When grief and motherhood collide

March 2, 2018
grief and motherhood

My Grandad died at the beginning of August, six weeks before my son was due to be born. He had been ill for a long time and in hospital so although sad, it wasn’t totally unexpected. “These things happen in families,” everyone said. “One person dies just as another is preparing to be born”. I believed them.

And then my Dad died.

Dad died of a heart attack very suddenly and unexpectedly. He was a strong outdoorsy man who worked as a walking guide across Europe for a travel company. He died in abroad and the paperwork involved in bringing a body back from a different country delayed the funeral until it became a race against time.

On Monday 19 September 2016, I gave the eulogy at my Dad’s funeral. Four days later, I gave birth to my first child.

This is my experience of grief and motherhood

  • Losing a parent shakes the very core of your being. You lose your foundations and part of who you are. I felt like my roots had been torn from me and I no longer knew who I was.
  • The concept of death is very hard to get your head around. It’s hard to understand that they’ll never get older and they’re stuck in time. I still struggle with it now.
  • It’s true that grief comes in waves. Beyond that though, I was an empty shell of a person and just a body with nothing inside.
  • I had guilt. Guilt of the impact the shock was having on my unborn child. Guilt when he was a newborn that I was failing him as a mother because I was so overwhelmed by grief and the damage this might do to him. And guilt towards the rest of my family because I had invoked the one in one out policy by selfishly deciding to have a child.
  • I spoke to medical professionals because I was worried about postnatal depression and postnatal anxiety. Luckily, I escaped both, which is fortunate as I was offered a paper towel by a GP to dry my tears with and told to come back if I didn’t feel better in a few weeks.
  • I was overwhelmed by panic. If this could happen so suddenly to my Dad, could it happen again? My heart would start beating until it was the only sound I could hear.
  • Grief is really lonely and isolating even though you are not the only one going through it.
  • I honestly thought I would never be happy again.
  • Once the grief became less raw, I struggled with that too. It felt like my feelings and memories were fading and I was losing him all over again.
  • I’m having to navigate a new normal. It’s hard to attend family events without the overwhelming sadness of there being one person missing whilst also celebrating my own new family.
  • People deal with grief in different ways. This has caused issues in my family and arguments which I’m not sure will ever be resolved.
  • Some family members have moved on quicker than me, whilst I’m still coming to terms with it all. I feel like everything is changing and I’m just not ready to yet.
  • So I’m angry. I’m angry at Dad because he caused all of this and now he’s not here to sort it out.
  •  But beyond all of that, I look at my nearly 18-month old son and think how sad it is that he never got to meet his Grandad who would have loved him so much.

10 ways motherhood has changed me

January 20, 2018
10 ways motherhood has changed me

When first thinking about having a baby, I thought about how my life would change. I thought about the sleepless nights, the lack of cash and freedom that comes with having a child. I also questioned my abilities to parent: would I be good enough? Would I be capable to raise a child given I’d never changed a nappy or spent a lot of time with babies?

What I never thought about though was the impact becoming a mum would have on me. How motherhood would change me more than just having a child. The way I felt I had to build a new identity for myself after shedding my old skin and becoming someone else. The old me no longer existed – and I needed to work out who the new me is. Something I’m still growing into.

Motherhood has changed me. Yes, it’s turned my life upside down – in many ways for the better.

10 ways motherhood has changed me

  1. I have a greater sense of purpose. To clarify, I always had a purpose pre-child and pre-relationship and don’t believe having a baby makes you a better human. The difference is now I’m very aware that every penny I earn is providing for my son and the time I spend in the office is for him.
  2. I’m in a permanent state of surprise. My son literally surprises me daily with things he’s learnt and can now do. I love seeing him develop and the pleasure it brings him when he’s mastered something new.
  3. I’m far less judgmental. I’ll admit it; I judged people who I saw in supermarkets giving food to their kids and thought to myself that they should wait until the goods were paid for. I am now the person giving a banana to a screaming toddler. Hypothetical parenting is much easier…
  4. I’m much more empathetic. I’ve always been reasonably tuned into people’s feelings. I’m now I’m on turbo. I also cry a LOT more.
  5. I understand what ‘being in the moment’ means. I’d read so many stories about women setting up successful businesses or writing books on maternity leave, I assumed that would also be me. It wasn’t. I wasn’t capable of much more than getting both of us dressed. But for the first time in possibly forever, I switched off and did nothing more than just be with my baby. I stayed in the moment – and it was good for me.
  6. I’m more patient. My son is 15 months old and switches from one thing to the other all the time. There is nothing else to do other than just go with it. I’m also much more patient with myself. I try not to give myself a hard time if I don’t achieve
  7. I have a sense of perspective. What is the point of worrying about the little things? I leave work in the office and I try not to get bogged down in internal politics. Motherhood has changed me because I now see those things don’t matter.
  8. Guilt is part of my life. I work because I need to financially. If money wasn’t an option though, I would still work because I need to use my brain. I feel guilty that means I’m not a good enough mother. In all honesty, I feel guilty about pretty much everything to do with my son. From what I’ve read, this is pretty standard.
  9. I’m now a routine person. I work for a fairly flexible company and that suited my personality. I loved the fact I could work late one day and finish early another. Now life is totally different. I have to be on the train to pick my son up from nursery and yes, there are days where I’d like to go for a glass of wine with a friend, but mostly I love it.
  10. I’m winging it on a daily basis. I know what I’m doing 50% of the time, the rest of the time I’m making it up. And you know what, I’m ok with that.

Just so we’re clear, I don’t believe being a mother makes you a superior being in life any more so than not being a parent. I don’t like that narrative at all. This is a reflection of my feelings only and what I’ve learnt about myself.

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