Friday, June 09, 2006

"Tears and Rain"

Okay, I’m going to share some secrets about what goes on behind closed doors. Before pregnancy, no one tells women that there are going to be a lot of tears. All they see are the groups of shining skinny women pushing strollers (complete with a sleeping baby) along 4th Avenue, Starbucks cup in hand, laughing. What they don’t see is the anxiety, the tears, the loneliness, and the loss that women can experience as a result of this enormous change in their lives.

I’m glad pregnancy is nine months long. It takes that long to work through the issues that crop boundaries, financial pressures, relationship issues, old wounds, loss of mobility, body image, career choices, birth worries... Women look to their baby’s birth as the end of the process, only to find out that it’s just the beginning. Then all the same issues resurface, in addition to a general sense of loss and loneliness...oh, and a crying baby.

Then I get the phone calls. Three or four women a week call me to say they are sitting in a puddle of tears, surrounded by crumpled tissues. They ask, “Is this okay? Is there anyone else feeling this way?” Oh, my goodness, yes...most everyone! The problem is that we’re all sitting in our houses, alone and apart.

Our support network of coworkers is gone (and I thought I hated to go to work!), our husbands are at work (so mad at him going to work!), the house needs cleaning (isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing to justify staying at home?), the laundry is piling up (who knew babies could generate so much!), and people keep visiting and visiting (expecting me to make tea as they dole out their unsolicited advice.)

I’m tired and anxious just reading what I wrote!

When my daughter was born, I was fortunate enough to have a mum who lived only a block away. She would come by each morning, ironed laundry in hand, ready to clean my house, prepare the meals, and leave. I can’t believe that she didn’t say anything about what I should be doing, how I should be holding the baby, what she wanted... She would just kiss me and leave. Wow! That actually sounds like the best postpartum doula (which we all need and deserve!) But I still needed help.

Then, an amazing woman forced me to attend a mum’s postpartum support group. “It’s Wednesday at there, clothed or not!” Once there, my daughter promptly threw up all over me. If I’d been at home, I would probably have cried over the loss of the milk that I’d worked so hard to get into her little body. But, surrounded by all the women, who were reaching out to me with towels, blankets, and tissues...I just had to laugh. That day, I sat next to the woman who would become my best friend. We have had lots of tea and tears and walks since that day almost 23 years ago.

Only yesterday, she said, “I wouldn’t have made it through these years without you. I wouldn’t have stopped in the middle of the day, and taken time for myself without your encouragement. I wouldn’t have sat down and read a book during my baby’s nap time, without you phoning me and telling me to SIT DOWN. I felt I had to account for every moment that I wasn’t out working or cleaning the house, or preparing meals for the family.”

Where did this mother-guilt come from?

Maybe I’m just a lazy thing, but I believe we need to be guilt-free about giving time to ourselves as mothers. We need to set firm boundaries with our extended families, to selfishly protect our new family of three. We need to allow ourselves to take a nap, stop for tea, read a good book, take a slow walk, buy ourselves a treat. We need to listen to our bodies and our wisdom, and honour our intellect and our intuition.

We need to ask for help from the community of women around us. We need to open our doors and we can sit in one big puddle of tears and laughter...together.


doulicia said...

Nice post. What do we do about the isolation!?!

Rebecca Lee said...

Oh how funny...Jackie, I have had you on my 'post baby Sophie' list for oh now 3 months considering she's just turned 13 weeks and here I am reading your latest post and it's sooooo appropriate. Where does the time go and oh yes, why does this mother-guilt creep into our lives so fast?? I am learning to cope with this every day now.

The good part is that once all my company left (7 weeks worth) I have found a great group of local women to go for walks with, laugh over spilt milk - literally and talk to no end about "how's your sleep?" and also have a very supportive husband that encourages me to nap, just to sit down at night and also has taken up folding laundry.

Life is good...a daily challenge with my new sleep regimen though I wouldn't change it for the world and I love being woken up by my beautiful smiling Sophie each day.

Rebecca Lee

clara said...

thank you, this is lovely. I just gave birth to my first baby 10 days ago and in the past 5 days I think I have weathered the most emotional storming of my far. Frightening and cleansing, all at once.

Anonymous said...

Jacquie? I found you through Navelgazing Midwife. I was drawn to the blog name since I began my career in birthwork in Vancouver. *Your* name sounds so very, very familiar. The GVCEA? 1988-1990? My last name was different then, but my first name is distinctive enough that that's all most people need.

I too am a doula, after failing to get into midwifery school immediately post-reg in Ontario. I got a degree, worked as an administrator for the AOM, and then finally got back to doing what I really love almost four years ago.

Check it out here:

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with a mama on day 5, tears streaming from her eyes, milk streaming from her breasts, and her young husband standing there looking like a deer caught in the headlights. Her nurturing mother arrives today, and I know they're going to be okay, but I felt for her so much yesterday. I remember what it feels like.

Rean in Toronto