The romantic mother
Updated: Dec 4, 2019
by Leticia Tovar
I'm a romantic. Since I was little I’ve always had these ideas about what love is, what life should be, the ideal job… Therefore having a child was no exception. According to my Hollywood rom com filled brain, motherhood was going to be a walk in the park, literally. I was going to stroll down with baby in the pram to Cornwall park. I was going to put a blanket on the ground, place my baby on the blanket and read my book. Of course, my baby was going to placidly either sleep or do her thing, and never cry. I had a clear plan and picture in my head, maternity leave was going to be magic.
Before getting to Cornwall park, I was going to deliver my baby in the birthing pool, without epidural in a dramatic, but full of emotion episode. My partner was going to catch the baby and cut the cord. Straight after, my baby was going to suck on my boob instinctively. Exactly like Brook Shields’ baby in Blue Lagoon, latching like a dream just by being in the vicinity.
When reality hit, my Hollywood blockbuster motherhood dream became a dark European Indie movie. Those that show you real life as it is and that you have to be in the mood to watch.
After a full on medicalised birth, with two epidurals and nowhere near a birthing pool, my healthy screaming baby girl came out to meet us. The obstetrician pulled her out with forceps and cut the cord. As for breastfeeding, we went through numerous attempts at latching through pain, bleeding nipples, comments about my not ‘great for it’ boobs and contradictory advice at birthcare. I then became a ‘nobody had told me’ mother. I don’t blame anybody, you can’t prepare for what you don’t know, but it felt to me that I was the least prepared of the people I knew.
I then ceased to exist and became the life support of somebody else 24/7. This was foreign to me, I’m an only child. I love my own space and time with myself. I thought having a partner was an invasion of my territory. Little did I know that having a baby would overtake me completely until I ceased to exist. The focus of my life became getting the baby to sleep and to put on weight, which seemed to come easily to everybody else, but me. No time to sleep while the baby sleeps, I needed to increase my milk supply. Make sure the baby is not awake too long, they get overstimulated. The same thing all day every day, no weekends, no rest days. Groundhog day!!!
With a baby that does not sleep ‘like a baby’ and having to express every time, there was not much time to make it to Cornwall park during those first few weeks. But I was still hopeful that it was just a phase. My perfect baby and me time was going to come true very soon.
Weeks went by and sleep got better at night for a while, you know until the dreaded four month developmental phase. Babywearing allowed me to leave the house and guarantee a long nap. She just wanted to be on the move, not be put down on a mat, or the pram, or the bouncy chair, always on me. Everywhere around me there were these happy looking mothers with their flash prams walking cheerfully to probably Cornwall Park to have a picnic with their baby. All this time I was still breastfeeding in pain, but obsessed to keep doing it. Hearing from friends how they had experienced this explosion of love while I just wanted to cry and sell my baby on Trade Me. Thinking more than once a day what I would be doing at that moment if I hadn’t decided to have a baby.
Then I went to Spain to visit my family and I realised how easy things can be when you have family around. The joy of taking 15 minutes to have breakfast and drink coffee in one go. It also coincided with taking my baby to a paediatrician who discovered that baby had a tongue tie, which, when sorted, made my breastfeeding issues magically disappear.
By eight months I started to see the light at the end of the tunnel. My daughter was crawling and she was enjoying her newfound freedom, which resulted in me having more room to do basics like eating.
At this point the thoughts around going back to work or staying at home with my daughter started popping up. By then I was really enjoying her interactions, and Mum and baby group activities, where I was involved in her learning and I could see myself going down the Playcenter path. The research backs up stay-at-home mums. All my parenting books recommended the main carer looking after my child at least until 3 years old. The government was also telling me to stay at home. Otherwise they would subsidise child care earlier so women from all backgrounds could decide if they want to go back to work, not only those with a higher income. However, I was also aware that something was not right with me and feared I had postnatal depression. After getting some counselling and discovering I had anxiety, my therapist suggested it would help me to return to work as it would give me a mental break. I needed to divide myself into the mother and the office worker. I talked to my Manager and we agreed on me coming back on reduced hours.
Even though we have come a long way with work-life balance there is still a long way to go. It’s hard to feel the pat on the back and hear an ‘it’s ok, you made the right decision’ when you go back to work and you leave your child in the care of others for hours every day. Even more when you go down the daycare path, and don’t have a nanny looking after your child exclusively which would fall under the ‘right thing’ books tell you to do. Nobody should judge, and society even less. Maybe when mothers and home carers get paid for their contribution to society we could revisit ‘the right thing to do’. Until then we all try to do our best, and for me it was necessary to go back to work and have a separation. I do feel guilty, but I also feel much better mentally which is what my family needs. Choosing the right daycare for us, and leaving work early to have the afternoon to dedicate to my daughter makes me feel better about my decision.
Throughout this whole experience I always wanted to find somebody that would say I feel the same, just to make me feel “normal”. Although it is not said out loud very often, I have talked to some mothers going through the same. Also an excellent podcast called “The parent trap” packed with women that had a shock to the system and are not afraid to talk about it.
One thing I know now is that motherhood will never fall under a romcom category. There are too many moments that bring you back to reality, but there are also some magical moments and a lot of learning curves. I now see it more as a French Amelie type movie meets a nature documentary.
Mothers out there that haven’t felt the explosion of love and wondering why they did this, just know there’s more of us out there. Like everything there’s ups and downs and easier stages than others. It’s important to talk about it with someone, so if you don’t have family support because sometimes these feelings are hard for others to understand, I would suggest you seek professional help or find a support group. Be your own movie genre!