parent opinion

'My first year of motherhood is not like everyone else’s.' I'm a new mum overwhelmed with anger.

I am not an angry person. Never have been. I’m sweary and I mutter under my breath, but my anger is always short-lived.

But what I am experiencing now is something different to anger. It is rage. 

Stinging hot tears, clenched fists, counting to three, deep breathing, body tensing, electrifying, adrenaline pumping and absolutely horrifying rage.

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In late December, my husband and I had our first baby in our home in the US. 

It was just after Christmas when our daughter was born in the snow. My parents were here and the world was soft, sparkling and muffled and everything felt warm and cozy and hopeful. 

We did the normal thing and stayed at home for the first six weeks of her life, my parents returned home to Australia with tearful goodbyes, but we coped as we always do by saying “see you soon”. And then, just as we were making our way back into the world and navigating life with a baby, the pandemic hit and “see you soon” became a fantasy. 

At first I was scared and sad, but that hope was still there. 

Then as America got worse and worse and trip after trip to visit family was cancelled, that hope dissipated like sugar in water. Swirling and invisible, it faded to nothing. 

Now, I realise, with it went my sense of self. That self-identity has been replaced by a rage monster. Ugly, snarling and unrecognisable. 

I snap at anything. I have no joy, no patience and no resilience. Getting out of bed in the morning to a crying baby takes a Herculean effort and sometimes lately, I don’t even manage it. 

My wonderful husband has to be the one to go and get our daughter because I just can’t. I have to give myself a pep talk in the dark to get up and join my family. 

My beautiful, amazing, magical family. I have the most incredible little family and I truly love them with a depth and intensity that still shocks me daily, but the reality is, having a baby for the first time in a global pandemic on the other side of the world from any kind of support system is impossible.

I wanted this, I signed up for this and there are those that would condemn me because it was my choice to have a baby far away from my family - but the reality is was never meant to be like this.

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We had a whole year of visits planned. Now we have nothing, and no way of knowing when we will be reunited. 

My baby girl may be two by the time she meets her people for the first time, and this is a precious moment in time we will never repeat or get back and she is missing out on so much. 

The weight of that is so heavy and so hard to bear it’s all I think about. I feel things I have never felt before. They were not part of my personality before and now they erode the old me, slow and insidious. 

Jealousy, bitterness, resentment and anger seeps into everything I do. Simple things that wouldn’t have even made it onto my daily radar now turn me into a sobbing puddle.

The meat for dinner is still frozen, I hit my head on the inside of the fridge, she won’t eat the food I spent so long making and suddenly I am chanting to myself to calm down and just breathe. 

I feel so cheated, so ripped off and hard done by. I gave up my body, my job, my money, my time, my sleep and my whole self to have this baby and I was happy to do that and I would do it again a hundred times over for my little girl, but I don’t feel the trade has been fair. 

My first year of motherhood is not like everyone else’s. I don’t have any family photos with my baby and her people, we won’t get a first birthday. 

She doesn’t have friends or get playdates; we don’t get to go to the library and pick out books together, there are no swimming lessons, no coffee dates with friends to show her off, no mum’s groups, she won’t have a big family Christmas, we don’t get to share her and celebrate her the way we should. Photos, videos and gift parcels are just not the same. 

The thing that transforms me into this hideous rage monster the most is the sense of isolation. Having a baby is hard, having a baby away from everyone is the hardest thing I think I will ever do. I can’t do anything for myself because we don’t have a built-in babysitter in the form of aunties and grandparents who would just love to cuddle her while we go and have a date. 

There is no napping or help with dinner or any kind of break. I can’t ask questions, I can’t get reassurance, I can’t vent or share the wondrous milestones when they happen because everyone I love is often asleep when they happen and by the time they wake up and see my message the moment has passed. 

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I have been forced to deal with the crisis on my own, I have pulled myself back together or moved on from the new thing she did because she has done it 20 more times since then. 

I feel an unending sense of dread, guilt and sour selfishness that I feel this way. Being her mum is all I have ever wanted and it’s my only job. 

So why don’t I love it like I love her?! Why aren’t I more grateful? We are safe, healthy, we have plenty of money and we are so in love which is more than most people can say. I love her so infinitely but I’m tired in my soul. 

Not just new baby tired. It isn’t the kind of tired a good sleep or a holiday can fix. It’s the kind of tired that becomes part of who you are. Tired of the world. Tired of my life. Tired of feeling like I am living as someone else and waiting for the happy to come back.

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I start every day vowing I will be better, more patient, more loving, I will read to her more and talk to her more and not want any time to myself. I will not snap and place things down too hard. I will be more gentle and speak more softly but every cry, every accidental scratch and hair pull and every moment she is climbing me and yelling and whining and needing my attention I lose a little bit of that willpower. 

Every time I see someone I know at home with their baby and family or going to swimming lessons or having a family getaway or even just having a family Sunday dinner I get angrier and angrier. 

I am white hot and humming with envy directed at the people I love most in the world, and by the end of the day I am seething and brittle and so unlike myself it scares me. I am pointy and sharp in my rage. I don’t want to be touched or told to be positive or “it’s not forever” because none of that helps me. 

I want to scream and cry and throw things and roll around on the floor, stamping and kicking and red and breathless because it’s not fair and there is nothing I can do to change it.

The most frightening part is it feels like there is nothing to be done because all the normal things I would do to make myself feel better are no longer available, and there is no end in sight. 

Going home isn’t an option, too expensive, too hard with a baby. No job etc. etc. Talking to my family actually hurts more than it helps. Exercise and being positive and ‘finding the small joys’ are only temporary solace. Fleeting and fragile. 

My daughter is the light of my life, she is my only source of joy in every day but she is also the reason I feel so alone and helpless and that is the most cruel and tortuous dichotomy.

The time ahead of us is stretching and ceaseless and every day feels like a rollercoaster. The pandemic has made me feel things in stages, so I can only hope that this rage stage will dip away and make way for a new emotion. 

In the faithful old adage of parenthood, “this too shall pass”, but when? And how do you get through it in the meantime?

I know the world is with me in solidarity and there are millions of other people who are in the same position as us and plenty worse, but somehow that doesn’t help. It just makes me more sad that there are so many people all over the world desperate for a new time. 

I don’t really know how to continue my life except to do just that. Keep going. I hope all of the other angry women find their moment of peace again and cling to the image of being reunited, because it is all we have.

If you think you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health during pregnancy or motherhood, contact PANDA – Post and Antenatal Depression Association. You can find their website here or call their helpline on1300 726 306.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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