A mother who feels she is failing as a mother, feels she is failing in the most profound way in life. Cliches aside, a mother's job is to nurture and protect her offspring. If I couldn’t do that what use was I? I had an unhappy infant, and I was an unhappy mother. Because I was unhappy and exhausted I was constantly making the bigger two little people unhappy with my lack of time for them and persistent grumpiness. The cycle of my failure seemed endless. The pressure on myself was high to begin with. I wasn’t able to admit that my baby wasn’t sleeping well. I’d never been a child health nurse when I had my other two, so I felt okay to muddle along. With Pixie, I felt an expectation that I needed to be seen to succeed with her. If I struggled with feeding, settling, coping or any part of my parental responsibilities, to me it undermined my professional knowledge. Not only was I a crap mother, but I was also really failing in my professional role to boot. This just compounded my feelings of being a useless individual who wouldn’t be missed if I took a holiday from my family. That theme that I wasn’t a good enough mother was central to my experience with post-natal depression. I struggled along another month or so before I vocalised to my husband the thoughts I had every day, that I was a terrible mother to my baby & children, and I wished I could just disappear for a while. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted to disappear. It was a relief to share it, and the catalyst for doing something about it. I can’t say it was easily fixed; the next months were a difficult, frustrating and sad journey of learning to deal with my feelings, overcome the debilitating and re-discover my life. But eventually I managed all of that. I stopped kicking myself for my faults and started acknowledging that I was a mother with a lot on her plate doing the best that she could. The fog of misery and the cloud of despair eventually receded.
Now, the baby that wouldn’t smile is a just turned two-year-old Pixie. If she’s not smiling, she’s about to. She has a twinkly, cheeky beautiful smile that warms my heart. It might not have been an unhappy life that prevented her early smiles, but regardless, her smiles now are those of a child that knows she is loved and treasured. It took a long time for me to see it, but I am a good enough mother. And that’s enough. I am living with a two-year-old. Again. Third time round. You know the first time you feel a contraction when in labour with your second child? You thought you’d never forgotten the pain of childbirth, but that first pain makes you realise that indeed, time had dimmed the memory slightly. You have that ‘why am I doing this again’ moment of sheer panic, the realisation that if you really had remembered the reality of the pain, you would not have come back for more. Well, that’s kind of how I feel about living with a two-year-old right now. Even the most placid of personalities - are stubborn. I am stubborn too, but it is tempered by the fact I have to also be sensible and adult. Much as I long to join my daughter on the ground kicking my legs and sobbing face down in the concrete, someone has to keep their shit together, and seemingly that’s my role. I tell work colleagues and friends about my daughter's antics, and I am quite sure they think I have taken artistic license to my description. We (semi-affectionately) call her Feral Beryl or the demon child and they look startled. Then they have an experience with myself and her and they are suddenly understanding. Even the estate agent selling our house the other night said within fifteen minutes of meeting her, ‘Wow, she has some spunk, pity you guys when she’s a teenager’. He found it funnier than us because it’s the truth and we’re terrified.
When she started replying ‘Trouble’ when people asked her her name, we surmised child care had also nicknamed her. Trouble she is, from dawns crack to the wee hours, where last night at 1:00AM she was found to be on her hands and knees barking like a dog. If you have or have had a 2-year-old you know the picture. It’s tiring. But there are upsides: 1. She naps. I am only still semi-sane because she naps. I worship anyone who has a two-year-old who doesn’t nap. 2. She is also awesome contraception. There is no chance of any funny business if even a smidgen of a chance of another two-year-old in two years and nine months remains. I feel the waves of cluckiness invading in the special care nursery at work, and I channel her (or two year olds in general). Gone. Simple. 3. At child care they marvel at her ‘spirit and determination’. Surely that will get her great places one day? Places that aren’t prison? 4. She gives me a legitimate reason to drink wine. She also never fails to make us laugh, every hour of every day. She makes me want to cry nearly as often, but at least there’s a silver lining. Best of all, she also loves as fiercely as she lives. At the end of the day her only moments of relative stillness and calm are a long cuddle where she forgets she is a lioness who thinks she is six-years-old, and as she puts it ‘I wanna be your baby, mumma’. And that will sustain me for now. Until then I will simply remind myself of the great parenting mantra 'this too shall pass.'