A hard beginning

Lucy lives in country northern NSW Australia, and faced many challenges during her first months as a mother. But during this time, Lucy learnt a lot about herself, and her own limitations. This is Lucy’s story about becoming a mother.

During my labour, I learnt a lot about my limits. I had great support people, who I had utter trust in. I was happy for these people to guide me through the process when I could no longer make a decision. But at the same time, these people gave me the labour they thought I wanted. We started at the Natural Birth Centre near Lismore, and I laboured there for a long time – I would have been happy to go to hospital 8 hours earlier than I did.

My main memory of my labour was that I thought I was going to die. When I saw Anna Watts, a birth counsellor, since my birth, she told me that this is a normal thought – a lot of women think the same during labour. There was one clear instance where I really thought I was close to death…

As soon as there was the option to go to hospital, I leapt up, and was up the other end of the birth centre within 30 seconds, so the story goes. That said a lot – that was where I needed to be. Isi was posterior, so I was in absolute agony for 8 hours. Once I got to hospital I began to enjoy my labour. I was in a bubble, protected by my midwife and birth support – I had so much trust in their judgement. It was wonderful. The room was full of sun. That part of my labour was really wonderful.

When Isi was born, it felt really good. I didn’t cry, or gush, but this wasn’t me anyway. I’m not overly emotional. I remember writing in her baby book for the first time, and thinking “Wow, it’s a girl”. I was sure I was having a boy. But I never gushed.

I felt so tired though. The first day was ok. But I didn’t stay awake staring at Isi. I didn’t ever feel like that in the beginning. I didn’t gush – I get that more now, when I am breast feeding – after 6 months I started to get that more, but then I didn’t feel it. I didn’t feel the awe. I just had an absence of feeling.

It all fell to pieces when daylight savings began. I really couldn’t cope. I tried everything I could – psychologists, my naturopath, a herbalist. I wanted to cope naturally but I couldn’t. I couldn’t combat this feeling.

I was so exhausted all the time. I constantly felt like I needed a break. Mainly I felt totally abandoned. I got that feeling straight away, on the first day Isi was born – that I was abandoned, and had to do it all on my own.

Although we were booked into the Natural Birth Centre for post natal support, we had come a week early because we thought the labour had begun. So we had been away 10 days by the time Isi was born, and we needed to get back, get back to the farm and to work. Two days after Isi was born, I was sitting at the computer trying to work. I know now that was a mistake. And Larso needed to sleep, because he was so exhausted, and had to work all day. So we slept in separate rooms. On the first night, Larso was snoring, so he slept in a separate room then, and Isi slept in my bed, and then I felt really alone. I had to do it all alone. And Isi was really awake from the very beginning. That was when my anxiety set in.

I didn’t feel like I had a lifesaver. Larso was fantastic – doing everything. And Mum was with me for 10 days when Isi was born. I didn’t do a thing around the house. But those were the things I wanted to do – pack the dishwasher, put on the laundry – I didn’t want to be doing what I was doing.

The worst part was when Larso’s ute would drive away at 6:30 every morning. It was excruciating. He was so exhausted, heading to work, and I felt devastated. I would be crying, watching his ute drive away, knowing that I would be alone. He would come back during the day, if I rang screaming and crying about having to carry Isi constantly, and I wasn’t able to go to the toilet. I had to carry Isi constantly in the sling to begin with. I didn’t like it.

I had wanted to use the bassinet. My post natal support person said I can, but it wasn’t necessary – other women just put the baby into bed with them. I didn’t want to do that, but I didn’t have the strength to stand up for myself. I wish in hindsight I had been more assertive.

My sister was so fantastic. She was instrumental to my well-being. When Larso went away, he took me to her house for three days – her house was so warm – she has three children, so there were always people about all day. She was devoted to helping me. And she was still breastfeeding one of her children.

And yet I still felt completely abandoned.

Going to my sister’s house was a really positive experience. In fact I had a turning point there one day. I was using the pram for the first time, to take Isi for a walk and a sleep. I didn’t know what I was doing with the pram, and I had her lying flat, wrapped in muslin. I was on the phone to my mum, crying, when Isi’s head started to fall down the back of the pram. It was so odd, it looked like she was being born again. But I was really pleased, because it was my instinct to scoop her up and save her. Before then, I had questioned my love for her. This made me realise that part of me did love her.

Things improved when she started sleeping more. I wanted to get back into running my house. I wanted to unpack my own dishwasher. This didn’t happen until I got Isi sleeping in her bassinet. Another turning point was a visit from a midwife who had been recommended to me by my sister. She came and stayed with me for a few days. We went into my bedroom, and she asked what went on in the room. For the first three weeks, I said I had Isi in my bed and Larso slept in the other room, then I had Isi in the bassinet beside my bed. The midwife asked me what I wanted. I said I wanted my husband back in my bed, and for Isi to sleep in her own room – we had put so much love and energy into making her nursery. Then the midwife said the thing I needed to hear: “Whatever is good for you is good for Isabelle.” I so needed to hear that. It was so empowering. Before then, I felt totally out of control. Putting Isi in the bassinet for the first time, I was so nervous. But she slept so well. She wasn’t picking up any of my horrendous vibes. And I slept so well. I had my room back.

I had a lot of advice, but my sister was always wary of giving me any. She knew I would be getting so much.

One piece of advice that came from my post natal support person that didn’t help was: “This is motherhood”. This terrified me. Is this what it was going to be like forever? She told me that I had to stop fighting and just accept that this is hard work, and this is how it is. There seemed to be no end to it. She told me to get DVDs, and lie down and just let it happen, but this just wasn’t me – I couldn’t imagine it. I am the sort of person who wakes up early, has a shower and makes my bed. If I can do these things everything is ok. During this time I struggled to resolve the conflict in me between the natural earth mother, and the part of me that wanted to get on with things.

Throughout this whole period, I learnt my limitations. I also learnt to tap into my instinct – my instinct was right, and I needed to listen to it. At some point I separated from myself. I had to learn how to get myself back – that was the most powerful thing.
The truth is, I am petrified about having another baby. It scares me so much to go through that all again. I am even still taking pills.
A friend in my mother’s group one day gave me such good advice. She put her hand on my arm, while I was sitting, crying, feeding Isi, and she said: “You don’t have to love her now, Lucy. It can come later. It does for some people.” Hearing this really helped me. It freed me.

I am loving it all now. Isi is one now. Mum’s a great support. I wished she could have stayed longer. If I do it again, I would have someone with me all the time, so I never have to be alone.

I would like to note it has been the strength of the friendships and connections made through my mothers’ group that has helped me enormously. Prior to this group I basically had no friends in the area which was so hard after the extraordinarily close knit group of friends I had left behind in Sydney. Spending at least a day per week with like-minded breastfeeding mums where honesty flowed was paramount. Isabel has helped me gain the confidence to be myself and in turn seek out friendships for us both, it is so true, the little bubbas choose their parents and are here to teach us. Isabel has taught me so much about myself, especially that I can be selfless and actually relish in it!

I want to tell this story as honestly and openly as possible. We aren’t embarrassed if we fall and break our leg, but when it comes to being a mother, everything has to be fine. I don’t think we should feel embarrassed about talking about how it actually is.

Lucy, Mallanganee, Australia

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