by LORI JAI HARDING
At 28 weeks pregnant, I drove myself to the hospital with chest and stomach pains, leaving my partner & 15-month old at home. Assuming I was being overcautious I told my partner I would call him if it were anything serious.
But as I walked into Emergency, I broke down. The pain had become unbearable, I thought I was going into early labor and I couldn’t breathe. I was having my first anxiety attack. If I was really honest with myself, it had been coming for a long time.
Since I fell pregnant with my second baby, every single day felt like a struggle just to get to the end of it. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, emotional, mentally unbalanced and in hindsight, the anxiety I felt in my chest never left me. I was struggling with the pressure and constant need from my son, and a deeply hidden fear of having another one and how I was going to cope, which of course comes with a healthy serving of guilt.
My private meltdowns had become almost a daily occurrence and had started spilling into my public life and my hospital admission was the final straw that forced me to take a good, hard look at myself and now, after a lot of self-discovery, I now understand where I went so very wrong.
Upon falling pregnant with my son (my first), I had subconsciously placed rules and regulations on myself of how (my definition) of a good mother should behave. I mean I really set myself up to fail. Firstly, myself & my partner enrolled in a hypno-birthing class & told everyone who would listen we were going to do it naturally and that it wouldn’t hurt. Well, I did manage to do it naturally but it hurt like hell and I did beg for the drugs, they just wouldn’t give them too me. FAIL.
I planned to exclusively breast-feed for at least six months, I lasted three. He was hungry. FAIL.
I had created this fantasy mother I aspired to be. A spontaneous, fun-loving mother, who was never stressed, let her children live freely & messily but always has an element of control. A ‘natural’ mother who embraced parenthood easily within her stride, she was always happy & positive and enjoyed every moment of motherhood.
I had also created rules: ‘A good mother should never get stressed or upset about trivial things like housework’. ‘A good mother should never appear overwhelmed or angry’. ‘A good mother should live in the moment, always be positive around her children, providing a happy & free environment’. I (obviously) break these rules every single day. FAIL.
I planned on returning to University part-time when my son was three months old. I did, and started working 1 day a week also – but fell pregnant again and stopped both fairly soon afterwards. FAIL.
Upon having a baby, I inherited new traits like a love of organization & cleanliness, yet I couldn’t achieve that either and hated that it bothered me so much (it broke one of my rules) FAIL.
Act like a completely stressed out, negative, overwhelmed, exhausted mother who nags her partner about the washing up sometimes FAIL.
Be the angry, stressed Mother in the grocery store that makes it look really, really hard? ULTIMATE FAIL.
The days my son doesn’t have a fun day, or I don’t get time to play with him properly, or he doesn’t get a very good dinner, or maybe I wasn’t happy enough for him. FAIL
Missing social engagements, forgetting friend’s birthdays, not connecting with certain friends anymore? FAIL.
Lucky enough to have an incredibly selfless and understanding partner, large supportive family and a comfortable lifestyle and STILL not coping? FAIL.
Not enjoying every moment of motherhood like I should? FAIL.
Inwardly I was constantly dealing with feelings of failure & guilt, outwardly I was completely stressed & overwhelmed just trying to hold it all together yet I was buckling under the pressure I had placed on my weary shoulders.
Now, at 34 weeks pregnant as I sit under a comforting blanket of clarity ad hindsight, I can now see that I placed unrealistic goals and unattainable ideals upon myself – not only had I expected greatness from myself at a role I had never done before and beat myself up every time I proved that I wasn’t perfect; I was struggling to maintain my personal expectations of career, lifestyle and relationships I had set in place pre-baby.
You just can’t ‘have it all’. Not all at once anyway. At six weeks away from being a Mother-of-two, I feel stronger than ever now that the weight of expectations has been lifted from my shoulders.
Lori Jai Harding is a young Mother of one (almost two) residing on the Gold Coast with her partner. She decided to start a blog for young mothers & families who are attempting to balance it all: family, career, lifestyle, social-life… you can find it here.
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Have you placed unrealistic goals and unattainable ideals upon yourself before?