From as long as I can remember, I always knew I wanted to be a mum. Most probably because of the close bond I share with my mum. However, one of things I realised early on into motherhood, is it is nothing like what we’re led to believe. All the books, TV and films do not tell you what motherhood is actually like.
To keep it real, here is a snapshot into the good, the bad and the ugly side of motherhood.
I’m pretty sure we all had fun making the baby, but having one isn’t the bed of roses we think it is going to be. It’s not all the play dates, cute baby outfits and leisurely strolls. And I’m sure we’re all aware of the sleepless nights (you don’t know torture until you are sleep deprived) leaky or swollen boobs, unwanted weight, hair shedding or erratic periods but what about the emotional side of motherhood?
From the moment you become a mother you are hit with the realisation that things will never be the same again. It may be better or maybe even worse, but never the same. This realisation can be difficult to accept and deal with. The emotional and mental transition to motherhood is tough, mostly because we’re not prepared for the mental shift. No warning, no heads-up. It just hits like a ton of bricks. There is a constant battle of what was and now what is. A mental struggle to cling on to some part of your old existence for comfort.
No one tells that you’ll grieve for your old life. That you’ll long for the woman you used to be, because right now you no longer recognise her. That you’ll miss doing things on your own terms and not having to work ‘around’ someone else. That you’ll miss your privacy and time by yourself.
Side bar- what is privacy in motherhood? The second your labour starts your privacy goes out the window. People are all up in your space. Literally, poking and prodding. And that doesn’t stop at labour. This goes on as your baby grows. From co-sleeping, these little beings find a way to get a foot or hand somewhere it does not belong. To when you finally get a moment to put your feet up after finishing whatever it is that you were doing and then out of nowhere, they find you. Apparently, they can be playing happily and minding their own business but the minute that mummy has a free moment, boom- they need you. And don’t even think about going to the toilet to be alone. Nope, they’ll follow you there too. Funny how they never seem to follow daddy to the bathroom. I mean you could literally sneak out of the room and it is as if they have a sixth sense that mummy is not there, and they have to go on a mission to find you. And this doesn’t change as they get older.
No one tells you that you may not instantly bond with your baby or that your maternal instincts will take time to kick in. It is implied that the moment you see your baby, you will fall deeply in love but for some that is not the case. Sadly, some mums even feel a sense of resentment towards their baby because they are fixated on what they are losing, rather than what they’ve gained- my point about never being the same again.
On a serious note, if you are feeling resentment or not bonding with your baby, I would advise you to speak to your midwife of health visitor or anyone that you trust. As you may be experiencing post-natal depression. Which is part of the ugly side of motherhood which I’ll discuss shortly.
No one tells you that motherhood can also be very lonely. Spending hours at home with just you and baby can be really tough. Especially if you don’t have friends or family nearby or if you have a baby who doesn’t settle easily.
No one tells you that your friends can drift away. Most likely unintentionally, but because they think you’re living your best life in baby bliss, they tend to overlook you or not include you in convos or get togethers. Meanwhile you’re knee deep in shitty nappies and desperate for some adult conversation. You still want to be included in the latest gossip or dissect the latest series on Netflix, even if you are two days late in replying to the group chat- my bad.
What about the impact motherhood has on your relationship? Becoming a mother, well a parent, puts an obscene amount of strain on relationships, with a fifth of relationships ending within the first year after having a baby. Again, no one tells you.
Lack of sleep, grief for old life, resentment towards your partner because they are back at work and enjoying some form of normality and raging hormones are a cocktail for disaster. And during all of this, you’re both trying to learn how to navigate being parents whilst relearning who you are as a couple. And on top of that trying to find time for intimacy, too? Childbirth can affect libido and your body image. This can be difficult for men to understand which can leave them feeling neglected and unwanted. Adding further pressure to an already pressurised situation. Deep breathes.
Then there is mum guilt, which is a killer. From leaving your child for the first time, to working full time and putting your child in nursery. To having a second child and thinking you’re not giving one child the same about of love as the other. Wanting time to be alone and wishing for a break but feeling guilty for not being grateful for this amazing blessing. The list is endless, and it doesn’t get easier.
I don’t want to scare anyone or put you off having children but giving birth is life threatening. Before you start panicking, what I mean is the level of trauma your body endures to deliver a baby is nothing short of torture. However, our bodies were purposefully designed for this, so we keep doing what we gotta do.
Having said that, highlighted in a recent Dispatches documentary- The Black Maternity Scandal, black women are 5 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth. The programme explored the disparities in care that black women receive in comparison to our white counterparts. These devasting statistics led to the formation of the group FiveXmore. They have been campaigning for better maternal outcomes for Black women and they’re petition gained over 187,000 signatures- go laidies. The petition was debated in Parliament earlier this week- you can watch it here.
Unfortunately, the episode didn’t conclude as to why this is the case. However, it was apparent that the treatment of black women is evidently different to other races. Fortunately, I can’t speak to most of the points discussed in the show, as for the most part I had a positive experience. However, sadly, for so many women this is not the case, and some have traumatic births due to the lack of care and poor treatment.
Ladies, please speak up. I know we’re always labelled ‘the angry black women’ but if you’re not happy with the care you’re receiving speak up. Be that angry black women, your life and babies depend on it.
Another sad statistic is that 1 in 10 women experience post-natal depression during the first year of giving birth. And that figure only includes those that receive a diagnosis, who knows how many go undiagnosed. Jamelia, Cardi B and Serena Williams are amongst many women who have openly spoken out about suffering from post-natal depression. As black woman we’re told we have to be strong or that we should keep it to ourselves and don’t “chat our business”. Post-natal depression can get really dark and in some extreme cases can result in some mother’s wanting and actually harming their babies. Ladies, it is not a shame nor crime if you’re suffering and need support. Please if you’re having untoward thoughts or you know in yourself something is not right; reach out to someone and get the help you need. Don’t worry about what anyone else may say, take care of you.
Besides the obvious of having your child. Your pride and joy, your best friend for life, your heartbeat and now your purpose. The first time you meet your child will be engraved in your memory for eternity, as will their first smile, first step, first fall, first day at school and so on. You’ll be in constant awe of your child or children if you decide to have more than one. They will lift you up when you’re low and brighten your day like no one else. They will, and do, push your buttons but at the same time they make your heart skip a beat and will have you smiling for ages.
Motherhood keeps you grounded and focused. When your maternal instinct kicks in, it creates a drive and motivation to go hard, like never before. Motherhood gives you a whole new perspective and gives birth to not only a baby but a new version of yourself. A new chapter in life, one which you can share with your baby.
One of the good things about motherhood that I absolutely love, is being part of what is like an elite clique or secret society. A community that shares an unexplainable bond with unspoken secrets that we all know but never speak of. You become part of a tribe that is united through lived experiences, brutal understanding, and a shared sympathy. The saying you’ll understand when you become a mother is never truer.
As well as this unspoken bond, there is great online community growing. Where mothers are uniting to create a safe space for us black mums to laugh, cry and unite. Changing the narrative of what motherhood is and what it looks like. These spaces are where we can be our unapologetic selves and share battle scars but also to champion motherhood. Where we can inspire each other and help remove barriers and obstacles holding us back from being great. A community where we are reminded that we are women first and how important it is not to forget that. Some of the groups I recommend following include dopeblackmums, blackmumsupfront and mumsandtea.
Motherhood maybe the hardest job in the world but is also the best job EVER.