Sally Macleod lives in Brighton with her husband and son, and is part of the Mummyshock team. Here she shares about her own experiences as a new Mum...
I remember before I became pregnant, and during pregnancy in fact, even in those early days of motherhood, I held this belief that some kind of magic transformation would take place. That giving birth to a baby would be like a magic wand being waved over my life. And that the moment I became a mother I would suddenly become a better person, that I would instantly be the mum I’d seen on Pinterest and Facebook, the kind of mum I had revered without realising.
I thought the magic wand of motherhood would allow me to cope with 4 hours sleep a night, that it would give me infinite amounts of patience in the face of a screaming baby. I thought that this magic would transform me into someone who turned up to baby groups and meeting with friends 10 minutes early, that I would suddenly become very good at keeping on top of the laundry and cleaning.
In other words I thought that motherhood would transform me into something I am not nor never have been.
So it came as a bit of shock when it turned out that there were some days (most days in the early months) when I felt a wave of despair at how sleep deprived I was, at how unable I was to function. I felt guilty for feeling angry towards my baby when he cried inconsolably for hours no matter what we tried. My child is now 2 and I haven’t been early to a single meet-up or baby group since his arrival. And the way I managed our laundry was to buy a second laundry basket and turn it into an interesting decorative feature!
It sounds silly doesn’t it, but I fully believed that women magically became mothers, that the magic happened as soon as you held your baby and that was that. Transformation done!
I felt so disappointed when that magical change didn’t happen! I can remember sitting in a café when my little boy was about 4 weeks old. He was crying (which then seemed like the loudest noise I had ever heard, but now we are in the toddler tantrum and screaming stage I actually miss those new-born cries!) and I was trying everything to settle him long enough for me to be able to have a bacon sandwich. I remember looking over and seeing 2 heavily pregnant women and I had the strongest urge to shout at them, “Don’t do it!! It’s not what you’re expecting! ”Thankfully I managed to suppress the urge by stuffing half a bacon sandwich in my mouth!.
Because the truth is I had never experienced anything so hard in my life as becoming a mother. All the things that I thought would come naturally didn’t, that mother’s instinct didn’t kick in and so I was constantly doubting and second guessing myself.
And I’ve come to realise that motherhood is not at all like a magic wand. In fact if I had to describe it now I would say more often than not motherhood feels more like a magnifying glass. It makes you realise all the areas of yourself that are still under construction, that need work, that you could easily ignore before your child came along. It shows up the things you struggle with in yourself and in your relationships.
And on bad days that magnifying glass can feel pretty intense and lead to some heavy mum guilt…
But on the better days it feels like an opportunity. A chance to work on all of those niggly areas, or at least simply acknowledge them. And that has to be of benefit not just to how I mother but to all of my relationships in the future.
And I don’t feel disappointed about there being no magic wand attached to being a mum anymore (although if anyone has a magic spell to get all the housework done please pass it on!) because if it happened magically I would have missed out on the journey.
Sometimes when I’m having a hug with my little boy I have a real sense of us learning together – as he learns how to do more and more, and becomes more of an actual person, I feel myself learning this mothering thing as we go. And I have a sense that that’s why we fit! And that’s a hundred times better than any magic wand moment, because I’ve done it, I’m still doing it. I allowed myself to be stretched and tested and learn from mistakes, and kept going without giving up.
And that I’m actually thankful for this magnifying glass effect of becoming a mum, with all of its steep, and in my case very very steep, learning curves, because it has taught me how to be exactly the mother that my little boy needs.