Last weekend, I found myself rereading a diary of mine, with letters I wrote to my first-born. I’ve always been a thinker, and the enormity of motherhood certainly hasn’t turned that off. Anxiety is still something I struggle with a lot, but the further down the road I get, the more I realise that I am not alone in this. I wanted to share one of these letters for anyone who feels the same; this is one that I wrote when he was eleven months. We are all just figuring it out as we go along, floundering at times, but doing our absolute best and loving our bubbas more than we could ever have thought possible.
Dear Little Bean,
Emotions are tricky. And right now, while you are going through this huge leap in your language development, such a big part of my job is to give you words for the emotions that you feel. I’m hoping that, as you continue to grow, you’ll feel like all those feelings are valid and are a totally acceptable part of being a human. And so, I talk to you about how I feel too. If something makes me angry, you can see it from a mile away. You can feel it. So I tell you that I am angry and what has made me angry. I’m hoping that you’ll learn that anger is a part of life and that there are appropriate ways of dealing with that feeling. I hope that this will eventually make it easier for you to talk to me about what you are feeling.
I know that it’s important for me to show you that there are ways of dealing with all kinds of feelings, including the tricky ones. So… here it is. Right now I feel horribly, terribly anxious. It is a feeling that sits high up in my stomach; a feeling that makes me cold and shaky; a feeling that makes me want to stop eating, makes me want to pull my knees up to my chin, makes me want to close all the shutters and pull the blanket over my head and stay inside my cave forever. But I am a mother now, a real-live-grown-up woman, and I am learning ways to deal with these feelings in a better fashion. I’m trying to model a different kind of strong and brave, and to soldier on with normal life, taking note of the joyful moments and playing with you, dancing to music with you, going for walks, feeding the ducks and seeing friends with you. I know that shutting myself away won’t make it any better, and it isn’t what I want to teach you.
I dream of you one day becoming a bus driver (you love the red buses!) or a hairdresser (you love twirling my hair!) so that you can spend your days doing something that makes you happy, and helps you avoid the feelings like this yucky one I have now. I have always been a perfectionist, so driven in my ridiculously high expectations of myself, and I don’t want that for you. It is a really hard way to be. And becoming a mother is a recipe for learning that you can never be perfect. Having you has made me feel so incredibly vulnerable, more than I had ever imagined. And yet, I have had to become stronger than ever before, in my need to be a good role model for you. This helps me.
Last night, putting you to bed, I saw that your blue eyes seemed so much bigger than normal. I told you that I love you exactly the way that you are, and that I wouldn’t change a thing about you. And then I caught myself, and thought… is that really true? Wouldn’t I want you to sleep longer? Or to love having your hair washed? Or to let me brush your back teeth without screaming? But no. I do love you exactly as you are. All of those things are part of the whole you. You have your reasons behind everything you do, and I am learning more and more to simply trust you. Pretty soon you will be explaining all the intricacies of your internal world to me, and I can’t wait. And my goodness, how I love all of the you that is in there. It’s true.
By Johanna Sargeant
Photos by Olga Bushkova (www.olgabushkova.com)
Originally from Australia, Johanna and her husband unexpectedly made Zurich their home in 2010, when it was simply too beautiful to leave. Fuelled by her own tumultuous experiences of motherhood with her two young boys, this former English teacher, scientist, writer and musician retrained as an International Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). She runs fortnightly breastfeeding support meetings, teaches prenatal breastfeeding classes and remains very busy providing one-on-one support for mothers throughout Switzerland – while mothering her two little boys and continuing to follow her love of writing and music. Follow her Milk and Motherhood blog and Facebook page.