parent opinion

ZOE MARSHALL: ‘Motherhood made me feel disconnected from the world. I’m slowly building this back up.’

I remember one of my first thoughts when I got pregnant was “I’m definitely still working straight away. No one can tell me it’s hard. I will be different, I will be fine.”

Working was a part of my identity; it made me feel important, purposeful.

It was as if I set myself a challenge to see how far I could push it.

If your newborn could text… this is probably what it would look like. Post continues below.

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My sense of self was being challenged to the core and I didn’t want to give up who I was, who I had been for the last 34 years.

I couldn’t understand the concept of what that would mean without having experienced birthing a human and what happens to our physical bodies.

I don’t think anyone can prepare you for what happens when you become a parent. It’s so overwhelmingly exhausting that if you aren’t kind, gentle and easy on yourself, you are setting yourself up to become completely depleted or even trigger postnatal depression.

Becoming a parent allowed me to feel this primal love for my child but also made me feel disconnected from the world.

I remember getting on Instagram from my hospital bed a few days after the birth and watching everyone living their normal lives and thinking how effortless it looked. How much fun they were having. How little responsibility they had. I felt so disconnected. Like I had been catapulted to a beautiful but bizarre world of the newborn.

I remember Benji and I arguing one night because we had no idea how to bath the baby. Water had gotten in the baby’s mouth and I freaked out, lashed out and Googled what the dire circumstances would be of this accident. Dry drowning was what Google diagnosed. And it was Benji’s fault. The stakes were so high. I remember feeling so mad at him. Irrationally mad. I felt like we couldn’t gel. I felt disconnected. Why did everything mean so much now, and why did I always have to blame someone?

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Then came the big blow. My best friend. My husband. Steven Khalil and I are each other’s confidants, we are who the other would call for a last-minute catch-up or shoe sale in the city. We would get dressed up and eat overpriced sushi on a Tuesday and feel generally fabulous. He and I would belly laugh for hours. We often would just up and leave on luxurious holidays together. Life was simple, but now trying to get together for a low-key dinner is hard.

I do feel disconnected from the friendship we had. I know he feels it, too. It was hard – in fact, it still is.

My son is the light in my life. He gives meaning to every moment. He adds more value to everything we do. But I would be lying if I said it hasn’t changed things. It’s changed everything.

There are still major moments of disconnect with my husband even though we are great most of the time. And it’s because at the end of a long day with Fox, when we really should hash out a misunderstanding, we are so exhausted from playing, feeding, bathing, dressing and milking a baby that we’d just rather watch The Masked Singer and eat Sour Patch Kids then work through immediately, which is what we used to do before, which made us feel instantly connected again.

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The problem is, the disconnect continues until we both feel heard and valued. So we have made this a priority, and we parent better and ‘spouse’ better when we do.

I haven’t seen my girl group without our kids more than three times since we’ve had our babies. I don’t even know what’s happening in their worlds. It makes me feel like a bad friend. When I call, someone’s kid is tantrum-ing to get their parent off the phone. It’s just easier to say we’ll catch up “soon” because finding a date that works for all of us, our partners, nannies and parents is just too hard.

 

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This isn’t a rant. This is real. I felt disconnected, alone, like I’d lost a part of my identity and purpose outside of my new world. I am slowly building this back up. Real slowly. But I’m also bloody enjoying being a stay-at-home-mum. There is no shame in saying that. I love raising my son. Going to GymbaROO and playdates. These days are precious and I am loving them.

I know I am not alone when I share the vulnerable parts. I know this because anytime I share this on social media I get hundreds of direct messages and loads of comments from like-minded women, so I thought I would take this a step further. I wanted to meet these women. So I rallied some specialists to help guide us.

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Specialists like Dr Oscar Serrallach, author of The Postnatal Depletion Cure, Married at First Sight psychologist and relationship expert Melanie Schilling, as well as a couple of parents that are living the juggle; Jules Sebastian and my Mamamia co-host of The Baby Bubble, Sean Zepps, who has quit his day job to follow his dreams.

I also have mum-of-two Emma Munz speaking, who also recently appeared on the Mamamia podcast, This Glorious Mess. Emma is dealing with horrific circumstances due to her husband’s struggle with cancer and is sharing how that has shifted her purpose and identity.

With ‘What Women Want – Purpose. Identity. Connection,’ I am creating a safe space for all of us to feel exactly how we need to, and in a glorious setting with delicious feel-good food. Hopefully, it’ll leave us feeling more connected, a little more inspired and a lot more informed as to how we can manage this tricky thing we call life.

You can see Zoe Marshall in action on Sunday, November 3 at Sydney’s The Grounds of Alexandria. Mamamia readers can get 20 per cent off their ticket prices by using the code Mamamia.


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