Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and this week I am highlighting women’s issues on the blog/podcast. All of these are issues that I have wanted to highlight previously but for some reason or another, I never thought that they would fit into the blog or podcast. Please, dear reader, prove me wrong.
In winter 2017 I wrote a flash fiction piece that centred around postpartum depression. I have since reworked the piece and changed the title and well, almost everything about it but I thought that this version was an important one to post. At one point I sat back and I asked myself what the point of this blog was and the answer that I kept coming back to was that I wanted to make a difference/ to help or inspire others. I’m not moving away from that, I just think I can do that in different ways through my own experiences.
There is nothing that can prepare you for being at home alone with your own baby for the first time and for some women that experience is not the fairy tale that it is made out to be. You don’t instantly fall in love with your baby and some babies are just more difficult than others. They have strong personalities or they may have colic or never seem to stop crying. Some babies sleep and some never seem to close their eyes. Along with dealing with your own hormonal roller coaster, you have to help them adjust to life outside the womb and as a first-time mum that is a steep learning curve for both you and your baby.
If you happen to be reading this at 3 am let me hold your hand and say that I’ve been there. The need for anyone to be online to have an adult conversation about anything other than babies or to help with a latch that doesn’t feel right or even just a mum who can tell you that ‘yes, this too shall pass‘. Being at home can be isolating and it is ok for you to say that and to reach out.
Not only are you trying to come to terms with everything thrown at you while you are, at best, a sleep-deprived zombie, you have to do it while navigating the battleground that is the world of online mothers who have very strong opinions. Let me tell you right now that the right choices are the ones that suit your family situation. No two families are alike. Yours is unique and special to you.
If you are having a tough time you are not the first or last mother that will feel this way and believe me I was having a tough time. There are days I sat on the floor in the bathroom and cried my eyes out before getting up and dealing with my crying baby. But even if your tough days aren’t like that, if they are tough for you, please remember that there is help out there in many different forms. Talk about how you are feeling to whomever you feel comfortable having the conversation with. Be it a friend, a family member, a midwife, a nurse during your health checks etc. Support comes in many forms and so does postpartum depression.If anything, I kind of see it as a Medal of Honor of becoming a parent (we should make badges!) Also, have a read of this post if you wish to know more about PPD.
Followers of the blog and podcast know that the way that I deal with things is to write them out. I try to turn them into something constructive so my brain is allowed to process whatever it is I need to. This worked for me with grief in a way I never imagined. Each of us has our own way to work through problems and the resulting piece below gave me the courage to write again and this time not just privately for me. This is the piece that which made the TSS shortlist and for those mothers out there (and some stay at home fathers too) reading this and I mean all of you, those that gave birth naturally or assisted or adopted or have become the guardian of that little bundle of joy, I’m sure you can relate to days like the one described below.
I leave you with this flash fiction piece and I’ll see you Friday.
I wake up tired from a night spent fighting the duvet. I stand, shoulders high, pensively awaiting the moment that this peace will be broken by the sound of her screams.
I drag myself to the bathroom, barefoot and cold all the while convincing myself that this morning will be different. This morning, I will hold it together.
I pull back the shower door and run the water, letting the steam cover every inch of the room. I wait until the mirror is foggy so that my eye won’t catch flashes of my pale white skin moving within. There was a time when that wouldn’t have bothered me but not now, not since she came into the world.
Tilting my head to the side, I listen at the door for her sounds. Hurriedly I step over the cold rolled top bath and let the water flow over my skin.
In this moment, this glorious moment, my shoulders begin to drop and my chest begins to untighten. I turn the steel knob fully to the right allowing the strongest, hottest stream of water possible to force its way through the shower and onto my head. I stand, hair plastered to my face, water pounding in my ears and allow myself the luxury to just breathe in the steam. Slowly, each breath measured, basking in the knowledge that at this time, all earthly sounds are sheltered from my ears. All of them washed away by the jet of water plunging towards it’s only escape. Hope once again returning, that this day can be different.
Guilt begins to take hold. A cold feeling seeping forth from my bones. My head rising to the thought that I have taken too long. I snap the water off listening for those telltale sounds.
Grabbing a towel, I swipe at the fogged mirror to see what remains. I convince myself that today, I could break free and venture out from these walls. I ignore the truth that my days have become more and more mundane. The passage of time itself almost irrelevant. I convince myself that today, she will allow my escape.
I creep out of the bathroom, moving by her door stopping only for a second to ensure all is still. I make it to the kitchen and flick the old red kettle on. I can almost smell the deep, rich black gold that allows me to make it through another day. Staring at the steam rising at increasing speed, I catch it right before its end. Pouring the water over the aromatic grounds, I almost drop the kettle from the shock of that long-awaited sound.
Steeling myself, I tighten the towel around my chest, an armour against her pounding fists to come.
Reluctantly, I move towards the sound of my master’s urgent cries, repeating my mantra;
“Today will be different. Today, she will smile.”