Sewing machines, fairies and crumble. February 24, 2014
I got the sewing machine out today. The one my mum loaned me. The one that she bought when I was five years old and which is now, worryingly, officially classed as vintage. Turns out I’m not as young as I feel, after all.
I’m determined to finish Elvie’s curtain. So that finally, 14 months after moving in, she’ll have a pair of curtains that actually fit her window.
I’ve altered one already. It’s hanging there smartly. Almost straight. Next to a bit of fabric, draped over the curtain pole. Holding space for the other half of the set.
It’s 8 months since I altered the first curtain. Yes, we’ve been busy. Yes, I’ve been depressed. We’ve been ill and away and all sorts. More excuses than I can count. All of them valid.
It was only this afternoon, with a mouthful of pins and a tape measure round my neck (looking the part is at least 80% of the battle, right?) that I faced the real reason for the slightly ridiculous delay.
Scared that my high school textiles teacher was right to call me a ‘plonker’. Scared that my measuring skills really are that bad, and the curtains will end up completely different lengths. Scared that actually, getting the first one right was a fluke. That I’ll get discovered. Exposed as the fraud that I almost certainly am.
It’s not the first time I’ve faced this problem. While we were dating, I made Wes an apple crumble. It was so good that he almost proposed on the spot. It was years before I made him another one. Not because of a world apple-shortage. Or a fear of marriage. Just because I was scared that this time, it would go wrong. That he’d be disappointed. That he’d find me out.
I do this all the time.
Last year, we decorated Joel’s room. I painted a mural. Pirates, naturally. It’s something of a family theme.
I love it. I’m incredibly proud of it. It makes me smile every time I set foot in his room. Unless it’s before 7am. Obviously.
At the moment we’re mid-way through decorating Elvie’s room. She wanted a mural too. A fairy forest and princesses and a castle.
I love painting. Creating. Art of absolutely any kind. But the thought of another mural terrified me. Because surely now I’d be found out. Everyone would realise that I couldn’t really draw. That I wasn’t as creative as they thought. As creative as I hoped.
Every time I worked on it, I took at least twenty minutes to get anything on the wall. Twenty minutes of agonising and fretting and worst-case-scenarioing. Staring at the paints. Checking Twitter. Convinced that this would be the time I messed it up. The time I blew my cover.
Now, it’s almost done. All except one fairy, a princess and a bit of grass. And some glitter. I’ve been putting those final touches off for days. Despite Elvie’s constant reminders that it’s not finished yet.
Because somewhere, deep down inside, I still feel like a fraud. People compliment my work-in-progress and I can’t quite accept it. Because I know that actually, they’re wrong. They haven’t realised I’m just blagging this whole thing. That it’s all done on a wing and a prayer and a hope-that-nobody-notices.
As for Elvie? She loves it. Even though it’s not quite complete.
(I know. Fake grass. It was Wes’ idea. And it’s brilliant.)
I’ve spent a large chunk of my life being scared of failing. Terrified of being seen. Really, truly seen for who I really, truly am. Scared that any successes I might have are accidental. That actually, underneath it all, I’m not smart/talented/fun/nice/thin/exciting enough. (The list goes on.)
I know it holds me back. It stops me trying new things. It means Wes doesn’t get as many desserts as he’d like. It means that often, I feign disinterest to cover up the fact that I desperately want to do something and am utterly convinced that I’ll fail.
Slowly, slowly, ever so slowly, I’m coming round to the idea that actually, failing is not the end of the world. That trying, being real and vulnerable and taking risks has to be the better option. Better. Not safer. Or easier. Or less likely to keep you awake all night worrying. Sorry.
I always had an idea of the sort of parent I would be. It didn’t involve therapy, or medication, or computerised support sessions. If we’re measuring up against expectations, I’ve failed spectacularly. With both children.
I’m starting again. Again. This time round, I’m doing it in the open. Being truthful. Being seen. Something of a public failure.
And honestly, I’ve never had better friends. Never felt more accepted. More seen for who I really am. Less judged. More loved.
I painted a fairy onto the mural last week. I got impatient, didn’t wait for the layers to dry and her whole face ended up a smudgy, streaky mess. More zombie-movie-extra than small-girls-bedroom. I failed. And I wiped the face off. And only swore a little bit. And started again.
Last time I made a crumble, there was something wrong with the butter. Or the flour. Or the sugar. Either way, it was definitely not crumbly. I failed. And I put it in the oven anyway. And it came out fine. Cakey, but delicious. I’m 90% sure that the children’s vomiting that night was unrelated.
This afternoon my slapdash approach to measurement meant that one corner of the curtain was way off. Seriously wonky. I failed. And I sat in the kitchen, next to my vintage sewing machine, and unpicked the stitches. And started again.
I fail. A lot. Every day. Sometimes forty times a day. Before 9am.
Perhaps it’s time I stopped trying so hard to avoid it.
There are worse things in life than wonky curtains. Apparently.
Feasting and Famine. And everything in between. February 18, 2014
I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. Which can be annoying.
It means that 10 minutes after watching ‘The Great British Sewing Bee,’ I’m wondering how best to find time in my busy schedule to hand-make my children’s wardrobes. Rather than actually just finishing Elvie’s curtains.
It means that I want to blog every day. Maybe three times a day. That I get frustrated when I only have the time and energy to do it once a week. If I’m lucky.
It means that I buy a new lipstick and then don’t wear it. Because I don’t have a new look, career and personality to go with it.
It’s an exhausting way to live. But I can cope. Provided that everything else in my life is on an even keel.
Our family is not easily described as normal. 9-5 is not something we’re familiar with. Wes is self employed, so he goes where the work is, when it’s available. Often he’ll turn up at a venue with no idea what he’s going to be working on. Those are usually the days I get a call to let me know Emma Thompson is in the next room for a press conference. Or that he’s just built a stage for the Jersey Boys.
He loves his work. He’s brilliant at it. And it definitely has it’s advantages. I’m lucky to be married to someone who can make you a table in half an hour, or throw together a garden bench for a party. He’s just built the most beautiful cabin bed for Elvie’s room. We have piles of timber, paint and perfume just waiting to be used – all salvaged from various jobs.
There’s just one problem. For me at least. That even keel I was after. It’s not much good for that.
Turns out I’m not the only part of this family that’s all-or-nothing.
There can be months in the year when there is so much work that we pass like ships in the night. Usually the middle of the night. Clutching a vomiting baby, or a crying child, or a packet of paracetamol. Times when we’d forget the sound of each other’s voice if it weren’t for all the answerphone messages. Wondering where the remote went, or whether he made it to Birmingham, or why I still haven’t returned his call and is everything actually ok?
Those times are great for making money. And stressful in every other possible way.
And then there are the slow times. When there are weeks with no work. No money coming in. Water bills, and a mortgage to pay and hoping that more work comes in before the money from the busy times runs out.
Now is one of those times.
I would so dearly love to be reasonable about it all. To adopt the same approach Wes has. The approach that says we’ve been doing this for years and it always balances out, so let’s just calm down.
I find that really hard.
When times are busy, I’m stressed because I have the children by myself for weeks on end and I’m losing my mind and I just need a break and how come work is so much more important than me?
When times are quiet, I’m stressed because the money is going to run out and what if we never get any more work and maybe I should just set up my own business selling jam because that’s the only logical solution.
Normally, I can cope. Just about. In as much as I only melt down once a week. Maybe twice.
At the moment, it feels as though everything is all-or-nothing. I know. Ironic.
Elvie, who is normally so independent that you’re lucky to get a cuddle, has decided she can’t sleep unless she’s in our bed. All night.
Which is adorable, obviously. Except that I really need my childfree space. And I resent having to share a bed all night with a snoring, wriggling three year old. Who likes to kick the duvet halfway down the bed, and ninja-whack you in the face with her elbows. While you’re sleeping.
We’ve managed to start around a hundred home improvement projects in the last month. Elvie’s room is half-finished. Unsurprisingly, given the scale of the mural she requested.
We’re halfway through creating the photo wall in the kitchen. The paints and curtain rail for our bedroom are loitering at the end of our bed. And the garden looks like a earthquake has ripped through the middle of a building site.
It’s no wonder that I have been obsessively tidying shelves. In a desperate attempt to have control over something. Anything. Even if it is just a few inanimate objects.
It all feels a bit like chaos. Which, as you may have gathered, is not something my brain enjoys. At all.
In the midst of all the soupy, swirling fogginess in my brain, one phrase has been going round and round and round. ‘I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.’ It’s from the Bible. Philippians 4:11 to be precise. Don’t be too impressed by my knowledge. I may have had assistance from Google.
It’s one of those phrases. The kind where I’m pretty sure that if I ever met the guy who said it, I’d want to punch him in the face. Along with whoever tried to convince the world that your ‘school days are the best days of your life’. Seriously. We can all be grateful that’s not true.
It’s always seemed a little smug. So, you’ve learned to be content whatever happens. Great. Good for you. Now not only is my brain suffering from it’s own private hurricane, but I can feel guilty for not having the answers.
Not that I make snap judgements. At all.
It’s only today that I wondered if it’s possible there was more to it. Whether I had, in fact, been a little harsh. Jumped up and bitten a little too early, to project all my own problems onto some poor writer who has been dead for a couple of thousand years and will never be able to fight back.
Today, I read the whole passage. Turns out Google really does know everything. It’s Philippians 4:11-13 and it goes like this:
…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.
I know. So far, so smug. But wait for it…
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
There it is. Right there.
Turns out he didn’t have all the answers. It’s possible he wasn’t even trying to be smug. Perhaps he was, genuinely, just trying to help.
I know, beyond a doubt, that finding contentment in every situation would change my life. Whether there’s work coming in or not. However many small children end up sleeping on my pillow. Whatever state the garden / kitchen wall / house is in.
I break my back trying to control everything.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to step back. Breathe a few deep breaths. Hand it over to someone bigger and wiser than me. Wait for him to give me strength. Instead of trying to find it myself through organising sock drawers and bookshelves.
I’m not sure how it works. But I need to try. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish those curtains.
Sick days. February 11, 2014
Being ill is rubbish. Full stop.
I still remember that year in primary school. December was approaching. I was excited. I used all of my woodland animal stickers making birthday invitations. Then I caught mumps and had to cancel the party.
Seriously. All the stickers. I’d even used crinkly scissors. Illness has no respect for creative flair.
It’s tough to be ill as a kid. Partly because you don’t understand what’s happening. Which is awkward for everyone.
I spent a lot of last weekend holding a bucket in front of Elvie’s face because she was convinced she was about to be sick. Except that she wasn’t. In my personal experience, small children rarely ever know they’re going to be sick until they’ve projectile vomited over at least two sets of clothes / bedding / family friends.
It has it’s advantages though. Being ill as a child.
Afternoons curled up on the sofa under a blanket. Drinking Ribena and watching the Sound of Music on VHS. New colouring books and pens. Special treats, lots of cuddles and flat lemonade. Occasionally even a video camera snuck in to capture your feverish, mildly delusional musical outbursts. Nope? Just my house then.
It’s a shame you don’t get those perks as sick parents. A real shame.
For the last ten days or so our little family has been full of flu, bronchitis, tracheitis, teething and the added bonus of bruised and almost-broken-ribs. Just for a laugh.
It’s not been a happy house. Although I suspect the local pharmacy will smile when they review this months takings.
I’ve made breakfast through floods of tears and anger and just-wanting-someone-to-tuck-me-up-in-bed-with-a-hot-lemon. While the children screamed because their toast wasn’t coming quick enough.
Wes and I have spent a lot of time sizing each other up. Trying to see who is the most ill at any given point. Who has the more serious diagnosis. Who should be making the lunch. Who can get back to sleep first.
I’ve crawled into bed in the evening, fighting through a migraine, medicated to the hilt. And then had to drag myself out again because Elvie is screaming the house down and nobody else will do.
I’ve shared my bed with a snotty, snoring toddler and a wriggly, long limbed pre-schooler. When all I wanted was space. And peace. And quiet.
I’ve coughed and spluttered and sweated and shivered my way through a paracetamol haze. And boy, have I been grumpy about it.
Some people deal with illness really well. They have endless patience when their children are sick. They cope brilliantly with disrupted sleep. They manage to be selfless and loving even in the midst of their own pain.
I am not one of those people. Not even slightly.
I get cross and tired and take everything very personally. And spend most of my time berating the unfairness of a world in which I am not allowed to just hide in my bed and be ill.
Which obviously puts me in a great frame of mind for recovery. Positive thinking and all that.
It’s times like this that I wonder if I was really designed for motherhood. I’m just not great at the whole selflessness thing. Which is a pretty huge part of the deal.
And then, in the middle of the night, something happens.
Joel wakes up. Crying. Not so much because he’s ill, but because he’s sad. He needs some comfort. I’m getting ready for bed. Wes is changing our sheets in an attempt to drive out the germs.
Joel doesn’t settle himself. Wes goes in, picks him up, hugs him. Still crying. He brings him into the bathroom. Still crying.
When he sees me, he reaches out his chubby little arms. I lean over and take him. Snuggle him close. And he’s quiet. Instantly. Curled up in my arms.
Just like he did when he was brand new. When I used to sing Emeli Sande to him all day long because he just wanted to be next to me.
I held him. I rocked him. And he fell asleep on my lap, sitting on the bedroom floor while Wes finished changing the bed.
I may have stayed there, like that, for a little longer than necessary. Soaking up the love and the cuddles. The overwhelming knowledge that in spite of everything, I was exactly the right person, in exactly the right place, at exactly the right time. And there was nowhere on earth I’d rather have been.
Parenting is tough. Parenting while you’re ill is hideous.
But being a parent is a gift. A treasure wrapped in snotty tissues.
I’ll take it. Even on the sick days.
Eaten by monsters. February 3, 2014
Elvie is a bright little thing. No two ways about it. Three years old and already she’ll teach you the colours of the planets, how the earth’s plates create volcanoes, and where to look for fossils. I blame Nina. And her pesky neurons.
Nothing gets past her. Those little ears are listening all the time. To the outside eye she’s engrossed in Duplo at the opposite end of the room. But she’ll repeat your conversation verbatim over dinner. Whatever the topic.
I love that about her. Her keenness, her incredible memory, and her desperate quest for knowledge. In all honesty though, I could have done without it this year. Without the sense that she was studying me, and my behaviour. Without the questions in her eyes every time I lost my temper. Without the anger whenever I needed a rest. I can’t count the times I’ve wished she was less insightful. Less emotionally aware. Less bothered.
I’ve watched what my depression has done to her. We’re coming through it now, both of us. But it’s been a long hard journey.
One of the hardest parts has been watching my precious girl shut down into a scared, angry muddle. Without the ability to explain it or make it better. For myself, let alone her. The words have been too hard to find.
Imagine my delight to discover, through the magical world of Twitter, that I could solve my problem with a book. I love books. And solving problems. Perfect.
‘A Monster Ate My Mum,’ is a children’s book. Written by Jen Faulkner, herself a sufferer of post-natal depression. Explaining it from a child’s perspective. With rhymes. Imagine my excitement. Selflessly, I offered to write a review. You’re welcome. I do what I can.
When the book arrived I decided to proof-read it before sharing it with Elvie. I read it twice. And struggled to deal with the emotions. It’s tough to see your inmost feelings on a page in front of you. In rhyme. With monsters.
So I did what any professional, self-respecting book reviewer would do. Stuffed it down the side of the bed. And left it there. For a month.
Sometime in the middle of January, I had a great week. Coping really well, even though Wes was away. Getting out lots. Plenty of socialising. Enjoying the children. I dared to think that maybe, just maybe, I was better. Properly better. That I wouldn’t need to use the book, because depression would soon be a distant memory for us all.
And then I crashed. I should probably have seen that coming.
I was exhausted, grumpy and mostly crying. I had a meltdown over our decorating schedule and sat sobbing in my bed because I just didn’t want to be this kind of person anymore. There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Something about pride, and falls. And unfinished reviews.
In truth, I was scared of the book. And the conversation that it would create. Until one day, in the midst of yet another game of doctors, Elvie brought her doll to Wes and diagnosed it as being ‘umpressed.’ He asked her what that meant. She told him that the doll was sad all the time.
Told you. Nothing gets past her.
Even I knew that was a sign that our conversation needed to happen. Soon. So I summoned up all my courage. And ignored the subject completely for a few more days.
It’s harder to ignore when you’re in the pharmacy, picking up your medication. After you’ve dealt with the initial disappointment that we have not, in fact, come in to buy lollipops. Obviously.
I told her we were actually there to pick up my medicine. She asked me what it was for.
Deep breath. Look her in the eyes.
“You know that sometimes Mummy gets really tired and sad and a bit grumpy?”
Straight away. No hesitation. Bright she may be, tactful she’s not.
“Well, the medicine is to help me feel better. So that I’m not so tired all the time. And I’m not so grumpy. Or sad.”
I told her that this was called depression, and that I had a special book for her. To help her understand. That we’d read it at bedtime. When Joel was asleep. Just us.
And so we did. I read it. And she listened. She heard about the brave boy. And the monsters who had taken parts of his mum. Her laugh, her smile, her spark. She heard about how it wasn’t the brave boy’s fault. How the monsters were sorry. How everything would be returned, eventually.
Afterwards, I asked her what she thought. Apparently she was scared of the monsters. Fear aside, she hid it away at the furthest end of the bookshelf so “Joel can never find it” because it’s a “very special book just for me and Mummy.”
We talked for a long time. About how depression makes people feel (“sad, grumpy, quiet and lonely,”) and about where exactly the book would be stored. In her slightly manic, nervous, I’m-processing-something-huge-and-need-to-talk-about-something-else-while-I-figure-this-out kind of way.
There were lots of cuddles. Lots of reassurances. That yes, I would get better. That yes, I would get up with her the next morning. That no, the funny little misshapen star on her nightlight didn’t look like the monster from the story. Please go to sleep.
It’s possible that the book is a bit too deep for a 3 year old. Even one who’s mature and emotionally aware. She loves the rhyming, has corrected me several times if I read it wrong, and loves the dreamy, abstract pictures. But I’m not sure that she understands the symbolism. Not sure how she connects the monsters to the depression. It’s possible she’s concerned that there is a real monster out there, waiting to bite off my smile.
We might need to talk about that. The good news is, now we can. Having the book in my hand gave me the confidence to broach the subject. To take the secrecy away. To bring her in to the process, instead of always keeping her at a safe distance.
We’ve got a shared language now. Some common ground. A brave little boy. His mum. Some monsters. To help me deal with my own.
There are a lot of conversations ahead of us. A lot of explaining to do. A lot of reassuring. A lot of healing. But we’ve started. We’re on our way.
As for Elvie? She cherishes that book. It has it’s own special place on her shelf. We’ve read it at bedtime every night since I showed it to her. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of ‘A Monster Ate My Mum’ for the purposes of this review. All opinions and comments are, as always, my own. (Or Elvie’s.)
Being there. January 27, 2014
For the last week, Elvie has slept on the sofa-bed. She’ll be there for the forseeable future. Decorating a bedroom with two small children around is a mission.
She’s got her nightlight with her, and her clock. The purple bear that she won’t sleep without. The squeaky plastic giraffe that she chews on through the night.
All told, she’s doing pretty well. Waking a couple of times each night. Needing her duvet rearranged, or her giraffe recovering from the far end of her pillow. Which is obviously too much effort for her at 3am.
Her excitement over the new room is palpable. She’s told all her nursery teachers, all the toddler group leaders and all of her friends. She’s almost as excited about it as I am. Just the thought of being able to curl up on the sofa in the evening and watch telly again makes me giddy. I can’t wait.
Despite her enthusiasm, it would seem that sleeping downstairs is, in fact, a bit scary. The room is bigger. The shadows are different. Bedtime takes a lot longer.
We count stars on the ceiling. Sing a couple of Christmas carols. Read a story. Say our prayers. Sit and hold hands in the dark for a while. Faff around with tissues and water and Vicks until Mummy’s patience wears out.
Last night, I thought I’d use the time wisely. Have a little heart to heart.
I asked her what her favourite part of the day had been. “Going to the toilet at church.”
Talk about easily pleased.
Then I asked if anything had happened that she didn’t like.
Goodness knows she had options. Plenty of them.
Missing the bus into town because Joel was inconsolable after his nap. Watching the drunk guy outside the community centre hurling his guts up into the bushes. Having beans on toast for dinner again. Getting to the snack table after all the good biscuits had gone. Seeing a man and his dog nearly drown after they fell into the flooded river. The moment when I overbalanced the buggy and she fell headfirst onto the floor.
It’s safe to say we’ve had better days.
She looked me straight in the eye.
“I didn’t like it when I came downstairs from creche and you weren’t there, and it felt like nobody wanted me.”
I did not see that coming.
I held it together long enough to apologise. To explain that I’d been chatting and hadn’t noticed her coming downstairs. To reassure her that next time, I’ll be there. To kiss her and hold her and snuggle her into her duvet.
Then I went upstairs to curl up in a ball of miserable guilt.
Until I realised.
She wasn’t sad because of everything I’d forgotten to do. Or how tired I’d been. Or how cross I’d got when I’d changed several stinking nappies, been poked in the eye with a tiara and had my secret stash of sweets emptied out, all before 9am.
She’d already forgotten about the biscuits. And the toppled-over buggy. Forgotten about the crossness and the missing the bus.
Because I’d been there.
I’d been there to find her a different snack. To pick her up off the floor. To say sorry for losing my temper. To stick her in the buggy and walk into town instead.
And that mattered.
Last week was hard. This week still is. We’ve had tears and tantrums and meltdowns. From all sides. Depression has been digging its horrid little claws into my brain again. Whispering its nonsense in my ear. Telling me that I’m letting everyone down. Making everyone’s life harder. That I’m not good enough. At anything.
And then, there’s Elvie. My beautiful little gift. My wild, crazy, wonderful bundle of quirk.
Telling me that actually, all she wants is for me to be there. With her. Holding her hand.
That in reality, the most important thing I can do is show up. Every day. After every tantrum. However I’m feeling. Whatever kind of day we’ve had.
Be there. Show my face. Listen. Hug. Care. Let her know that somebody wants her. And loves her. So very very much.
The rest is extra. Decoration. We’ll get there. Eventually. Perhaps.
For now, we’re here. Together. Incredibly, it would seem that that’s enough.
Real Life Lullabies January 21, 2014
You know that moment when you think something is hilarious and brave and full of truth and you share it with someone and they look at you like you might have lost your mind? Yes? That. I’ve had that this week.
All because of Tim Minchin.
I love him. Let’s get that on record. I love what he does with words. How surprising he makes them. The way his lyrics are always one step ahead of you. He’s possibly my favourite Australian. (Sorry Kylie.)
In December, Wes and I went to see Matilda in the West End. If you haven’t been, go. It’s outrageously good. The choreography, the set, the acting. And the lyrics. Oh, the lyrics.
We laughed out loud. We cried a little. We were first on our feet for what is surely the obligatory standing ovation.
And so, when a friend introduced me to another Minchin masterpiece, I was pretty sure that Wes would appreciate me sharing the genius. Turns out, not so much.
The song in question is ‘Lullaby’.
Before you listen to it, make sure that there are no children in earshot. Or wear headphones. Don’t play it if you struggle with a) strong language or b) brutal honesty. There’s plenty of both.
Parental advice over, feel free to Youtube it. Whilst you ponder when exactly Youtube became a verb.
Then let’s talk.
I’ve listened to it several times this week. Every time it creates an actual physical reaction inside me. The lyrics, those frenzied violins, the nervous laughter of the audience. His “seriously, I’m just telling the truth here people,” face.
When I played it to Wes, and to Elvie’s godfather, they both had the same reaction. Intake of breath, pursing of lips and the pronouncement that, in their opinion, it had crossed “some sort of line.”
For me, the song was like a kick in the guts. As though someone had seen inside the furthest reaches of my brain at the darkest points of the longest nights when exhaustion was at its peak and it was 3am and the morning was coming and the baby still wouldn’t sleep.
Like a kick in the guts and a huge exhale. All at once. Because finally there was an acknowledgement that, no matter how bad things got inside my head in the middle of the night, I was not the only one. Somebody understood.
I realise now how important that is.
To acknowledge that, away from the magazines and the Pinterest boards and the status updates, parenting is tough. Really, really tough. Sometimes you’re winning. And sometimes you’re crushed into the ground.
It’s so easy to feel that you’re the only one.
I remember lying awake through the night. Envying the parents whose babies were in special care, because at least they could sleep for more than an hour at a time. Sometimes, fleetingly, I would envision the need for hospitalisation – for me or the baby. And smile.
I remember walking the buggy down the road and contemplating briefly, fleetingly, what it would feel like to push it out in front of a bus. Walking downstairs, baby in arms, and pondering what would happen if I ‘fell’. Wondering how long it would take for someone to reunite us, if I just left the baby somewhere. How much sleep I could get in the meantime.
Sleep deprivation is a truly awful thing. So is depression. Worst of all is the way they make you feel. As though actually, it’s you that is truly awful. Horrible. Shameful. Monstrous. Unfit to be a mother.
Like nobody else understands. Like if you tried to tell them, they’d breathe in and purse their lips and tell you that you’d crossed “some sort of line.”
I’m willing to bet that most mothers, most parents, can identify with those feelings. I’m also willing to bet that it’s not in the top 3 conversation starters at your local toddler group. “So, you know those times when you feel utterly wretched and have terrible thoughts and know that you’re an awful mother? I do that too – turns out you’re normal. Fancy a custard cream?”
It’s not the easiest subject to broach. But it’s desperately important. To find people who understand. Who can share the darkest, hardest parts of parenthood. Not just the first steps and the swimming badges.
Without that, it’s all in your head. Going round and round. Getting bigger and bigger. Trust me, that’s bad news.
It’s a tough conversation to start. But, find the right people to have it with, and I promise you’ll feel like a whole new person.
In the meantime, let me tell you this:
One day, your children will sleep.
And so will you.
Things will get better. Maybe with medication. Maybe with therapy. Maybe with time, and tea, and lots of tissues. But they will.
You. Are. Not. The. Only. One.
At the very least there’s me, my friend and Tim Minchin. That’s worth a custard cream, for sure.