When I started to think about the space in between as a mum it got me thinking about the gap between leaving your old life and introducing yourself to the big goopy mess of your new one – a life that involved large handbags full of mismatched baby socks, wet wipes and rescue remedy…for me that is, not the baby.
I was reading an article about the disasters that strike when you become a new mum, and it reminded me of the urgent sensation I lived with in those first few weeks willing myself to make it to six weeks – for me the mythical six week milestone was when breastfeeding would get easier, when disjointed hours of sleep would settle down and when I could work out how to make life normal again. The writer* spoke about the trauma of ending up in hospital at that miracle six week stage with a burst caesarean scar and a misplaced nipple shield. The part that stood out for me was this…
After a week in hospital, endless drips and managing a baby quite distressed from the antibiotics in his system, I was discharged, even more uneasy than the first trip home from the maternity ward. I sat on the front fence of the hospital waiting for my husband to locate our car. The breeze was warm and the street front alive with pedestrians fixed on their own agendas. I suddenly experienced deep pangs of jealousy for women in high heels click-clacking the pavement, even the taxi drivers meandering through the heavy Sydney traffic. Echoes sounded of a Gwen Harwood poem I studied once at school about a mother, sitting in the park with her daggy clothes and her three children, when she has a chance meeting with a past lover. Her past and present worlds collide. Identities lost. Opportunities missed. Things left unsaid. When he leaves, she is nursing her child and To the wind she says, ‘They have eaten me alive.’
…and thats when it struck me, the space in between is the space new mums have to navigate between packaging up and storing away their old lives (I often fantasise that mine is in a giant space bag, sucked dry by the vacuum cleaner) and acknowledging, no admitting, that their new lives are filled with a whole different kind of crazy. I’d forgotten the gripping fear I felt when I too stepped out of the hospital 48 hours after having my first child, I was scared to rejoin the world…the sun seemed brighter that it had been two days before (although I had lost my favourite sunnies as I walked into the maternity ward – actually I think I had flung them across the garden mid contraction).
Watching people get on with their lives became a past time I embraced after the birth of both my babies – so on those days when it does feel a little too much, when it feels like your old life is lost in translation, perhaps embrace a little of Gwen Harwood and just whisper ever so quietly at those passing by that they too ‘have eaten me alive’…
*the writer was my sister…nothing like a bit of cross promotion!
PS for mums struggling with their ‘new’ lives pop over to Gidget Foundation for some great resources if you need to reach out