Excerpt from Pangs: Surviving Motherhood & Mental Illness by Michelle Bradley
Dear pre-parent me,
You are probably reading this in bed. If it’s a weekend, it’s likely that you will stay there until 1 pm then roll off the mattress, cook a hot “breakfast” and casually chat with hubby.
You might venture into town to shop for something to wear to the pub tonight. You might just stay in your pajamas all day watching crap TV and eating junk food.
Later, You might have sex with hubby. Loud sex. Free sex. You worry about your wobbly tummy but you really have no idea how good you have got it. God, I wish I was as fat as I thought I was when I was you.
Waiting for motherhood
You’re also waiting. Waiting for something to happen. For something to begin. You often think about having babies and ache with longing. Motherhood is waiting.
You also look at other exhausted mums pushing prams and think you don’t have the energy for that! You’re right. You don’t. But I don’t think anyone does!
I want to prepare you for the changes that are about to come. Motherhood is everything you expected and more. Those soft skin snuggles, baby gurgles, first step, first tooth, first-word marvel. Your heart will break with love for the little people you are going to bring into the world.
You will feel it physically in your gut and not only will you love them with every fibre of your being, but you will also feel more loved yourself than you have ever felt in your life.
You will crave them when you’re not with them. You swear to yourself that you will remember every moment of the wonderful times you have together. You won’t.
You will forget how they feel and how they smell as they stretch and grow and become more independent from you. You will have a shadow of memory but it will never be as real or as tangible. And with all this wonder and awe and love of motherhood, something else will also come. Something you weren’t expecting.
You are about to face the biggest battle of your life and you will almost lose. Anxiety, panic, and depression will take you to the darkest of places and tell you that you can’t get out. You will look at those sweet babies and feel like you are failing them.
You will doubt if you are enough. You will doubt if you will survive. You will have to work so damn hard to pull yourself out of that pit of despair and claw your way back to some sort of normalcy. And when you do it, and you’re winning, another baby will come along bringing with it all that wander and once again throwing you into the cycle of panic once more. And once more you will fight, and you are winning.
I want you to know that motherhood has been the making and the breaking and the reforming of you. “You” as you are now no longer exist. There are no more sleep-ins, no more loud, free, uninhibited sex. In fact, you’ll be lucky for five-minutes peace to have a conversation or hold hands, never mind have sex!
Plus those wobbly bits are wobblier and accompanied by thick lines of stretch marks, not that you mind too much. Your body is nothing like it was before. Your pelvis still aches, your boobs no longer stand to attention and the wrinkles are setting in. It’s not as distressing as you might think so don’t worry about it.
Along with your new body, you have a new mind. It’s often fraught with anxiety, you snap at the kids when you don’t mean to and you are desperate for just half an hour in the day when someone isn’t touching you. Until they aren’t.
Then you want to crawl into bed with those sweet kids and breathe in their scent, feel their soft skin, whisper apologies in their ear and promise to do better tomorrow. You are still figuring this shit out and that’s ok. Follow your gut and you’ll be fine.
You have been tested like you never have been and you came out the other side. You are scarred but you are strong. Your experiences will open up so many opportunities to help others. You will campaign for better services, you will make a difference to people and your story will have a purpose. You will even start your own business. You are not perfect, but you are enough. And that’s all you need to be.
Lots of love,