Reality Bites

When I was a kid I thought I knew exactly how my life would pan out. I’d have a happy marriage, beautiful kids, a nice house and I’d be permanently skinny and tanned. Just like the TV ad families.

When I got married just after I turned 18, I was sure that I was on-track to having the life I’d planned. And 15 months later, when a bubbly blonde little girl made us a family of three I expected her arrival to be the next step towards our perfect life. But I knew something wasn’t right when as a 19 year old having just given birth, I sat there holding my darling little human, feeling empty and confused. Still warm and wet, she snuggled into my bosom. “I’m a mum!” I said. “I can’t believe it, I’m a mum!” I remember saying it over and over in that hazy moment. But I didn’t – couldn’t – feel it. I couldn’t feel the truth of the fact that I was a mum and she was my daughter. I couldn’t feel the warmth and the love they’d said I’d feel.

I could only feel the emptiness.

Days passed into weeks and as our baby entered her second month and my milk still hadn’t come in, we returned to the hospital. I’d retained product and was booked in for a D&C right away. My baby stayed at home with my husband. Things still didn’t feel right.

And when my milk still refused to come, we started feeding her formula. That was when I started to believe that I’d ‘failed’ at being a mum. I had started taking notice of what I considered were my failures. I was a harsh critic.

My memories of this early motherhood season are selective – selected by me – a person who judged herself so very harshly. I was 19 years old; a new wife, a new mum doing her best to make her way in the world and for her child. But all I saw was a failure, someone who didn’t try hard enough or work hard enough. I saw someone who simply wasn’t enough.

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