Welcome to the August edition of The Postnatal Project Q&A. Here, I answer two questions a month related to parenting, sleep, breastfeeding, postnatal depression and everything in between. If you'd like your question answered, get in touch via the contact page.
This is a hard one to begin. Part of me wants to lay it on the table for context. And the other part of me wants to leave this version of my life untouched. It's like putting your feet in the ocean. The more you kick around, the murkier the water gets and the harder it seems to see every other aspect of your life clearly. And it stings.
The only thing I have in common with my father is the memories we share before being his daughter got hard. He could be reading this - I don't know. He could know I have a second child - I'm not sure. Did I tell him I graduated uni? I can't remember. I wonder if he'll notice my married name.
If you search Google for "newborn checklist" or "things to buy for baby" you'll likely come up with a list a mile long. It can feel really overwhelming to be planning to give birth and bringing a new person into the world but sometimes I feel like more emphasis is placed on the nursery than on the entire lifestyle shift that occurs. It's extra pressure you do not need.
I'll make a point now that personalised name decor, wall decals, matching side tables and trinkets are lovely but absolutely unnecessary. Instagram and Pinterest show these divine nurseries that make your ovaries ache. But I think time and money could be better spent and it can perpetuates the idea that motherhood is this pristine and glorified interior design job for some. Some people enjoy this kind of thing and I'm a sucker for wooden toys and lovely books but it's not something you need to focus on or feel pressured by if you'd rather not. You do you. You're not any less of a mother if your nursery is plainer than anothers'.
There's always been debate about which is the "harder" (you'll need to read that with big, sarcastic quotation marks to get the full impact) aspect of parenting. That's why I don't say that it's harder to stay home or harder to go to work - I say that it's different. You actually cannot compare the two. There are too many variables. But as I write from my perspective, a stay at home mother, I think it's important to note that it's not all coffee playdates at the park and sitting down to blog when you're at home with a toddler (hence why this website has been neglected for several months).
As a society, we have evolved beyond our wildest dreams. Technology, possibilities, values. As humans, we haven't. We eat. We sleep. We reproduce. We die. The same as we have for centuries - before society became this way.
As a new mother, you hear about this all the time: the tribe - that in different cultures, women are on bed-rest - their only task is to sleep and breastfeed the baby. The rest of the family take care of everything else.
For some unknown reason, we aren't that culture anymore. We moved on. We thought we could handle it.
I had a beautiful baby shower - organised by some brilliant girls who I went to school with. We hadn't seen each other as regularly as we would have liked - but life seemed to get in the way. We had boyfriends who became partners, fiancés, husbands. We had degrees which became jobs, careers and lifestyles. We had dreams and goals that became houses, travel and other nice things. We oscillated between catching up all the time and going months - sometimes years - without properly seeing each other. There were always texts back and forwards: "we have to catch up soon!"
I remember being asked what I would like when the time came and I was in hospital following the birth of our baby. I said: "I would love for everyone to visit - but do you mind texting or calling before you come so I can make sure I'm in a good way? I don't know how the birth is going to go". We talked about Saturday nights on the couch with a cuppa while my baby slept. We talked about picnics at the playground while my child played. We talked about dinner, babysitting, anything I needed. Oh, how we talked.
Who knew that the woman I was anxious to meet four years ago would become someone that I would love so dearly and come to rely on. I still remember that moment well - we walked from Brad's car across the lush lawn to meet his mum, Deb. I was so nervous. Brad and I had only just started dating and he had spent a lot of time at my house and with my family - but I'd spent next to none at his.
Over the years, Deb and I started to really enjoy each others' company - but I didn't really go out of my way to spend time with her. When Cadence was born, I really resisted her help and visits. I wanted to be the perfect mother to her first granddaughter. I wanted her to be proud of me. And most of all, I wanted her to feel like her son had found someone worthy of sharing a daughter and a life with. I didn't want her to see my pain or my struggles.