Highest Highs & Lowest Lows
Words by Anna Jones
Motherhood. I’m three years in, and I still haven’t even begun to work out what it’s all about. Nothing I’ve done in my near-40 years on this planet has been filled with such contrast.
Of course there are great highs: the limitless love, the sense of connection, the unmatched dedication to the point where you’d give your next breath. But there’s also the sleep so broken your eyes feel bathed in acid, the questioning so deep because it revolves around a little human who’s still part of you. These two sides of the story are woven together like threads on a quilt.
I think for a while I was confused, almost incredulous, that my friends hadn’t clued me in to all this. No one took the time to explain the heart-expanding, ground-shaking change that a little one brings. But when I sit in front of a friend who is pregnant with their first baby I find it hard to explain, too.
You can’t fully describe what it feels like to wake up a child each morning with a heart bursting with love, even though they have woken you up so many times you can no longer recall basic vocabulary.
I’ve experienced motherhood like a second adolescence. It has made me question every facet of who I am. This has been unexpected. I’ve always felt a capable person and I’ve wanted a child since I held my first doll at age five or six.
I coo annoyingly at babies in cafes, so I thought I would add one to the gang with ease. I imagined travelling around Burma with my newborn on maternity leave, him gurgling next to me as I cooked. In reality, I found going to the corner shop quite a big deal, for quite a few months.
For me, motherhood has been no joke. Blazing glory and heady joy combined with the lowest of lows. It wasn’t until I read a passage in a book about postnatal depression that it all added up. My brain was out of balance, and I hadn’t allowed myself the space to see what was happening.
How could I have seen – among the nappies, the bedtimes, the emails, the Instagram posts, the books and the business of what I do? What all women do? But it was there, and eventually it rose to the surface.
I’m proud to be a person who sees the positive in all situations, so for me this was a hard place to inhabit. Somehow I felt like these feelings – of sadness, of worthlessness, of incompetence – dampened the glow of my love for my son and the wonder of his being.
It took me a long time to be comfortable with the fact that these things were separate; that being a mother didn’t mean I would always be bulletproof; and that feeling down was not a reflection on my love for my son. Not admitting it – that’s the thing that is damaging
I have – with the support of my incomprehensibly patient, at times saintly, husband, supportive family and some incredible women and friends – been able to navigate it all.
I’ve begun to understand what happened and to be able to talk about it.
It astounded me to learn that one in four mothers suffer with postnatal depression in some way. I’m sure huge numbers more feel depleted and at times unable to cope.
Motherhood has opened me up. If I was only playing scales on one octave before, now I’m up and down the 88 keys and seven octaves every single day. My top notes are higher and my bass notes are lower.
With daily practice, the lows have become mere moments while the highs are symphonies stretching for far, far longer than before. I’ll never be the same again, and I owe it to you, little Dylan, for teaching me more in your three years on this earth than any other being ever will.
I cherish every damn second, good or bad, because they are all making me the woman I never knew I could become.