A vast number of new parents – especially mums, who go through so much more before the child is even born – struggle with a major and permanent change in their entire lifestyle and identity. In a peculiar way, I am very lucky: I’d already had my self-identity and life utterly destroyed by seven years of mental illness, so having a baby actually made me much better off (because I have a meaningful purpose once again, and it so happens that minding a baby is something I handle about as well as the average. Being average feels like superman to me, so I win).
One of my minor obsessions is disabusing new writers of the notion that they’re about to become rich and famous, and the latest expression of that obsession was somewhat tactless and made several people on a writing forum quite angry. It always freaks me out to have anyone mad at me, and it made me think about what kind of person I am, and what kind of person I want to be. After much thought, I reckon that (s)mothering/teaching has always been a huge part of who I am, and for better or worse my often-patronising urge to help others is never going to go away. Luckily I finally have an appropriate target for my maternal instincts.
The last couple of Wednesday blogs have probably given some indication of my stress levels – Louisette is sleeping about seven hours at night, which is great for her age but not actually enough for me to be physically or mentally okay.
CJ and I are deciding whether or not to buy a house this year – which is absolutely awesome, but the uncertainty and the financial burden-to-be are hugely stressful, particularly since we have financial surprises falling like bombs around us (in other news, having our ceiling replaced last week wasn’t fun; our landlady is selling our flat).
I recently had a frankly miraculous weight gain: three kilos in under a week. I can account for one kilo (time of the month) and perhaps another (chocolate – but I really wasn’t that bad, and I did plenty of exercise). Three at once was a huge shock. That’s it for me until Spring: I’ve had too many weight loss failures this year, and it’s clear my body just isn’t up to it (I get headaches every time I cut down my chocolate intake). I’m devastated that I still look four months pregnant, but the only logical choice is to treat this time as yet another non-returnable gift from Mother Nature and just live with it rather than wasting myself in a fight I can’t win. Things may change in Spring, when losing weight doesn’t make me wake up shivering at 3am. But as far as my physical self goes, I probably don’t have much choice about the end result. I will always look pretty sh– pregnant. That is not a helpful thing to deal with, and certainly alters my self-image as a whole.
Right now my body is giving me a bunch of weird aches and pains (I find myself walking with a limp, etc) which I figure is a stress thing. Louisette remains a very easy baby and in some ways the least stressful part of my life – but this is probably the most stressful time CJ and I have been through, and it’s all coming to a head. I really don’t handle uncertainty well at all – I guess that’s another part of me that isn’t changing anytime soon. Will we move to a new house, with a yard for Louisette to faceplant in happily? Or will we be thrown out of our current flat and end up somewhere that’s smaller and costlier? We have a rental contract until January, but we may have a different landlord by then. Until now, our landlady has given us nothing but peace and security. It was hugely beneficial for my mental health, and I was improving (just ask CJ) – but home is not a safe place any more.
I know I’m a lot happier and saner since having Louisette, but right now my mental state is like a frozen lake with cracks in it: it might hold, and it might not. Louisette’s existence does mean the stakes are higher than ever before – but if the ice shatters I know exactly what to do: 1. Put the baby in the cot and walk away. 2. Tell CJ.
Our biggest stress may actually be resolved this week – or it may get worse. Nobody knows.
I look forward to finding how much sanity I end up with when I have a settled home and eight hours’ sleep a night. I may actually be able to get a real job one day (probably when kid #2 starts school – and kid #2 doesn’t exist yet). Either way, I have choices about who I am and who I want to be. It’s like a reboot of the teenage years, except this time I feel in control (with the exception of my body, which hates me as much as I hate it – but it functions all right, so I guess that’s the main thing).