We Are All Mothers
“Time and its limitations are emphasized when you have a child. You want to prioritize time to yourself, you want to prioritize time as a couple, you want to prioritize time together as a family. It can be very difficult to balance these things with the demands of life.” - Chloe L.
I’ve known Chloe since we were children. We grew up just a few houses away from each other and spent countless hours together, especially walking down to the beach at the end of the road. Chloe has always been a friend that I’ve felt close to, no matter how much time or distance has come between us. The hours we spent together as teenagers during some very emotional times for both of us created a bond of friendship I am eternally grateful for. When I started this project and Chloe came to me saying she was interested I was absolutely thrilled. Chloe is an incredible artist and writer and she has one of the most beautiful souls.
We got together at her family’s home early in the morning and did some photos of her and her son, and then did some breastfeeding photos as well to commemorate their breastfeeding journey. We chatted about motherhood and how it was going and it truly was so wonderful to reconnect with one another.
A topic that I think most mothers (and parents) can agree up on is that there never seems to be enough time. Time is so fleeting, especially as we grow older and have our own children. So often we must sacrifice time to ourselves, our relationships, friendships, work, you name it. It’s become such a norm in society for women to give all of themselves to their children, partners, work, education, etc. that time to ourselves usually is one of the last things we think of. However, it is one of the most crucial parts of being a mom/parent that so many of us overlook.
I received Chloe’s responses to some of the questionnaires that I provided for this project and I truly resonated with so much of her story. Chloe and her partner both underwent major life changes; one being an illness and the other of transitioning into parenthood.
Below is some of Chloe’s story she has been so generous to share with us all.
“During my pregnancy I recall feeling extremely distracted. I wished the only thing required of me was to lay in a comfortable position and read about all things baby and birth related, or day dream about what I would eat next. When I was half way through my pregnancy my partner became very ill. His condition was concerning to the point I didn’t often think about being pregnant at all for many months. There was some amount of social anxiety. He did not look well. I was getting increasingly pregnant. There were days of sadness and worry and we got a taste of the sleep deprivation that was to come. Eventually he received a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease, but it would be months before he was out of excruciating pain. Fortunately my prenatal doctor agreed to take my partner on as a patient and I was able to talk to her about the whole experience: the joy of watching my belly grow with our child, and the stress of watching my partner unable to sleep or eat. I don’t think I spoke much about this experience while I was in it. After the birth of our son, and with my partner on a medication that deals with most of his symptoms, I am able to share more about what that time was like. It was intense. We were both so vulnerable. Constantly balancing our own and each other’s physical needs. When our son was born, my partner took our parental leave and we both were able to be home with our son for months. We were both able to heal.”
“I have struggled to some extent with anxiety and mood disorders in the time since having my son. I love being a mother. I love him so intensely. I love my life at this time. Still some days when I have not cared for myself or felt cared for, when I have had little sleep, or little time to think and reflect it can be difficult to maintain my mental health. I feel like I have had to work harder since having my son to keep anxiety at bay. I am self-employed and balancing work and life can be really challenging with a new baby: when you’re work hours are fluid and you are self-directed. It can be a challenge with the time constraints of having a small child to balance working, self-care, and housework in the little time I have alone. I have realized it requires about a equal division in thirds of these three things to sustain happiness and productivity. Breastfeeding, worth noting, is as a major contribution to my wellbeing. The chemical responses in the brain during this time of closeness, skin-to-skin, and forced rest have done wonders to ease my chaotic mind. I have learned to be highly productive in the windows of time I have alone, and I have learned to be deeply at peace and present in the moments with my son.”
“My partner and I bonded in new ways during the pregnancy with his illness and again as we fell in love with our son. It was a transition of care and attention that he handled very gracefully. I see how this causes a lot of tension in relationships. I am grateful we spent many (eight) years together before our son joined us. We have high levels of trust and intimacy that provided us both with a sense of security despite trying and sometimes distant times. For the first half of our son’s first year, he was on a journey to health, and I immersed in new motherhood. We were fortunate to share the home for months and assist each other as we could: making meals together, driving to doctors appointments together, and spending many hours staring into our the eyes of our new child. The level of physical intimacy between mother and child is extreme. I think fathers miss out in some ways in the beginning. I try to remember this and be inclusive and encourage his engagement with me and with our son. Time and its limitations are emphasized when you have a child. You want to prioritize time to yourself, you want to prioritize time as a couple, you want to prioritize time together as a family. It can be very difficult to balance these things with the demands of life. I think after a year and half I think we are no longer transitioning to parenthood and it feels settled as though it has been that way for almost always. Falling in love with your child does change your love with your partner. I love my partner more than I did before. But I also love my child in a way that is incomparable. Sharing this fact brings us closer.”
Some of the things Chloe shared with us, such as dealing with a partner having a life changing illness, being constrained for time to self, relationships, work, etc. as well as struggling with anxiety can all be huge factors on how our transition into motherhood either thrives or holds us back.
We live in a society that pushes all of us to our maximum extent. We work endless hours, whether that be in the house, or outdoors, or in an office. We have relationships that go through a continuum of highs and lows, and when you add in an illness or a major life transition, such as having a baby these factors can really cause a sense of overwhelm and anxiety.
One thing that is so important is taking time aside for yourself during the day. Burnout is a real thing, and anyone can experience it. Men and women both need to ensure they are taking care of themselves because in order to fully care for our children we must first be taken care of ourselves. During the fourth trimester especially, accept all the help you can. Depending on the type of person you are (I am very much a do it myself type of person) it can be so hard to accept that we need help, but oh it can make all the difference. Take time for your relationships. Your children did not just appear out of thin air, it took the love between two people to create them and both parents deserve to spend time with one another. Remember that it is a journey, while you may have birthed a baby overnight, it will take time to become accustomed to this new life, love, emotions, body, etc. We don’t just learn to love another human being when we have a baby, we learn to love a new person within ourselves.
If you or your partner are struggling with anxiety, overwhelm, stress, etc be sure to find someone you are comfortable talking to. Accept help, ask for help and remember to take time for yourself during the day, even if it is just 30 minutes. The dishes, laundry, vacuuming can wait. Work can wait 15 minutes. Enjoy a few extra minutes in the shower, or drink your tea slowly. You deserve to. Join a parenting group, spend time outdoors and just remember to take things slow. Time itself can cause a lot of anxiety, but even though time seems to be flying by it is important to stop and remember to drink up these moments. They may be long and exhausting but they do get better.
Chloe, thank you for sharing your story with us. You are brave, strong and you truly have such a beautiful soul. I know that so many other people will read your story and truly resonate with so many of the things you said. This project is about building community, and I thank you for being a part of this. Your story will touch many and give hope and light to others.
Below is a list of helpful links/resources within our community.
https://www.prcyfss.com - Powell River Child Youth and Family Support Services
https://www.familyfriendlypowellriver.ca/listing/cranberry-child-development-and-family-resource-centre/ - Cranberry Child Development and Family Resource Centre
http://prepsociety.org/familyplace/ - Family Place
Healthy Babies Drop-in - Public Health Nurse available. Thursdays 1:30-3:30 @ Powell River Community Health Unit - 604-485-3310