She felt stretched to capacity – unable to give anymore. The hours of labouring made her feel weary with no energy to go on. Exhausted, hot and intolerant of continuing she screams at those closest. Unable to help, her loved ones stand by willing the pain to move on but knowing it is a necessary part of the process. Knuckles white, she clutches again at the pillow before her. She smoothers her head inside and screams with the next onslaught. When will this end, she feels she can no longer continue. Begging for relief she feels defeated and unable to face the next challenge. If only she could deaden the pain. Not possible – she must continue.
Such is the transition of labour.
Like any transition period, whether it is labour or life in general – it can be painful. As we travel through these parts of our life we often wish for them to end, or never begin in the first place. Unfortunately they are a necessary part of growth and without them we would be ill prepared to move into new stages of our lives.
The transition time of welcoming a new child has been painful for my family. We have struggled together each trying to adjust to a new situation. Nothing prepared me for the change that transpired. No books, discussions with friends or magazine articles could have prepared me for what lay ahead.
My initial transition to motherhood was enormous. I remember struggling with the lack of sleep and time for myself. I felt the constant demand of another human being overwhelming at times, and wondered if I would ever find space for myself again. The change from full time paid work to days full of endless washing and nurturing, was staggering for me to say the least. As time passed however I grew to love this role and embraced it whole heartedly. I resigned from my paid position and willingly devoted myself to parenting my son.
Whilst this transition was a huge life changing event, it wasnt unexpected. I knew that things would be vastly different and was willing to experience the change. What has surprised me however is how ground shaking the transition from one to two children has been.
We all know in theory that any change such as a new baby makes a big difference in the life of a family. Deep down I knew the change would be significant, but did not expect it to really rock the boat. I felt confident in my ability to nurture a baby – after all we were experienced parents now. I felt the change would come and it would take time to adjust but within a few weeks everyone would be back to normal with an additional buddle of joy to share.
Nothing prepared me for my four year olds jealous outbursts. Nothing prepared me for my own emotional upheaval and the depths of despair I felt. Nothing prepared me for my husbands resentment at losing more time together.
After the birth of my second son I experienced an intensity of emotions like I have never known. My moods changed with the breeze as did my ability to cope with the everyday tasks of life. As I rode my hormonal rollercoaster I lost my steadfast ability to support my son though his own transition and so began a destructive ride. I began to feel resentment towards Harry for his need for constant attention and inability to adjust smoothly to his new siblings arrival. I struggled to juggle my time between my children and maintain a home and cooked meals. I grew angry as Harry expressed his pain by hurting his brother. My protective instincts made me want to keep my baby far from his reach thus exacerbating his feelings of isolation. My energy waned, my family struggled.
this is not how it is meant to be!? I kept saying to myself. What happened to my peaceful baby moon and a warm welcome for my precious baby? What happened to my loving son who would embrace a new sibling and his position of being big brother? I had done everything ?right – included him in the pregnancy and birth, attachment parented him so that he had a strong self of attachment, used gentle discipline techniques that allowed him full expression of his feelings and loving guidance. What on earth had gone wrong?
Five months into our journey as a family of four I can reflect with some insight on our transition. Parenting is hard work. It takes ongoing stamina and a willingness to reflect and grow alongside our children. They are our greatest teachers and will often push us to be the parents they need us to be. As they struggle with the challenges of life they dont need us to have all the answers, but rather a willingness to walk alongside them and love them through the hard parts.
The community of special friends and family we belong to has been paramount to our survival. Their loving encouragement and ability to listen as well as frozen dinners and child care has helped create some space to regenerate ourselves and be quietly together without the demands of every day life.
Our ability to let go of ideals when needed has given us permission to experience the fullness of this time, without the pressure of always getting things ?right.
We have learnt to let go of ideals and perfection when it serves only to ?be the right thing to do?. Understanding that family life is full of challenges and that is what it is meant to be – a place to grow and learn together so that we are better equipped to contribute to the broader community.
Whilst during this time I have experienced the heartache of my despair, I have also realised the depths of my strength and capacity as a mother and woman. My children provide me with the opportunity to experience the rawness of my feelings and travel to places I would not otherwise venture. They encourage me to grow in my capacity to guide them and receive the full strength of their emotions. Natural Parenting is not a recipe for perfection but rather an invitation to experience the fullness of life and its opportunities to grow.