by special guest blogger, Tamsen Taylor.
When I was handed my newborn son, it was the first time I had ever held a newborn.
I was a professional, a go-getter, type-A. During my pregnancy, I mostly felt that things were under control. I took a prenatal class, read all of the books about pregnancy and happy babies voraciously, and defended myself against all of the unasked for advice about breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and natural childbirth with a “Who knows what will happen, we’ll see.”
Wow, being the mom of a newborn was a HUGE shock to my system.
All of a sudden, this little, fragile human dictated so many aspects of life. We were told to feed on demand, not to try feeding with a bottle for at least 6 weeks, and not to try to force a schedule. My life felt totally out of my control. Being in control had been part of my identity.
I made it through the worst of the sleep deprivation, but as weeks turned into months it rarely seemed worth the trouble to leave the house. The almost constant demands of breastfeeding were also taking their toll. I started feeling isolated. Trapped.
And I really didn’t know what to do with those feelings.
Wanting to be a mom had long been part of my identity too – and it was challenged by my body. My body really didn’t seem to be on board with the physical part of being a mom. After many years of fertility treatments and miscarriages, I finally gave birth to a healthy son, and I thought my “real life” could begin.
Real life wasn’t what I expected.
I tried to logic myself out of my feelings. Shouldn’t I just be grateful? After all, I’d fought for years to have this wonderful baby, and had lost 3 babies along the way. I had no trouble bonding with my son and loving him. There should be no room left for anything but gratitude and joy. I did have positive feelings, but I couldn’t avoid the reality I was also really anxious, exhausted, and cranky. Then, I not only felt bad, I felt bad for feeling bad.
Didn’t the fact that I was miserable mean I was crazy, evil, stupid, or broken?
Learning about grief and grief recovery changed everything.
One of the definitions of grief is that grief is conflicting feelings in response to a change in the familiar. Holy cow, when I learned THAT my whole motherhood experience came into focus. I wasn’t broken, I wasn’t crazy, I just hadn’t let myself fully experience the emotions that came with change.
I hadn’t understood that conflicting feelings when we’re faced with emotionally important changes are natural.
And those feelings didn’t mean there was something wrong with me.
This motherhood adventure has certainly had other ups and downs, including my son being diagnosed with autism and other challenges – but he’s a wonderful kid, and I’m a wonderful mom.
Now I spend a lot of my time trying to reach other moms who somehow feel broken, or crazy, or evil, or stupid. Other moms who might just want a bit of company and adult conversation, even in the middle of the night (Facebook groups and podcasts are great for that).
I spend a lot of my time trying to get the message out that sad isn’t bad, and that changes in life often bring lots of different feelings, all of which are ok.
I’m certainly not the mom I thought I would be – but most days I’m ok with that.
Tamsen is a Truth Questioner, helping moms free themselves from the stories they get told about who they’re supposed to be. She has a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from The University of Western Ontario, is certified in the Grief Recovery Method® by the Grief Recovery Institute®, and is a certified project manager (PMP).
Tamsen hosts the Momtellectual podcast to keep her community informed and connected. She uses her own experience with loss to help challenge and change ideas about motherhood, including helping mothers to talk about and heal losses related to miscarriage, fertility issues, having special needs (“complex”) children, and the conflicting feelings often present after having a child. Tamsen is primarily motivated to help mothers so that they can help their own children, and runs workshops and group classes to help
people heal their own pain and to teach others to deal with loss in a healthy way.