Let’s talk about shame. In particular my shame over having unconventional plans in place for how my little family has managed with a newborn. Our plans were not what I have considered in my mind to be ‘normal’ and I have been plagued with guilt and shame & thoughts that I’m a bad mum who is not good enough and should be able to manage but can’t because of these ideas.
Whenever I have a minute to think about the unconventional ways me and my husband have managed the first 4 months of our sons life, particularly the night times I am plagued by these feelings and I felt it was time to share the way we have coped up until now so as to somewhat normalise things & to just put it out there so I don’t feel like I’m hiding or keeping secret our routines, because I think shame becomes bigger in secret – don’t you think?
So here we go – my shameful confessions. You see the reality is that I have never ever done a night shift where I’ve fed my son during the night, he has been fed at night just not by me.
My imagination at this point for those reading is that they are thinking the following – ‘neglectful mother who doesn’t care about her child’, ‘lazy mother who forces her husband to do everything’, ‘bad mother who can’t cope with normal baby related tasks’. Yep there is pretty much nothing negative you could think about me that I haven’t thought about myself already. There might also be a small majority that think ‘is that your confession? Big deal, why do you feel so bad about it? Get over it and get back on with reality idiot head’. (Even my thoughts about people not thinking I’m too bad are still mean to me).
Anyway the story goes like this – It all started in hospital when breastfeeding wasn’t happening & I was pumping for every feed, so I would pump for the next feed while my husband bottle fed our son each time for the 5 days we were in hospital.
We got home from hospital & I promptly discovered I could not sleep a wink around my son, I was new-mum anxious and every sound he made concerned me & every little whinge he made made me think he was incredibly upset, to the point I would not get any sleep at all between my pumping sessions.
Out of concern for me as I recovered from C-section surgery my husband decided he would sleep in the back room where there is a spare bed & would have the little cherub with him. I could recover from surgery, pump as I need to and rest as much as possible. Then we would gradually get me used to sleeping in the same room as the little fella.
I felt abnormal at this point, my thoughts were that ‘surely other people could deal with these things, so why couldn’t I?’ I internalised the feelings that It must be an indication of my abilities even at this early stage of motherhood and my confidence took a big hit. My inability to breastfeed or have ‘normal’ sleeping arrangements meant to me that my abilities as a mother were lacking.
Then all hell broke loose with my breasts and repeated blocked ducts and mastitis and over supply and not coping with pumping and I was in no mental state to manage much. Our ‘very abnormal and horrifically shameful’ arrangement continued until the time I went to hospital for a bonus 4 day stay and IV antibiotic therapy for mastitis.
I thought at the time once the pumping hell was over we could become ‘normal’ and do what ‘normal’ new parents do with their night times.
Then the next segment of ‘all hell breaking loose’ happened when I returned from hospital and felt the full force of postnatal anxiety being dumped onto my shoulders with panic attacks and sleeplessness and an overwhelming sense of ‘I can’t do this’. And our unconventional ‘dirty little secret’ of night times continued.
The funny thing is our son is such an amazing little spark that since around 10 weeks or a bit earlier he has only woken up once a night for a feed plus a few times to have the dummy put back in, & as our bedtimes have become much earlier my husband has actually been getting the same amount and sometimes more sleep than pre-baby times when he was less strict with his bed time and more likely to ‘accidentally’ play video games a little extra longer than intended.
All be it it was still broken sleep so not as good but not too bloody bad either.
But knowing this wasn’t enough for me, I felt like a failure because I needed so much support, so much help, I couldn’t manage it all. I was thinking ‘I was ‘only’ on baby duty in the day times whilst my husband was working either at home or in the office and either way his life was much more intense and stressful and terrible than it ever needed to be because of what I was forcing him to do at night times coupled with dealing with a wife with postnatal anxiety. He must see such a failure in me and have so much regret around his ‘incapable wife.’
But my husband was not concerned in the slightest so why did I need to be? His words to me were that if we have found something that works for us then why is there an issue at all?
Lots of thought &a reflection on this later I think it just comes down to me not feeling normal and having an idea of what normal is in my head.
I wonder what normal really is? I am sure that my idea of ‘conventional’ is probably so different from everyone’s experiences anyway.
So I felt I needed to both share my unconventional story in order to try and free myself from my intense shame but also as an invitation to share with us all your own unconventional way as a mother and family so that we can all recognise that it’s not that we are abnormal, but rather that there are many shades of normal in family life and that each of them is ok if it works for our own family unit.
I write this in the past tense but my shameful feelings are quite current but I’m putting it out there anyway.
Do you have a shameful confession about motherhood? Do you want to bring it to light? I promise I won’t judge you (I spend most of the time judging myself so I don’t have the headspace to judge anyone else).