Almost a year ago, a beautiful little girl was born.
During her pregnancy, as her Mama’s belly grew and bloomed, and her arrival approached, we all waited eagerly for the news of her safe entrance to this world.
When the call came, I wept with joy at work, for the gift of life, and the miracle of birth. That day, I had already helped to welcome a dear little boy into his parents arms, and I was filled with gratitude for that experience. My oxytocin levels were sky high as I sat down to fill out his paperwork. And then the phone call came, and I knew that she was here, this precious darling we had been waiting for, and that she, her Mama and her Daddy were beginning a journey so incredible, I couldn’t begin to verbalise it.
Once again, I got to become Aunty Rysie, and just like that, my heart opened up a brand new spot, just for her.
One year ago tomorrow, this precious little soul came along, to enchant us with her sweet and bubbly personality, her gummy smiles, and her delightful chubby cheeks.
And one year ago, somewhat in the shadow of the excitement of welcoming this incredible newborn into the world, another equally miraculous happening occured:
A mother was born.
You know, we don’t tend to talk much about the birth of a mother. It seems that amidst the childbirth preparation, and the breastfeeding education, the safe sleeping guidelines, and the maternity appointments, it is somewhat overlooked.
But it really is a thing – this maternal psychological, emotional and physical transition following pregnancy and childbirth – and there is an actual term for it, and it appears most acutely during the first twelve months of motherhood, but continues, basically, forevermore.
It’s called Matrescence, and just like childbirth, it’s full of challenging contractions, and moments of self doubt, coupled with the realisation of raw strength and power, introversion, reflection and vulnerability.
The contractions aren’t felt in the uterus during the birth of the mother, but rather in the heart, as we grapple with our sense of self in the midst of a new role, questioning our ability to carry this responsibility, learning to trust our intuition, and discovering where we stand in our newly redefined relationships.
The words “I can’t do this” are even more common during Matrescence than they are during childbirth, but the difference is that they are rarely spoken out loud during the birth of the mother. They are whispered in the dead of night, to no one, and written in journals, and maybe, just maybe, confidentially uttered to a friend. For you see, we expect to be born into motherhood knowing what to do.
But the knowledge, and the growth can only come when the heart has given way to the birthing process, and even then when we think it’s all done, the afterpains can be shockingly raw for years to come.
It can get ugly, as we judge ourselves for the multitude of ways we feel as though we’ve done wrong. But it’s also incredibly beautiful, as we watch our children thrive and grow, and know intrinsically that we played a huge role in that.
Unlike childbirth, there’s no regularity or predictability to the labour pains felt during the birth of the mother. They come randomly, and vary in their intensity, but they almost always cause us to stop in our tracks.
We look at our new bodies, in awe of what they’ve created, but in bemusement of the marks, and skin, and it’s new shape, left in the wake of creating life. Our favourite pants don’t fit, but there’s no way we are going to buy new clothes for these new curves. Nuh-uh. We aren’t ready for that shift yet. It’s all trackpants and maternity singlets until we figure out what to do with extra junk in the trunk, and not to mention the new set of Pammy Anderson’s on our front. It’s all about giant maternity undies that suck the belly in, and don’t put too much pressure on the tender bits, and honest to God, if there’s ever been something to prioritise, THIS IS IT.
We look at our partners snoring in bed, as we sit awake feeding the baby, cursing them on one hand for their redundant nipples and obscene ability to sleep through the baby snuffles and grunts that keep us awake, while simultaneously loving the shit out of them for the way they supported us in childbirth, the way they bring us coffee and the way they love this baby so immensely. Then we remember how they got the baby all excited at bathtime, when it should have been wind down time, so the little ratbag wouldn’t sleep, and then we are back to hating on their snoring heads.
Somehow, coffee with friends just got really hard. We are awake at weird times, and we might be desperately lonely, but so, so often, the sleep deprivation wins out, and it’s another pyjama day at home. Or maybe we’ve spent the past fortnight gearing up for a girl’s night – shaved the legs, washed the hair, maybe even bunged on some fake tan, only for the night to arrive to find us sitting in the Emergency Department with a toddler with croup, and we realise that what we want to do is sometimes in direct opposition to what we need to do. And it can hurt.
We spend months, hell, YEARS waiting for the baby not to need us so intensely, waiting for the chance to regain ourselves back, just a bit. Then we cry when we return to work because we miss them so much, forget how to hold a conversation that doesn’t include them at least once, and feel on the verge of tears when the little bugger reaches for daddy at bedtime. Who even ARE we without these little people??
Our firstborn starts highschool. Wait, what?? STOP!!!!
To my dear friend, who has just about completed that first year with absolute grace. To her partner, who has been both her rock and the snoring head in the bed. And to sweet baby A, who always reaches for daddy.
You are so loved, and we are so proud of you all.