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.
5 replies on “On the eve of her birthday (a year and a half ago)”
Thanks so much for sharing. So much of it I can relate to, and these are things I wasn’t prepared for, before becoming a mum, and it is wonderful hearing another parent affirm these experiences and feelings that we don’t talk about enough.
For example I can relate to discovering myself, but also to being the first parent in the friendship group. We still are the only ones in this group. And reading this, it’s easier to understand why it was hard and lonely. (In addition we had moved to a different area and had left our family and friends behind, and as I said our new friends were not parents.)
But, things have changed since. I made more friends, many of whom are parents too. My oldest is nearly 7 now, and at my last birthday I looked around at all my friends (old and new) who had joined me and felt so grateful and loved. All aspects of me were represented, not just one. ( For the first time since becoming a parent or possibly the first time ever!) I finally have found my tribe. It took a long time. But I hope this will happen to you, too! I know it’s hard when you haven’t got it. Especially when you go through something as life-changing, beautiful, mindboggling and hard as parenting. Thanks for sharing.
I always enjoy reading your emails but never comment as I often feel that you are the parent I aspire to be with what appears to be a constant positive and gentle attitude to parenting and life in general. So, I never really have anything insightful or profound to add other than ‘i agree’ or ‘great idea’ but I have to say that your most recent email has really summed up my life. Being a mother for me often feels like a life of extremes in that some days are full of pure joy and laughter and others are extremely challenging and lonely. What a relief I’m not the only one. Thank you for sharing x
I really look forward to reading your blogs.. Keep up your work and keep pushing through. It’s an empowerment to all mother’s that always second guess how important and radical being a mother is. It really is everything!!
Yes I agree with Shaynah! I loved this, and it rang so true, especially as the first in a friend group to have a child, and also the punch in the gut of past life sadness that can land on top of you. I remember being in Zara when my baby was about 4 months old, and seeing all these tiny glittery dresses that I probably would have worn when I was 22, but I swear I nearly fell over it hit me so hard…this is my life now. That part is over. This part is now.
Beautiful words, and great to get the update on the passage of time, and how it does clarify. Thank you x
I agree Anna! What we must remember is that we can still have moments and times we had prior the children! We still need to commit to the self care and time we used to dedicate to doing things we used to enjoy! Motherhood isn’t a burden although at times it is overwhelming and draining. It’s nice to compare the life before and after children the slimmer you vs now! That can still be you girl!! X