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It’s RUOK day today. It’s a reminder to us all that we should be checking in with the people we know and care about (or even someone we don’t know if it seems important at the time) and asking how they are doing all year ’round. It’s a time to open up a conversation about how to do that and what steps to take when somebody replies with a big fat NOPE. Or even what to do if they say they’re FINE but everything else says they’re not.
I want to be really honest about my year so far. It has been amazing but I have not always felt OK. Having a baby is some intense shit (even when everything goes OK on paper)! I struggled this time around. Maybe not as badly as the first time around (my anxiety was through the roof and I should have got help which I guess proves the point about talking to someone earlier so it doesn’t seem so bad), but it was a different struggle. Suddenly I had two children. Double the children! Something I’d always dreamed of. Something we’d fought really hard for. Something I’d put my body on the line for in so many ways. I didn’t think I was allowed to struggle publicly. I felt like a wuss.
Also, I found out that the trauma of infertility doesn’t magically disappear when you have the pregnancy and the baby! You still have a slightly weird brain for a while and have to adjust back to normality. At least that’s what happened to me!
My first night in hospital was fucking lonely. My husband wasn’t allowed to stay (even though I was a private patient). I don’t know why but that really freaked me out. I’d had no sleep the night before my scheduled C-section (because duh VERY EXCITING AND NERVE WRACKING THING ABOUT TO HAPPEN) and I was falling asleep trying to breastfeed. In my whole life, no matter how tired I’ve been, I have never been falling asleep while feeding my baby. Not even once. I was scared because I had drugs in my system and I was so exhausted and even though there were amazing midwives I could call and who were so lovely and helpful whenever they could be, I was not the only mum/baby combo in there that needed help and care (and more than likely not the worst off). I don’t know why but that ALONE feeling took a while to shake. I only felt better once we left the hospital and I knew my husband was by my side. Has anyone else ever felt like that? Because I’ve never heard anyone tell me they felt like that, so I felt like I couldn’t say anything. I figured it was just normal to everyone else and I was being a weirdo. I still honestly do not know if I’m the only person I know to have those feelings!
I was lucky enough to be able to talk to my mum about it after the fact.
My recovery from surgery was frustrating and I felt so many things. A couple of rough moments I even cried holding my daughter and apologised to her because I thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job. I was so worried that I could fall into depression any moment. I felt pissed off because my husband had leave from work and while that was very helpful, I was mad it wasn’t me doing all the things I could have normally done had it not been for the surgical incision in my abdomen! I was also mad because he wanted to use the time to buy a car (that I had suggested we do in 2018 – not right that damn minute haha) and he lost quite a few kg on a new diet/exercise regime and everyone was telling HIM he LOOKED FANTASTIC and I was mad because he could drive a car and because he had no concept of what a gift his physical freedom was.
After that, my baby had her difficult moments. Screaming in the car. Crying all through the witching hours, only happy if she was held and moved non stop which was exhausting. Screaming in anybody’s arms but mine or my husband’s. I got scared because due to our circumstances, I was at times her only adult person. I had not planned on raising my baby to only want me. I had hoped for a (physical) village and my village kept travelling (which they were obviously completely entitled to do). I thought about building a bit more of an extended supportive village for myself, but felt like I would be a burden because it wasn’t like I was in the position to return any favours. I was scared my baby would only want me forever. Which brought out my adoption issues. That I had some weird irrational fear of my baby being too attached to me (even though that’s a great sign of bonding and development for that age). At the time, the Little Miss was the same age I was when I was adopted. In some weird way I was scared that if something separated us, she’d fall apart and be traumatised like I was. Oomph. I had thought I’d resolved that shit the first time around! Guess not!
After that my husband’s work situation got really intense. He had to return to shift work as well as keep up his day job, as well as work from home, fielding calls all day and night and always tapping away on his work computer. I swear something in me twitches when I hear the click of a mouse now. I felt bloody overwhelmed. I was parenting solo almost 24/7. And knowing that some of you are single parents I do not say that lightly. We were on a tight budget too. I couldn’t go out for coffee for my sanity or do fun paid activities over the school holidays. I got really down about that. It was a struggle. It took some adjusting. I talked about it with people. I found people in a similar situation who didn’t fob it off as no big deal and who listened to me and showed great empathy. Something awoke in me eventually. Something that said, “you’re resilient – now be thankful for what you do have, just show up and don’t give up – embrace the crazy and eventually it will pass.”
I stopped fighting it and even though the situation hasn’t changed much today, I feel better (and I’m bloody excited about getting away on an upcoming family camping trip).
I realise that if things are really bad for someone, they might not have the support network behind them that I do, validating them, making them feel empowered and heard. They might not be able to have that fight inside them for whatever reasons are plaguing them. I feel so lucky to be able to write my feelings down and express myself, even in my more isolated moments. Not everybody feels safe enough to. I’ve had to work on that but it is possible to get to that place.
I have shared the tougher stuff I’ve dealt with lately because while they may be first world problems to some, they might also make somebody else feel safe enough to share their own stories. I know I didn’t talk about these things much because I thought I wasn’t allowed to. Someone always has it worse, right? Someone out there might judge me for being a wuss? Those are the things that stopped me. In my heart and mind I was struggling and I had to fight my way back to a positive frame of mind. Sometimes things that we’re dealing with seem SO MUCH MORE overwhelming and can get SO BIG in our heads if we don’t feel like we can talk about them.
My problems were made so much smaller with the gifts of perspective and gratitude and I am so fortunate that I had people to be honest with and workshop things out with. I have it pretty good right now – I know that – and I want that for everyone.
I want you to know that if you’re reading this, your feelings and your problems are real and nothing is silly if it’s something you’re struggling with – there’s a reason you’re struggling. It’s not because you’re not good enough. You’re amazing and I hope you are OK.
So please, let’s all be real with each other and ask the questions that are important, without judgement. Let’s all let each other feel less alone.
Now I will ask you a question. Are you OK? x