When my first son was born, I went from doing what I wanted as and when I pleased, to my life revolving around my new baby and to be completely honest, I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I was seriously out of my depths. Everyone tells you how lifechanging becoming a parent for the first time is but until you experience it, you really have no idea.
I’m the kind of person that likes to have control in any situation I find myself in and I’m also a perfectionist. So mix that kind of personality type into the realms of new motherhood, living as an expat in a country where you have no family to turn to for support and it’s the making of a perfect shitshow. With Max, I felt like I became a shell of myself in the months after he was born, merely existing to fulfill the primary needs of my newborn. I didn’t know how to stop and embrace every moment and instead, I was fearful that I wasn’t able to do anything “properly” (as if there’s a rule book for that kind of stuff) and I doubted myself for everything. I would nurse my baby, then as I held him, often unable to put him down in the fear that he would cry, I would stare at my house and the mess it was in. My anxiety would slowly rise as I knew that my time was taken by the new person which my life now revolved around. When he slept I would tidy, do laundry, and eat. I existed but I wasn’t thriving. I thought my life would be that way forever. I loved being a mum but I was insanely overwhelmed and I felt like I was running on a treadmill with balls being thrown at me and I needed to catch every single one.
After going back to work from my two and a half month maternity leave, that treadmill only got faster, even though I was catching the balls a little more easily as I slowly adapted to my new routine as a full-time working mum. By the time Max was two years old, the thought of having a second child wasn’t one that we entertained much. Max was the epicenter of our universe and we were enjoying life as a family of three. I had found my groove as a working mum and wife, juggling various things but I felt that I could possibly do this again. The fear of not being able to manage an expanding family loomed over me but I felt it was possible, given we made a few lifestyle changes.
I had suffered from postpartum depression after Max was born and when he was two and a half, I saw a psychiatrist who diagnosed me with prolonged postpartum depression. At my very last appointment, as she was walking me out, she turned and asked me, “do you have any plans to expand your family?”. At this point every time I had any serious thoughts about having a second child, my anxiety would take over and push these thoughts right back out of my mind. My reply to my psychiatrist was, “But what if I fall back into depression?”. She explained to me that I’ve now learned how to control my anxiety and it would be a lot easier for me to identify the thoughts that provoke the feelings of fear and panic, thus manage them better. It was after that very brief conversation that I started to think about a second child more seriously.
And so, a year after that when Max was almost 3 and a half years old I found out I was pregnant again. I was excited and not fearful. Of course, I was aware that things would be difficult but I felt like I knew what to expect this time. Nine months later and in the middle of a pandemic, I gave birth to another boy, Leo. Coming home as a family of four was one of the happiest moments of my entire life. I felt extreme gratitude, likely fueled by the times we’re currently living in. In the first week home from the hospital, I would look around our home, mess and all, and smile looking at my husband and my two boys. Every day I anticipate feelings of anxiety to kick in and sometimes they do, but my psychiatrist was right. I identify those feeling creeping up on me and most of the time I take a step back from what I’m doing to gather my composure or I take some deep breaths. There have been a couple of times where I go with these emotions and feel it out, have a cry or contemplate my feelings but I then continue on with my day. I think it’s important to not ignore my emotions but at the same time, I can’t let them consume me like they used to after I had Max.
These things that I’m experiencing post-birth are no longer foreign to me, everything is familiar. The letdowns, the leaky boobs, and cracked nipples that quite frankly, freaked me out after I had my first baby, are now normal. The house is even messier because my eldest is now four years old and extremely active (and also has a severe aversion to the words, “tidy up”). I’m already well acquainted with the feeling of fatigue that shocked me to my core after I became a mum the first time around. And most importantly, I’ve come to terms with saying goodbye to the old me and I absolutely know and love the mum that I’ve become. I’m not only comfortable in my role as a mother but I’m thriving. That’s not to say that I don’t get overwhelmed and of course the transition from 1 to 2 is still in the early stages but I’m confident that I’ve got this.