"All of us must make our own way, exploring some of the most universally shared experiences while also navigating a solitude that makes us feel as if we are the first to set foot in uncharted regions." - Brené Brown, Rising Strong. '
I'm pictured here with my son, at the beach on a family holiday. Don't be fooled - at this point in time motherhood looked like a big, dark, looming wave that was about to engulf me. Unlike other holidays, there was barely any planning for this trip. I'd phoned my staff just a couple of days prior and explained I needed to take a break, immediately. I took two weeks off work and cautiously started to take antidepressants for postnatal depression. This is a photo of me on the brink of wondering who on earth I was, feeling completely disconnected, and scared shitless that I was totally disintegrating on the inside.
In the nervous lead-up to my son's due date I drew strength and courage from reminding myself (and being reminded by many others), that the countless women who'd given birth before me meant that I'd be able to do it too; that the countless women who'd successfully breastfed/ nurtured/ soothed/ clothed/ bathed/ sheltered/ loved unconditionally/ counselled/ lead/ consoled/ raised their well-adjusted children before me meant that I could do it too. Yet there were many times I felt completely alone and very much out of my depth. Oh, the overwhelm that a cute and cuddly baby can generate.
I recently received a message from a mother who suggested that some of the "bad stories" shared by my project Little Tsunami might scare off other mums, and that showing both sides of the motherhood coin could be a better approach. My concern is - particularly for first pregnancies and births - that the polite code of silence surrounding what should and should not be shared with expectant mums does not benefit and support them in the long run. (The term 'expectant mother' is in itself laughable because in fact I had completely unrealistic - if many at all - expectations about motherhood and then spent subsequent weeks and months asking "Why didn't anyone tell me it would be like this?!")
There are plenty of wonderful, uplifting, mind-boggling and utterly joyful stories surrounding motherhood - deservedly so. Jump on Pinterest and /or Instagram to search for quotes about motherhood and you'll have more inspo than your data limit can cope with. But keeping tight lipped about the very real and likely possibility that the proverbial could hit the fan at some point in the motherhood journey will only serve to further isolate mums who are unable to align this foreign parallel universe with what they dared not remotely equate with the concept of 'having a baby.'
Share yours stories, the bold, brave, sad and heart-breaking. There is room for them and there is a need for them. Yours will be new and unique but in my experience I expect it will also be universally recognised and understood. Perhaps the courageous unveiling of warts-and-all accounts of motherhood will create a connectedness so powerful between mothers that our bravery and honesty will override the fear of messy-ing the neat, palatable version of motherhood we're often politely served. And while we're on this solo-mission, we can take comfort in knowing someone's been in this very place before us and made it through to the other side, a little battered and bruised, much sleep-deprived, but now at the ready to give a knowing nod to the mum coming up through the ranks behind her that says "you got this".