What has happened to me is by no means uncommon. My story is not all that simple, although nobody’s ever is. At least to me, it was nowhere near predictable. Maybe wiser people saw it coming. but no-one likes to cast doubt, or to wear the doom-sayer’s mantle. So there was no real warning that I could hear buzzing on the airwaves.
I’m writing it. I hope it will help others. Sometimes we must learn by doing. At other times, we may dodge a bullet if someone has handed us a little piece of Kevlar just at the right time.
Backstory? Yes. There should be some. At the risk of skimping, I’m going to rush through this bit. I may come back to it later. Just picture me as an idealistic young woman for whom first pregnancy and early motherhood went fairly smoothly. Note the loving, supportive, actively-involved and fully-employed young lawyer who is my husband, standing just next to me. The cute little mini-version of him toddling around is our first daughter. We think she’s fairly easy at this stage, because she sleeps fairly well at night. And isn’t that what people talk about most?
We buy our first house, just as we embark on ‘trying for’ another baby. The day we move I don’t feel very well. I’m dizzy. A few weeks later we realise we didn’t have to try very hard for another baby. We are blessed.
The second pregnancy is nauseating. It is virtually impossible to describe how bad ‘morning sickness’ (VERY insulting name for it!) can be. You know that queasy feeling when you have gastro? Imagine that not really going away for months on end. That’s some kind of approximation anyway.
But I cope. It’s hard, because the one-year-old is demanding, and not at all good at daytime naps. (I’m very good at daytime naps. It’s my gifting.) We live far away from family, although we have some very good friends. We get there.
I can tell you the exact moment it all began to unravel. I was at my Mums’ Group. [Whatever bad press such groups have received, let me tell you that mine was a stellar bunch of completely wonderful, warm, genuine and real friends. We met for six years and still keep in touch.] Ok, so I was at Mums’ Group having a cuppa. The toddlers (approaching two years of age) were playing nearby and I was breastfeeding my second daughter; she was a perfect little two-week old.
A friend of the host dropped in, and marvelled that I was ‘out and about’ by myself with two children under two, a couple of weeks after giving birth. I basked in this admiration. I considered myself a strong person, and able to cope with a lot. This was the kind of affirmation that sustained me, and to some extent contributed to my identity. Not good.
The friend asked about the labour – four and a half hours, I told her. “Yeah, Sal coughs them out!” someone said. I laughed, but a penny dropped. Perhaps my front – the one I wasn’t actually aware of until that moment – worked so well that it even persuaded my friends that I was finding all of this easy. People were talking about labour being easy for me. I would concede to ‘uncomplicated’ and ‘relatively short’. But NOT, emphatically NOT EASY.
Nor was having two kids. I’d always imagined that two wasn’t many. But when my husband went back to work, I realised I was out-numbered. And that could be dangerous.
That very afternoon my toddler ran onto the road while I stood on the footpath helplessly holding my new baby. I was distraught, and overwhelmed suddenly with feelings of failure. The ‘what-if’s were quite insistent. That morning, my eldest hadn’t wanted me to buckle her into her car seat, and suddenly that mattered too, and the feeling of rejection stung. Now I sort of shrivelled up inside a brain of rage. I was all contained within a blanked face. And I didn’t really notice.
to be continued