Today I got angry.
Like really. Fucking. Angry.
It wasn’t the kind of anger you experience when you’re cut off by a shit driver, or when you get a speeding ticket or miss a bill payment or your team loses in NRL (which happens to me alllllll the time – Titans sort your God damn shit out).
This was so much more extreme than any of those.
When people attack you, mock you or make flippant comments about you or your life it’s upsetting, sure. But when someone makes mention of your family – it’s a whole other ball game.
As many of you know my sister writes her own blog and has been entertaining people with her experiences as a pregnant woman, the roller coaster of her childbirth and now the peaks and troughs of being a first time mum. She’s hilarious (naturally, it’s in our blood) and she’s honest. Brutally honest. If you want the sugarcoated version of what it can be like to have a baby, don’t read her blogs. If you’re open to all points of view and don’t mind hearing about “down-there” tearing, bowel movements and blood clots the size of golf balls coming out of your hoo-ha then please, take a look: jenquilty.wordpress.com.
My anger did not stem from my sister’s on-point writing skills. No. They stemmed from a comment made from a stranger who compared my sister’s first five weeks as a mother to buying and breaking in Louboutin shoes.
Yes I’ll just let you take that in. Take as much time as you need.
“No one warns you about the grief of wearing Louboutins because they are fabulous … so who cares if you lose all feeling in your toes and you slightly rip your Achilles tendons when you wear them”.
Rigghhhhttt. Cos that’s the same.
Despite the fact that this particular statement is one of the MOST FUCKING STUPID THINGS I HAVE EVER READ, she seemed to be missing the crucial factor of: you can take your Louboutins off and put them in your wardrobe at the end of the day. You can soak your feet in a spa bath and get a massage. You can even decide to not wear them again.
Unfortunately, you don’t have the same luxuries when you’re a new mother, covered in vomit and baby poo, with no sleep and emotions running high. “Jeeves, take my baby back to the store – I’ve torn my vagina – this baby is not for me. Maybe next Friday you could bring it back after I’ve looked after myself and my vagina’s healed up a bit”.
The conversation between me and this woman went on in much more detail, with her making comments about the blog being terrifying, negative and wrong. She said women should be promoting the positive side of labour and motherhood and letting other mums out there know that it is hard, but also rewarding.
And if she had read the blogs and had done her research she would know that my sister also does that.
I responded as tactfully as I could manage. Considering all I wanted to do was shake her and call her a fucking moron, I think I did a pretty good job.
The reason I’m writing this is not to bring all that up again and restart an argument (we ended up agreeing to disagree and left the comment war), but to pull focus to what new mothers are going through and for people to cut the bullshit.
Her comment of: “women should be promoting the positive side of labour and motherhood and letting other mums out there know that it is hard, but also rewarding” really stuck with me.
I told her I was sick of the “zen mother” attitude that seems to be forced down people’s throats nowadays and that new mothers who are going through a hard time won’t speak up due to comments like that. Because society says it’s this amazing experience and if you have a healthy baby you should be grateful. Let’s just ignore the fact that even if you have the PERFECT birth (whatever that is) you can become mentally unwell after the birth of your child shall we?
I don’t have kids, and I’ve never particularly wanted them. I love kids, don’t get me wrong (my nephew is perfect), but having them is not currently on my radar. No, I don’t have kids, but I have no qualms in saying this: being a mum is fucking hard work. Really fucking hard.
Yes, some people find it easier than others, some have quick and relatively “easy” birthing experiences but …
- Some mothers have really traumatic labour experiences.
- Some mothers become really ill after giving birth.
- Some mothers plan to breastfeed and then realise they can’t do it (which is followed by a bunch of people giving you a lecture/guilt trip about how “breast is best” making you feel like a failure before your baby is an hour old).
- Some mothers experience postnatal depression.
And it’s not always just the mother – it can be partners as well.
According to PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association) almost 100,000 expecting and new parents in Australia are struggling with perinatal depression or anxiety (during pregnancy and the year after birth). It’s figures like that that make me respond to flippant comments about how mothers should be behaving.
I am all for positive energy, for women (and men) banding together to support one another. I hate bullying, I hate people attacking others because they think they’re too skinny or too fat. I love open discussion, I’m open to sensible thoughts, ideas and communication. And I KNOW that not everybody is going to agree with me, or my sister for that matter. Different opinions are great. If we all thought the same and did the same thing – God knows what the world would be like.
But some people need to wake up. Not everything can be beaten with a positive attitude.
We also need to start shaking the stigma when it comes to mental health. And I don’t just mean for new mums, but I mean for all of those people suffering from a mental illness. It seems to be the norm to focus on our physical health moreso than our mental/emotional wellbeing. It’s socially acceptable to suffer from a broken leg than bipolar. It’s okay to call in sick for work regarding a torn ligament, but not for the fact that you’re battling depression and can’t physically get in your car to get work because you’re in such a dark place.
We need to start changing our attitudes.
I am sure that the woman who made the Louboutin comment did so lightly, harmlessly and probably had no idea that it would turn me into a lioness defending her cubs. But it did.
Meeting my nephew last week and spending time with my sister has almost certainly made me much more fierce and protective of my family. Anyone who has experienced something similar will know the emotions and energy that runs through your veins.
You might not agree with my point of view on this one. You might think the Louboutin analogy is quite clever. To be fair now that I’ve calmed down I am nowhere near as livid as I was. She didn’t mean to offend me and was voicing an opinion based on her experiences.
But despite the fact that I can see the other side of the argument, it certainly doesn’t change anything on my end.
I still think we need to start making it okay for new parents to express their anxieties without fear of judgement or repremanding.
It needs to be okay for mothers to say that having a baby is not what they expected, that it’s scary and that there is no preparing for the roller coaster of being a mother.
And we need to realise that having a baby and raising that baby is NOT the same as breaking in a new pair of overpriced heels.
Yeah. Definitely not the same.