There’s one thought that keeps coming to my mind with this whole motherhood caper, and it’s the idea that this whole thing, from pregnancy to having the baby in your arms, is all about letting go. Sometimes I’ve thought of it as surrender, and it’s also accepting what is, as opposed to what isn’t, or how you think things should be.
Much of my pregnancy felt like it was about things I couldn’t do, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink – a real focus on what was taken away, or wasn’t possible, rather than what was there, and what was happening. So much of what I considered an important part of ‘me’ – my work, exercise, drinking wine, eating anything that stayed still long or couldn’t beg for mercy – was taken away. Or at least it felt like it was taken away, rather than just put on hold. I struggled against this internally quite a lot on reflection, I really didn’t enjoy not being able to order whatever I felt like off a menu, and I didn’t like not being able to go at full throttle like I used to. I didn’t like losing control of my body either, although once I did embrace my expanding figure, I loved the bump. It was the only time in my life I’ve been able to wear really tight clothes and let it all hang out. When I write “I didn’t like not being able to eat what I wanted, when I wanted” it really sounds quite childish. Is it such a big deal not to have my food desires met at all times? So I really had to get my head around the whole acceptance of where my life was at – comparing something as trivial as not being able to do a spin class, when the pay off is something as wonderful as having a baby really seems pretty shallow. At the time I thought I was getting good at accepting the situation, but as life went along I realised I really wasn’t.
Then there was Bunny’s birth. I tried everything to change the situation of her being breech. I didn’t want surgery, I didn’t want an epidural – I was so focused on the things I didn’t want (and feared). And of course that’s exactly what was put on my plate – going in to labour with my obstetrician away meant that a c-section was guaranteed. Hello surgery, hello epidural. I was so sure that because my motives were good (I figured a natural birth was best for Buns and for me), then the universe should really do the right thing by me and give me what I want. But instead I was given reality, which, by the my own hippy thinking (which I’ve inflicted upon plenty of you) I needed to recognise as “what is meant to be, will be”. For some reason, Bunny wanted to be born that way. She didn’t want to put her head down and get pushed out, and she didn’t want to be pushed out bum-first either. I think it was at this point that I slowly started to twig at what it really meant to let go of control.
It’s not like letting go of control means not caring. It’s just that I realised I had to stop swimming against the tide. Just because I wanted something, didn’t mean I should get it. It’s even harder to swallow when you believe the thing you want is based on good, sound, best-start-in-life type reasoning.
As the weeks roll on with Josie and being her mum, I keep being brought back to this idea of letting go. I’ve been such a control freak in so many ways up til now (when I think about it, even my old job was the perfect fit for a control freak, albeit one who could know when not to care for the sake of their health), it’s quite a change when your whole life becomes one out of control sideshow. I had no say in how Josie was born, and I had no say when I had low milk supply (which I still do). I have no say on a daily basis – whether that’s how long I spend in the shower, if I get to go for a walk, go to the shops, get a nap and so on. But finally it’s not really bothering me. It’s a wonderful sense of relief when you start accepting reality, rather than struggling to change it. Don’t get me wrong – I still think it’s worth trying to change things, and if I had another breech baby I’d go through acupuncture, yoga, reflexology, an ECV and visualisation all over again, but the difference is how much strain you put on yourself in the process of trying to get this change. More of a mindset than just kicking back and being a passenger.
I’ve been reading Buddhism for Mothers, and one of the tenets of Buddhism is not doing the guilt thing. Which doesn’t give you licence to behave like a hard-hearted jerk, it’s just about recognising where you stuff up, thinking how to do it better next time, and moving on. What baby needs a mum who is beating herself up about being overweight (okay I’ve totally not mastered this one, but you get the point)? The guilt thing is the same as letting go for me, the same as living in the present. Which reminds me of the whole dogs and babies thing. Dogs live in the present and so do babies – the dog doesn’t hold a grudge if you fed him three hours late (ooops) the same way the baby doesn’t care if you took ages to realise she had a dirty nappy. It’s a really nice way to live.
Anyway that’s sort of where I’m getting to with being a mum. And hopefully I can get better at letting go, accepting what is real, and not feeling bad about stuff. And wouldn’t that be nice?