other than what to make for supper and should Frida wear a long-sleeved or short-sleeved dress today and did I remember to pack her water bottle and shit we haven’t done any sort of craft for days now does that make me a bad mother – and I consider how far our paths have diverged and if anything I have to say could possibly be of interest to them now. Some friendships I thought were immovable, solid, have quietly faded. Some have blossomed where I expected nothing.
And then the writing stopped. No doubt I was called away by a small girl, or her birthday preparations.
Some things in my life have changed since I wrote this; I have found joyful clarity and focus around what I want to do professionally and how I can best serve those around me, and I am slowly feeling less exhausted. Some things however feel like I could have written them today. That feeling of fury when I consider how our capitalist patriarchal society treats children and their mothers. That punch-in-the-gut which still surprises me at times when I think about life before motherhood. The uncertainty of navigating friendships.
Although this felt a bit raw to re-read, I really wanted to share it here with you, simply because sometimes it is nice to share. I want these feelings, that rawness, to be captured and remembered.
Because that is motherhood. It is raw. It is hard. It is challenging, and glorious, and heartbreaking, and amazing, and all kinds of messy. It is human, even when the children we share our lives with think we are superhuman. It is vulnerable, and joyful.
It is everything.