Today in Woolies, I saw this magazine and took a photo because it hit me right where it hurts.
Had I seen this five months ago, while lining up to buy yet another humiliatingly giant packet of pads, wearing tear-stained clothes, with unwashed hair and leaking breasts, after getting two hours’ sleep the night before, I would have spontaneously combusted.
I mean, all my love and Cheezels to Jodi Gordon and Braith Anasta, but for pretty much every woman I have spoken to about motherhood, their newborn baby did not bring the glowing joy and love this photo depicts. It’s not the couple or their little family I have a problem with – they are all incredibly brave to wear white – it’s the “bundle of joy” bullshit women are force fed.
This would be a more accurate cover to convey those newborn weeks.
I recall the guilt and shame I felt in the hours after my daughter was born. In the blue light of that early September dawn, after 18 hours of labour, I looked over at my husband holding her as she screamed and refused to be put in her crib. Our exhausted eyes met across the hospital room and I knew we were thinking the same thing – “what have we done?” In the days after, I tried to be upbeat, while midwifes roughly groped and milked me like a useless dairy cow as they tried to figure out why I was having such terrible trouble breastfeeding her. When they weren’t doing that, the nurses were looking up my clacker to check how I was healing after birth. When we brought our girl home, I spent two weeks staying up all night – literally – trying to feed her. I couldn’t sleep during the day because I was wracked with anxiety. In the evenings she would scream non-stop from about 5 o’clock until 9, only to wake up hungry two hours later. I remember one particularly bad night when she screamed until almost midnight and my husband tried walking her in the pram. When he returned 20 minutes later, I heard her cries from the bottom of the driveway. Even the calming rhythm of walking could not knock her out. For about a week she stopped sleeping during the day too, and my wonderful older sister hugged me and rocked her cradle while I silently cried. It was torture when my husband returned to work. It takes a village to raise a baby, I thought, yet here I was alone, trying to figure it out for myself. I had desperately wanted a baby, so why was it all so hard? I felt useless, hopeless and guilty most days for those first six weeks of her life.
But as my mum, and every other woman who had made it through the newborn phase, assured me: things slowly got better. I called a lactation consultant to help me figure out breastfeeding, I saw my doctor, I talked to people. By six weeks our baby was smiling and sleeping and eating much better. At three months she was playing and giggling. At four months she started loudly babbling and showing us her sweet, cheeky personality. Now five months she is a little more predictable. She sits up, grabs her toys, examines her hands with wonder, shoves her feet in her mouth, “chats” to us all the time, cries if we walk away from her, and grins and flaps her arms in pure joy when we get her out of bed in the morning. She is drinking in the world. Cordelia will be six months old in a week and I can’t wait to see what that brings. It’s definitely not always easy, and there are still hard days and nights, but this is the sweet spot. I just wish we didn’t all pretend babies are exactly like this from the moment the cord is cut.
- This is probably the best article I read during the crazy newborn days, when it felt like the whole world was telling me I was weird for not coping:
– And this:
– This was recommended to me after I wrote this post. It is also excellent and reassuring. I especially like the points about how weird our society is for just expecting women to raise babies on their own: