I have a million reasons why speaking up about your worries, concerns, fears and problems can be beneficial. When it comes to Motherhood though, I believe sharing the bad and the ugly, and the not-Insta perfect, can not only normalize your experience, but it can have a long-term and wide-reaching effect on who you become as a woman, how your relationships change, how your child develops, and even on the way your children will parent one day, should they decide to go that path.
Not to mention, well I am now totally mentioning it – talking can save lives. There are serious conditions such as perinatal psychosis that can increase a mother’s risk for self-harm, suicide, and in the rarest cases, infanticide. Talking and seeking help both start with a few simple words “I need to say something”.
Talking works. Talking contains energy and power. Talking is magic.
From gaining a slightly different perspective by the mere action of putting words into thoughts and emotions, to massive symptom relief that a new mum can experience when being listened to with a compassionate heart.
When I was a new mother, I was craving to talk. Craving to share, or simply to listen to other mothers in similar boats, about the not so glorious aspects of it all – the isolation, the profound loneliness, the regret, the missing of the old ways… Instead I was hearing only about the new pram brand, the silver themed baby nursery, babies sleeping for 6 hours, the great sex after the 6th month, the newest workout to tighten your expanded arse…
I was desperately missing the Wise Old Woman who could gently support me and reassure me, that babies do cry, that things do change, that old identities are not lost but transformed into new super powers. Yes, I wish I had someone there I could tell it all.
I was hungry for any shred or glimpse of unpolished stories from other mothers around me. I never found my village when I needed it…only to undertake my own journey to see WHY!
Why is nobody talking about it in loud, explicit and clear ways? I was determined to unpack it all. I read (well did a Maters and then a Doctorate) about sociological, anthropological, psychological, psychosomatic, psychoanalytic…metaphysical interpretations of the huge taboo around Speaking up. It turns out that any negatives are directly linked to the BAD mother concept. If you can’t be perfect, well you are then BAD. “Bad” mothers are denigrated, juxtaposed against an unreal and to be honest un-existing ideals of perfection, self-sacrifice, complete dedication – Madonnas.
Modern motherhood is over the top! Actually, the top is so far behind that you can’t even see it. Modern mothers are expected to have it all, do it all, be it all. And all of this – in an independent, self-sufficient manner. No village, no rites of passage, no knowledge to be passed over, no instinctual and deep trust into the female body, and no dirt.
Well, surprise, surprise – motherhood turns out to be the exact opposite of a controlled, sanitized, predictable and manualized experience, that you can prepare for in advance. Well, this is speaking from my own experience. And perhaps of the experience of the women I see in my practice.
I then go into a reminiscing mode. What would have helped me?, I always think to this day. What would have eased the MotherLoad?
Very many things actually – even reading THE RIGHT BOOKS (Not the ‘What to expect when you are expecting’ crap!) can provide glimpse into the life transition, demystifing a big portion of identity changes, body, relationships, your whole worldview, etc. But also, things like:
- Practical support – arranged cleaning, cooking meals, GP appointments, driving, grocery shopping, paying bills….all those things that look like an overwhelming mountain when all you can do is wash your face, on a good day.
- Some self-care normalization – it’s ok to go for a walk in the neighborhood SANS baby, it’s ok not to take the baby with you while you pee, it’s ok to hire a doula, it’s ok to have a massage, it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok – and it’s ok to engage in whatever activity you gain some pleasure from and that is not baby-related!
- Partners – be there! No bullshit with this one! My husband was taking my parents to tour Vegas (yes this is where we had our son) while I was pulling my hair at home not knowing what to do with a screaming baby beyond the 3 only things I knew – feed, change, and carry around…
- Parental leave – none of that in the USA. For a reference, Sweden provides 47 fully paid weeks of leave to new mothers…my home country, Bulgaria, allows new mums to stay home with their child until the age of 2 years, securing their job. From this report: “The United States is one of only two countries – Australia is the other – to offer no paid parental leave.” And you need parental leave, you so do! You do and your partner does.
- Friends – stay away until I feel like I want to see you, until I am ready…
- Nature! I cannot underestimate the power of walks among trees and water and birds and life… It is the best reminder that you are still alive and actually that you are part of this magnificent cycle called LIFE!
- Imperfect mother groups – where you can just be! In your full glory of mess, sleeplessness, engorged and leaking boobs, complaining about anything!
- TALKING – you saw that coming, didn’t you?
Talking, be it in therapy, in mothers groups,in mothers safe spaces, in the supermarket, with your partner, with someone trustworthy, provides:
- Normalization of your experience
- Retelling and a re-writing of your story
- Enlarged and greater capacity to hold and cope
- Strength and Self-cohesion
- Recognition and mature handling of feelings
- A relief, pleasure and serenity
And above all talking CONNECTS us. Connection is all I used to crave for. It’s all I still crave for. I hope you have your supportive circle that provides this connection for you, to speak, to listen, to feel heard, to know deep inside that you matter, that you exist.