Secrets Of The Fourth Trimester: Holly’s story

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I remember all the dreams I had when I was pregnant with my  first baby. As soon as that strip turned pink, that little plastic pregnancy test unleashed a whole new world of memories yet to come to life. It was exhilarating.

There are no words to describe the transformation we go through to become mothers. The body changes are a roller coaster ride, but the emotion

al changes are the most epic ride you will ever take. The promise of that life inside you becomes all-consuming, a capsule of love that belongs only to you and your baby. There is nothing else like it.

In my efforts to follow all the rules, do everything right and simply survive, I had cast aside my own self. Everything that made me, well, me.

I did not do pregnancy well. I hoped I would be a glowing, radiant pregnant woman. Happily belly rubbing while I sat in the soft sunlight. That did not happen.

I was sick. Horribly horribly sick. Every. Damn. Day.

I hated the world. I hated the pregnancy. I hated the warm congratulations from friends and family.

I hated it all.

To make matters worse, I birthed as badly as I carried. Each one of my three bir

ths was complex, painful and downright traumatic.

All in all, it seems I do not do breeding well.

HOPES AND DREAMS

I tell you all of this for a reason (other than to commiserate – I mean, it’s a woeful story right?!). For me, the fourth trimester was a beacon of hope. That light at the end of the tunnel when my baby would be out of my body and I could finally bask in the warm glow of motherhood.

All of my long-awaited dreams hung on this one hope.

And for the most part, I was not disappointed. I loved the early days of mothering. I loved the freedom 

to finally sleep on my stomach again. I felt peaceful with a new baby sleeping on my chest. I relished the tiny onesies and repetitive routine.I reveled in the feeling of fitting back into my jeans (waaaaaay down the track!).

The night feeds and cracked nipples seemed like a minor disappointment compared to the complete train wreck of the pregnancy and birth.

I did not do pregnancy well. I hoped I would be a glowing, radiant pregnant woman. Happily belly rubbing while I sat in the soft sunlight. That did not happen.

It wasn’t until a couple of months in that I realized I had changed.

I was no longer myself. Somewhere in the midst of my transformation into this new life, I had lost my personality. In its place was someone different. Someone flat, disconnected…… beige.

In my efforts to follow all the rules, do everything right and simply survive, I had cast aside my own self. Everything that made me, well, me.

Take pregnancy multivitamins with juice instead of the morning coffee? Yes, sir!

Start pre-natal yoga instead of the boxercise class? You got it.

Stop dying your hair so you don’t accidentally poison the baby in utero? Not a problem.

Replace your quirky wardrobe with maternity jeans and big belly t-shirts? Done and done.

Swap out my social network for mums groups and mid-week playgroups? All over that, ma’am!

I didn’t stop to think of the sum of all these parts. Each decision was individual. That’s what good mothers do, right? Put all of themselves aside for the sake of their babies?

Of course.

But what if……. Well, what if that’s not right after all? What if putting all of ourselves aside actually only ends up in us losing ourselves? What if what our babies really need is for us, as mothers, to put their needs first and ours right alongside them?

What if the best thing for our babies is to keep hold of what makes us unique?

To share who we are with them, instead of losing who we are for the sake of them.

 

REALITY BITES

I envisaged my new life to be pure bliss. Montages of mummy yoga dates, collective nursery rhymes around the mummy playgroup circle and crisp Autumn day park dates ran through my head.

I was fully prepared to be enveloped by the fourth trimester world.

When I arrived there, the world didn’t quite match the highlight reel I had played to myself. You know what though? It wasn’t earth shattering. I adjusted to the reality of broken conversations, playing “guess who has the dirty diaper” and village parenting.

I am a non-conformist. I am a rule breaker. I am a glass ceiling pusher. I am depth and authenticity.  I become homicidal when I am forced to talk about the weather.

It is a chaos that does not dissipate as your children grow older. At least, I haven’t seen it change yet. But hey, I’m only 10 years in. There is still time.

I thought I was doing so well. Everything was under control; Until I went to sleep each night. I would lay my head down, hoping for the sweet surrender of sleep (in a new world order of sleep deprivation) and instead, I would feel incomplete.

Was the baby happy? He was.

Was the baby healthy? He was.

Was my husband still sane? Marginally.

What was wrong with me?

It took me far too long to find the answer. I blame it on the slight loss of frontal lobe function that comes after pregnancy (keep that happy little side effect in mind if you haven’t had kids yet!) but really, it was simply because I had been focusing so hard on keeping my baby happy and fitting in with the other mums, that I had no space for inspecting my own emotional health.

The answer was so obvious. It was literally staring me in the face.

I had made myself into a mother. I had molded my personality, my social networks and my sense of style into exactly what I believed a mother looks like.

Mum jeans. Messy buns. Play dates. Small talk.

Never serious. Never deep. Conversations must only be about the babies.

Don’t stand out. Conform. Don’t be different. Be normal. Don’t be noticed. Blend into the background.

Except……. This just is not me. I am a non-conformist. I am a rule breaker. I am a glass ceiling pusher. I am depth and authenticity.  I become homicidal when I am forced to talk about the weather.

I am not a normal mother.

BREAKING THE BARRIER

This one realization blew my world right open.  Suddenly, I was not beige. I was the mother of all rainbows.

I messaged my old friends and booked in coffee dates. I began discussions at playgroup about topics that were important to me. I asked people how they were. I asked about their backgrounds, their passions, their struggles.

I made my world real again. I took silly selfies with my baby and put them on social media. I started wearing makeup again.I began to integrate my love of vintage fashion again, piece by piece. A skirt here, a dress there. Cute cardigans and 70s jeans.

I colored my hair. Pink. Blonde. Blue. Fire hydrant red. I molded myself again and again. This time, the molding was into the new version of myself. Not the version of a mother I thought I should be.

It was like oxygen after I had cut off my own supply.

There is so much in being a mother. It is mayhem and chaos, exhilarating highs and gut wrenching fears, love and joy and pain and triumph.  It is more than you ever imagined it would be. And the only way to survive it, heck, to thrive in it, is to keep a firm hold on yourself.

Don’t give up your uniqueness to fit the mother-mold.

In the end, you give your child and yourself, such a precious gift simply by being who you are.

ABOUT THE WRITER

Holly Herbig is a 30-something mother of 3 marvellous kidlets. She lives in Canberra, Australia, loves a great cup of coffee and rarely has normal coloured hair. She is the owner and writer of Vintage Courage, a blog about vintage fashion and empowering women to find their own confidence. As well as writing about fashion, she also covers vintage beauty, lifestyle and DIY, all with a light-hearted humour and can-do attitude. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

You can follow Holly’s journey at www.vintagecourage.com. 

you can also read other maternal mental health stories here.

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Nikki is a thirty-something-year-old AZ native girlfriend & mama who hopes to create a safe space for women; helping to cultivate honest dialogue and end the stigma surrounding maternal mental health.

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