Splitting selves


I promised to delve right into it in my opening piece, so here we are, deep end in I go. i wanted to emphasise once more that everything I write is completely subjective, and perhaps it strikes a chord with you, or it it totally doesn't. So let's start at the beginning, or 'here', chronologically ...  

... Here I am on a beach in Cape Town, five weeks postpartum, looking content alright. Beneath that holiday half smile is a scheduled cry, hitting me at two hour intervals. Based on my ability to roll with the punches and always land on my feet pre-birth, I thought it a good idea to pack up so soon after and fly home South to warmth and friends. In theory this panned out. But beneath the exultant joy of presenting my freshy to friends and family I was shellshocked, and I felt vacuous to say the least. I think back on my first six months as a time of profound disconnect that no amount of company could have consolidated for.  I was trying my best to put on a brave face to whatever came flying my way, while on inside I felt like my being was being drawn out by the seat of my pants (third degree birth injuries will do that to you). Show me one first time mother who doesn't feel similarly at some point, right? My plight: why did no one take me aside to prep me for these tumultuous times, and that they would last for, what felt like, a lifetime? I found it particularly hard to open up and connect with mothers and other women without a sense of ungratefulness, when I have a perfectly healthy baby, feeling shameful to admit that what I thought would come so naturally I found (and often still find) profoundly hard. As girls we are taught early on to second guess ourselves: our strength, our own safety (and how we contribute towards compromising it) our emotional expression, our self-reliance and our ability to listen to, and sit comfortably in our own bodies. Nothing confronts a woman with her bodily, emotional, mental and spiritual limits like giving birth, and becoming caregiver. I feel that so much of the hard, gory facts surrounding pregnancy, birth and postpartum have been cast in secrecy. We have been expected to deal with our emotions and hormones in a non-messy, digestible fashion, accessible to partners and peers, but definitely not to be expressed beyond the inexplicable. I always knew that there was an über Mother within me, and I relied on her to gallantly carry me into my new role. And when the time came I felt a deep assault to my being. Tending towards an overly critical perception of myself on a good day, I couldn't consolidate the new me with a sense of identity that resembled old me, and it drove over-analytical me to the edge. 

I recently came across this quote: "You will become a graveyard of all the women you once were, before you rise one morning embraced by your own skin. You will swallow a thousand different names before you taste the meaning held within your own." Had I had a chat to myself before the baby came along I would have said: 'girl, please go easy on yourself. Allow yourself to come undone, because you will be a new person, one you have never met before. Be gentle in getting to know her, and don't force the friendship. It will come.  You are vulnerable but not powerless. Please don't engage in the news, or any violent content. It's nice to travel, but it is also vital to hide in your baby haze cave for a few months to totter, if that makes you feel better. Don't worry about putting on your face in the morning, or do it if it makes you feel more put together. Do whatever YOU need to recenter. trust your intuition, don't doubt your own process, and don't answer to anyone but yourself. Also, please don't bikini shop online on three hours of sleep, because you will feel like a polony in it when trying it on two weeks later. And for God sakes, don't expect to master this, it's so much bigger than you. Choose happiness over perfectionism.' It reads like a personal mantra list; it is. One I'm still working at and trying to embody eight months later.