Our next blog post in our guest blog series is from Rosemary Brien. She details the shocking transition to motherhood and things that are so unexpected.
Overwhelm is something that I was better able to deal with experiencing before I had children. I know that I felt overwhelmed, in work, for example. I remember having a really busy week and just wanting to go home and sit in a quiet, darkened room for the weekend. I didn’t do that because I didn’t need to, because I had a quiet calm home. When I came home from work, I usually had all the time in the remainder of the day to myself, or with one other adult person. I could take to my bed for a nap, I could go for a walk, I could go out for dinner, I could go to the cinema. In short, I could pretty much please myself and do what I wanted to do.
That’s not the case when children come along. I didn’t realise that I don’t cope well with overstimulation and overwhelm, or that I’m more susceptible to these things, before I had children. I call the time before children B.C. Things were less complicated B.C.
After children on the other hand - It is hard, unrelenting work. It is fulfilling. It is worry inducing. It is full to the brim with love. It is guilt inducing. It is exhausting. It is fun. It is inspiring. But wow, is it hard work! When I used to take a shower when my first child was born, I was sure I could hear a baby crying in the background. My baby wasn’t crying, but my exhausted, overstimulated brain and body had me on high alert and I was hearing and looking out for things that weren’t there. I was constantly on. My nervous system was frazzled.
I was exhausted from a long labour and birth and the transition to parenthood and I was constantly in fight or flight mode. When I feel like that, I often describe it as my nervous system feeling like exposed live wires buzzing and sparking when they tip off each other. That’s what it feels like for me. Constant little shocks to my system. Having a newborn was very overwhelming. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to keep this little person alive and to do it well in order to give them the best chance in life.
There is also so much information out there about babies to add to this overwhelm. What products to buy, how to get them to sleep, how to make sure they have the best possible start in life (no pressure) - So. Many. Opinions! Spend money on this thing and your life will magically be better. Preying on the insecurities of parents who want the best for their children. When all our little person wants is us, which is beautiful, but let’s be honest, can also be incredibly overwhelming. All they want is us and when I think about it, all we really need during this transition to parenthood is support.
Support from family and friends. Support from our communities or the communities we create for ourselves. Support so that we know that it’s ok to have no idea what we’re doing, that it’s ok to make it up as we go along, as we get to know this new little person in our lives who has their own personality. Support so that we know that it’s ok to be so sleep deprived and overwhelmed that it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to forget what you came into a room for or that you just don’t have the energy to get dressed today. It’s ok to be overwhelmed, it’s ok to feel like this phase will never end. I wish more people had said this to me, or rather, that I believed the people who said it to me. Because if anything is certain when it comes to babies and children, it’s that change is a constant. Nothing stays the same for very long.
Some day, in the future we’ll be able to string a coherent sentence together again.