Becoming a mother is not all rosey. Anxiety, family fall-outs, anti-depressants. These all form part of the story you’re about to read. A true story that shares the highs and the lows and proves you can live your dreams while raising babies and a business…
From Vietnam to the Midlands to Spain! This week Certified Sleep Nanny Consultant, Hayley Firman is taking over The Sleep Nanny blog to share her moving account of becoming a Mum, the unexpected difference having a second baby and moving a young family abroad (all whilst launching and growing her own consultancy). Enjoy!
Motherhood the first-time round was my “Butterfly” moment. I literally fluttered around Vietnam in my ever-growing rainbow ponchos listening to people’s life stories; being sociable and carefree. Living a simple beach lifestyle meant I did yoga, could sleep whenever I felt the urge, eat the freshest of fish, drink coconuts instead of water and muse about motherhood. I practiced putting tiny nappies on my chihuahua, researched healthy eating and stocked up on super foods. I would paint to relax and doodle and scrap book with messages of love for my boy! Throughout this pregnancy my main objective was to be as happy as possible so my ‘biscuit’ could feel the good stuff too – and I was!
Flash forward 2 years to my second successful pregnancy and my circumstances were somewhat different – I was happy but in a crazy, business building, dishevelled, more toddler infatuated kind of way. The sweat that used to glisten on my beach tanned skin now soaked my back and marked my armpits, I would Febreze my clothes and had only lost half my baby weight, my pelvic floor was shot and I had a new post-partum thyroid discovery (ironically the thyroid is the shape of a butterfly- but way less majestic).
I was a full time stay at home working mom and didn’t enjoy being away from my son. I would basically would run screaming from one place to another and only slept when my 2 year old gave me the pass. This pregnancy itself was more straightforward – I knew what was what and didn’t have the time to worry about my magical blood type, super foods or scrap books. I swapped watching sunsets for Netflix box sets and I was OK with that.
We were so excited to have a little lady, I DIY’ed and nested and started to brace myself. I am also one of those mythical unicorns that actually enjoy the labour process, so didn’t have any time for anxiety! Many months of the 9 flew by and my baby girl was getting ready to complete our family, she was BIG, something they kept telling me- growth scan after growth scan confirmed it my beauty was predicted at a whopping 10lbs+ @40w. My MIL took great pleasure in telling me she was taking after my husband whose gigantic shoulders got stuck in her pelvis. I ignored it. I carried on. I worked right up until 9m and didn’t think anything of it.
My husband wasn’t happy at work, was estranged from his family, we had a shrinking support network. I focused on bringing my baby girl home where I would magically peel off the chaos and transform into a domestic goddess, champion breast-feeder, and talented Pinterest crafter. We would happily and effortlessly float from place to place like the first time, with a permanent smile on my face.
Here’s what really happened. I had shattering arguments with my Mom and Sister in the week running up to labour, I was sitting on a tiny child’s chair outside my boys bedroom for hours upon hours settling him to sleep, I had lost contact with my longest friends, was exhausted and pretty paralysed by anxiety about my 2 year old. The details of where he would be/ how he would sleep/ how he would feel when I went into labour engulfed me. My little lady was ready and I started contracting on a Sunday @1pm when my whole immediate family and support network were 200miles away at a wedding. My little firework took her time/ indeed did get stuck but arrived happy healthy and heavenly the next morning @exactly 5am on the 5th of November. I laboured for almost 17 hours, pushed for two, and ultimately had an epidural that fell out of my back. She was beautiful and immediately I knew she was different from us all; that everything was going to be different.
The same day my husband and I brought our girl home and we casually went to get my son’s hair-cut, people were shocked I had given birth 5 hours previous. I was detached yet wanting to do it all – the pressure to be everything for my daughter – to help her fit in, support my son and his transition into brotherhood, and be the all singing all dancing working and providing super mom was all there lingering in the background.
My husband had a new surprise job offer abroad and wanted to start making the big ‘decision,’ I wanted to rest and nest – he wanted to chuck all the nesty twigs in the brown bin and find a new terrain where I didn’t know the bin colours– did nobody understand me! Relationships with my family broke down, my daughter was 3 weeks old and I secretly cried. A lot. Until I no longer felt anything. Anxiety around the future move and the family drama paralyzed me. I started cancelling arrangements, becoming socially anxious which only fed into the isolation. I felt like the people I thought I could trust were complete strangers, every conversation tense, complex and laced in guilt- my feelings were heightened by the comparison of my son’s birth to my daughter’s – a much less overall happy family occasion – I was furious.
My beautiful angel of a girl slept great, fed great and showed her delicious personality from the start. I felt unbelievable love and admiration for her but at the same time- something wasn’t quite right, the only way I can describe it looking back- was that I felt unlike me; almost like I was looking in from a distance. I didn’t want to be a passive passenger in this wonderful parenting rollercoaster and I definitely didn’t want my children to feel my dissociation or upset, something had to change. I went on anti-depressants.
Things started to improve, conversations got easier, pressure released and the fog lifted! With a new start and fresh challenges my priorities and life became simpler. The only thing that mattered to me was my family’s happiness followed by a drastic realisation that without mine, that didn’t exist. I owed it to myself and to them to practice self love, self care and not be so competitive with my own perfection.
Why am I sharing these less than rosy moments around becoming a mom? Because I wish someone had shared them with me while I was pregnant. I wish someone, anyone, had told me about all the ways that not just new moms struggle; and not just the typical overwhelming and sleepless nights most new moms experience, but the anxiety, the sadness, the intrusive thoughts, and the guilt. Not everyone can conceive or be blessed with such wonderful children and the misconception of how you could be anything but grateful.
I have unanswered questions around this part in my parenting journey – things I will get to. But mostly – why didn’t my midwife/HV talk to me about the importance of caring for my mental health postpartum? It baffles me. Why was everything only focused on the physical with a little dusting of emotion? Two months before I gave birth, I had regular check ups, was under a consultant due to my thyroid and waited hours upon hours at my local GP’s for my multitasking midwife. What a perfect opportunity for her or a anyone for that matter to talk to me about postpartum anxiety or depression, the symptoms, the stats of how common it is, and where to go for the right treatment.
It’s been 6 months since I accepted my relationship with postpartum depression and anxiety but still find some shame in the conversation. I am working on it – and believe it is so important that we normalise conversations around Post Partum Mental health – ban the shame and embrace all the feelings of parenthood – the good the great the baffling, the weird and the blue! I have made it part of my Sleep Nanny mission to spread awareness about maternal mental health disorders and provide support, community, education and resources to moms. I don’t want any woman to ever have to suffer in silence, ashamed and alone, like at times I did.
I share my story, so it doesn’t have to be your story, or if it already is, you can find the courage to share too; because if I learnt anything from that beach in rural Vietnam- story-sharing is one powerful way to destroy stigma and encourage understanding.
Be kind to you.
Click HERE to book in a FREE 15 minute evaluation call with Hayley today.