We’ve all been there. On the sofa, still in your nightie at 4pm, sobbing into a cold mug of tea, probably with one boob hanging out, wailing “I just can’t cope” to anyone who’ll listen.
Whether this scenario conjures up memories of parenting or just recovering from a the-world’s-gone-to-shit level hangover, I’m sure many of you will relate. Especially around the #JanuaryBlues post-Christmas, come down period.
But back to work blues aren’t just for those returning to the office – they effect those on maternity leave too. You go from having family around, an extra pair of hands, maybe even the odd nap, to being alone again. Well, not alone, there’s a tiny small human being to take care of. *panics at the thought*
At anytime of year, having a bit of a weep is par for the course for new mums, and dads too I reckon. But for some of us it goes a little bit further than that. Instead of having a ‘moment’ (albeit a daily/hourly ‘moment’) at some straw-breaking-back time of the day or night, we start to believe these three little words all of the time. I can’t cope. We fear being alone with our child for any length of time because we seriously doubt our ability to just get through. We start to believe we simple can’t do it.
That’s what happened with me any way. And around this time in January, when my husband was heading back to work after the Christmas holidays I pretty much lost my shit. No joke of a lie.
I mean, it wasn’t just that, there were lots of other crazy-making things that happened, like not getting enough milk to breastfeed, and having a particularly screamy baby. (I know all babies are screamy, but seriously. So. Screamy.) Anyhoo, I ended up in a post-natal mental unit for mums and babies, as many of you will already know.
Whilst there I learned many things that helped me return to reasonable levels of sanity. Among them was that I did, in fact, have some skill at this whole parenting lark. I knew my baby pretty well and, even though he didn’t go 4 hours between feeds (barely 2 sometimes) and ‘tummy time’ made him cry furiously and eat the floor, he was fine. And so was I. Shock horror.
The thing is, most of the time when we’re having a sob about not being able to cope we are actually coping, in that very moment.
Have I just blown your mind? You’re welcome.
While I was in floods of tears, thinking I could never cope without my mum/hubs around to help me, there was this healthy, vaguely clean and, frankly, alive child right in front of me. He wasn’t ‘the contented baby’ (a fictional character, in case you’re wondering) we all dream of, but he was okay. More than okay. I think I just thought I should be enjoying it all. And I wasn’t, which really, really worried me.
Let’s just getting something straight – looking after a tiny baby is tiring as all fuck. It is a barrage of newness and sleeplessness and epicly daunting responsibilities. And sometimes it just a bit shit. More than a bit. Sometimes you won’t enjoy it because it’s mostly dealing with bodily functions and crying. That’s okay too. It doesn’t mean anything about you, except that you’re a normal human being. It certainly does not mean that you’re a bad mother!!!!!! (there aren’t enough exclamation marks in the world to emphasise that point, so I thought 6 would do).
And because it’s all a bit crap at times, it’s also very natural to regard an entire morning with no company and no planned activity with a mixture dread and battle-readiness. That doesn’t make you weak or mad, and it certainly doesn’t mean you won’t be able to cope with a morning like that.
So, if everyone else going back at work whilst you languish in the nappy-laden land of maternity leave is striking fear into your very soul, I want to tell you this…
Thinking you can’t cope isn’t the same as not being able to cope.* Is your baby fed? Vaguely clean? Cuddled often? Well then, you’re doing fine. You are coping. You’re worry, and you’re tired and you’re probably a bit bored, but you’re definitely coping. It’s a bloody slog though, isn’t it? Bleurgh.
You’re a good mum. You are. Really, I’m quite sure of it.
* if you’re in a situation like I was and have PND then it is of course possible that you really can’t cope alone, and that’s okay too. I got to a point where I was afraid I would hurt myself and didn’t feel safe on my own. If that’s the case for you then please seek help and talk to someone. You can also go to A&E if you’re really scared.