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Note: This post is quite emotionally revealing and has been difficult for me to write (it’s taken a few weeks), but I felt it was important to express because I am sure I’m not the only new mum going through it.
All my life I’ve been a very strong minded (some may be reckless enough to accuse me of being stubborn) person. I’ve always known what I’ve wanted and how I feel about certain issues. Which is mostly a good character trait to have, and occasionally I learn the hard way. Luckily I do usually learn pretty well from my mistakes, but I like that I am passionate about my beliefs (while trying to be open minded enough to change those beliefs when necessary).
However, if you asked some of the people who know the ‘outside’ me (those who aren’t in my household or my immediate family) about this trait, they might look at you funny. When something doesn’t sit well with me or I feel confronted, I dither about, overexplain my position or pretend it’s all good when it isn’t. Sometimes I’ll even be silly enough to ignore my gut instincts, because I’m scared of what people will think if I do my own thing. I could get all psychoanalytical about how I think it’s a fear of not belonging, brought about by my ultimate rejection as a baby (leading to my adoption), but to keep things short and simple, I care too much about what people might say if I go against the grain. It doesn’t ultimately stop me in most cases and I might appear strong and sure of my decisions in the end, but it usually comes after a massive inner struggle that can last for days (or more appropriately 3am moments at night)!
Since I fell pregnant with the Little Mister, I’ve had to be mentally strong time and time again. I’ve had to find courage inside myself, in order to speak my truth. You see, it’s no longer just my truth anymore. My voice is no longer just mine. I have this little guy in my life who cannot speak yet. He cannot make wise life decisions that affect his wellbeing. I have the highest honour, the biggest responsibility. His dad and I must be his voice. I will sometimes have to be strong and make unpopular decisions or do something people might not agree with if I know in my heart that it’s for the best.
It is my duty to be strong and assertive. To carve my own way where my little family is concerned. I can’t dither about, ignore my instincts or doubt myself constantly just because some people out there may be ignorant or judgemental. I need to realise that we (my little family) don’t have to answer to anyone. We’re good people, we’re proactively educated, and we will always do our best to raise our baby.
I respect other parents and their choices. I am not perfect and I do judge occasionally (like when a pregnant woman says she’s going to drink Red Bull all night at the club – overheard on the train usually), but I do believe that being a new parent is hard enough as it is. Every parent is different and every baby is different. Most of us grow up relatively OK. Some may have more issues than others, but we all do what I believe is the best with what we know how at the time. If we know better, we do better and I always try to know as much as I can.
I guess what I’m saying here is that we might falter sometimes when we speak up for ourselves as individuals and we might ignore our own needs when we shouldn’t, but since having the Little Mister I have learnt a very valuable lesson in using my voice because right now, it’s his voice too. I have to get over myself. I have to stay strong. I don’t have to get confrontational (that’s not always constructive), but I have to believe in myself, not doubt what I believe in and quietly do my own thing anyway (without tearing myself to pieces with guilt or fear about it).
I don’t want to stand up on my somewhat unsteady soapbox and go on about how I’m a mother and all others should bow down because I’m the first person to ever have a baby. I just have to set limits and draw lines. I have to take calculated risks and believe in the fact that no-one knows my baby (or my family) better than my husband or I do. I have to stop listening to those who love to judge someone else (even worse when it’s other mothers who should know better), because they are probably insecure themselves and don’t know how else to feel OK about their own choices.
It’s not just me anymore. Someone else is depending on me and I take that responsibility very seriously. If I ignore my gut feeling where his needs are concerned because I’m scared someone will tell me I’m doing it wrong (even though it’s actually none of their business), then I’m not doing my job. I’m always open to learning and improving, but I need to trust my ability in seeking out the right answers and not blindly follow someone else.
When the Little Mister was born, I felt thrust into the unknown (in both the best and the scariest way). I wanted to show that I was eager to learn and I wanted to trust in the fact that billions of people on this earth have given birth before me. If I had my time over (and maybe I will one day) I would stand up to the people I was scared of. I would trust more in my intuition. I would tell the well intentioned midwives that I didn’t want them to grab my nipples when showing me how to breastfeed – that I could tell my baby knew exactly what to do without them grabbing me the third, fourth and fifth times. I would tell them I was too stressed to express every hour if they all kept walking in the hospital room and watching me each time I had a quiet moment and that it wasn’t helping my milk to come in. I would say that the real reason I was crying on day 3 of my hospital stay was because it was unnatural that I hadn’t seen my baby the first three days of his life and that my painkilling drugs had worn off making me realise that I was p*ssed off that they were acting like it was normal that he wasn’t with me – not because of stupid baby blues (they didn’t help but they weren’t the real reason). I would tell my friends that it’s OK that my Little Mister doesn’t spend a lot of time overnight with his grandparents so I can go out more, because I feel like it’s my job (and my pleasure) to be with him when I can. I am still teaching him to manage his separation anxiety and he gets plenty of time without us (let’s go easy on him – he’s 5 months and 3 weeks old), and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything in my life. I don’t know if they think about any of this, but I worry that they do. I just have to be OK with my decisions and wear them with confidence. The Little Mister’s doing great (all the usual baby maladies aside) and so am I! We’re happy 🙂
I need to tell people it’s not OK to just rock up at my house with very little warning and start making noise during the Little Mister’s bathing, feeding and bed time unless they’re planning on staying the night in his room. 😉 I need to be able to say, “Sorry I can’t afford that. Our income is limited right now and we’re channeling our funds into our family home or the baby’s needs, before we start spending on other things. Some months will be tighter than others.” and not just try to keep up when it’s simply not possible, out of the fear that people will think we’re tightwads or will start analysing our spending. “Oh, I saw her buying a $4 magazine last week. She can’t be THAT poor.”
That’s not everyone else’s voice. That’s the mean voice inside my own head. Stupid voice. The nice voice should remind the mean voice that my husband and I work very hard to budget our cash and we believe in living a balanced life. Our finances are our own business and they don’t stop us from living our life. So to hell with what some hypothetical, imaginary mean person might think!
And now I sound crazy with all this talk about voices in my head and imaginary people…moving right along…
I need people to understand what it’s like to have a baby – the challenges, the need for stability and the energy it requires. Sometimes I just have to
ask tell everyone straight out what I want or what the Little Mister needs as an individual (not all babies are the same in a situation). They might not actually be mindreaders (!) and it’s not fair to assume that they will understand a situation they’re not familiar with or that they haven’t lived.
Most importantly, along this journey into parenthood, I’ve noticed a pattern. Every time I ignore my gut instinct because I’m worried about what people will think, I take a bit of a detour down the wrong path. From now on, I am going to try harder to stay true to myself and my family. I need to trust that those in my life are strong too and they can handle my truth.
If I don’t stand up for my Little Mister, who will?
Have you ever found it difficult to stray away from the pack or speak your truth (this is not just a mummy specific question)?