Without a doubt becoming a mother is a wonderful and joyous time where you are filled with love, elation, excitement and gratitude. Your new little bundle of joy! While this is true, (especially when they are sleeping or feeding well) what about the times when your reality is not one of joy but of frustration, confusion, self doubt, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion and an overall feeling of dismay. What do mothers do with these feelings? Are they able to share them openly or do they feel like they are silenced?
Firstly, it is not ‘unnatural’ for mothers to feel confusion, frustration, self doubt and sadness etc. Virtually every mother will experience such emotions, however unfortunately most will feel like they have no right to do so, and that such feelings are shameful. For this reason unintentionally in society new mothers feel silenced and like they may not be allowed to express the challenges of being a new mum. They may feel afraid to speak too loudly or too clearly on the subject of their own experiences, for fear of being judged as a mum who is not good enough. When mothers feel like they can’t voice all their experiences of motherhood, the good and the bad, they can feel they have no choice but to mask their experience and difficult feelings from each other and the world around them. They find themselves pretending that all is going well and equate asking for help as failing at the inherent feminine qualities of being a ‘good’ mum.
So call me a whistle blower, but to all the new mums out there let me be clear. Being a new mum is a challenging time and no-one can prepare you for the demands a new born will place on you physically, emotionally or relationally. It is one of the most profound identity shifts that a person experiences in their lifetime. Yet, how this experience unfolds is totally unique to you and there are no well worn paths or universal truths along the mothering journey. It is a time of absolute newness and the learning curve is steep and daunting. And, while each new mum has to forge her own way it is important to understand that you don’t have to navigate the terrain of your emotional experience alone, or in isolation. It is ok to reach out for support, to lead with your vulnerability and share and begin to get comfortable asking for help, (which is not an easy thing to do in a culture that celebrates self-sufficiency and ambition). I invite you to share your experience with people you can trust, build yourself a village of supportive, understanding like minded people, whether they be friends, family, neighbours, community groups or health care professionals. You do not have to do it alone, unmask motherhood with tears of despair and the booming laughter of relief as you reach out and share the trials and tribulations, the joy and sorrow of being a new mum!