‘’What have we done? Our life was so good before’’
After 15months of trying to conceive, two miscarriages, a lot of tears but fortunately a relatively straight forward pregnancy and labour our first daughter, the child we have hoped and prayed for, was here.
Martha was a beautiful red headed baby. I was expecting to fall in love with her from the moment I saw her and be unable to sleep due to staring at my new baby. The reality was that I was so exhausted from a long labour that I was fast asleep 10 minutes after she was born. I worried about this for months afterwards, wondering if it was not due to exhaustion but due to my lack of being the loving mum I wanted to be. Now I realise it was mum guilt hitting hard from day one.
We were discharged home later the same day. I was so excited to be back to my own home and comfortable bed. We had a glass of something fizzy to celebrate and headed to bed for our first night as parents. My main memory of this night is my husband lying on the floor trying to get some rest whilst also slowly rocking the cot. She cried A LOT, we tried to work out how to feed and we went into full panic at one stage when we noticed she had a rash. My sister-in-law arrived in the morning to meet the baby and the most wonderful midwife arrived an hour or so later. We were both exhausted so tried to get some sort of rest after this. Later this day we walked the dog around the village, and I remember at that point feeling amazing. I think it was the hormones, but I felt incredible and so proud of little Martha.
The next few weeks were chaotic! Little sleep, lots of crying (from everyone), cluster feeding and generally just feeling an overwhelming pressure to do this mothering thing well. Martha struggled with wind and colic and therefore evenings were hard. She would cluster feed for up to 8hrs and life as I knew it had totally changed. When were about two and half weeks in I put Martha down after a marathon cluster feed only for her wake moments later. I sat in my bed and round and round in my head all I was thinking was ‘’What have we done? Our life was so good before.’’
Here I was with a baby that I had longed for but within two and a half weeks I was questioning what we had done. I felt guilty. I felt ashamed. I looked around me and all I felt I could see was mums who adored their baby, yet I was questioning what we have done. For months I told nobody (not even my husband) about these thoughts due to fear of what people would think but I held on to the guilt and shame.
Over the next few months once we started to get more sleep, learnt what we were doing and had fallen totally in love with Martha I was able to reflect on how I had felt and talked to others about it. It was at this point that I realised I was not alone. New parents feel an expectation to transition from one life to an entirely new life without complaint but with happiness, gratitude, and joy. Imagine if you got an entirely new super hard job, with no training and as part of that new job you had to say goodbye to a significant proportion of your old life. Would you or others expect this to go without any ups and downs?
New parents need support, they need to know that it is normal to find things hard. There should be no guilt or shame felt if you don’t instantaneously fall in love with your child, if you find the transition to parenthood hard and if at some point of this transition you wonder ‘WHAT HAVE WE DONE?’ its ok.