The first few months of motherhood were some of the hardest and most testing of my life. You can never really prepare yourself for the lack of sleep, the crying, the mess and the sacrifices you make for your little bundle of joy.
Maternity leave is a very isolating time for new mothers. And yes, there are so many magical moments thrown in with the tough ones, but even the magical ones are a lot to take in. Your days are made up of a rollercoaster of emotions, with many highs and many lows. There are no medium vanilla moments, none of life’s mediocrity that helps us to feel balanced.
I got through those first few months of my daughter’s life, went back to work and here I am, three years later, looking at myself with new eyes. I am fitter, healthier and stronger than I’ve ever been. I manage two jobs that I absolutely love, live in my dream home – a small house bordering a nature reserve with duikers and tortoises frequenting the garden fence that borders a reserve.
I have a good marriage after a very trying few years, a great family support structure and a wonderful group of friends. If only I could have seen into the future during those dark days when my daughter had colic would scream for hours on end; the days when she wouldn’t sleep unless she was attached to my boob in our bed, with my one arm lifted up so that she could fall asleep on my boob. This was the only way for us to get any sleep.
Gone are the days of running around the garden with her in a baby sling while she screamed and resisted daytime sleeping. Any excursion was a stressful one, with lots of screaming and crying (both from me and her). I would stand in the middle of Woolies with my daughter screaming in her pram and onlookers would give me their best sympathetic eye. I felt like all I was a bad mother, and I wasn’t even doing a very good job at that.
I now realise that I had to go through it all. The crying. The mess. The lack of sleep. The poo. The loss of myself. I had to go through it, because it’s now not only made me a wonderful mother, but a better person too. I realise now that motherhood isn’t just given to you the moment your child is born; it’s something that is earned. And damn, you’ve got to earn it!
“I realise now that motherhood isn’t just given to you the moment your child is born; it’s something that is earned. And damn, you’ve got to earn it!”
When I went back to work after maternity leave, I was still getting barely any sleep, and was running on some sort of autopilot, amazed at how a human can actually survive on a mere two to three hours of broken sleep a night. Co-workers would sometimes moan about something trivial, like the water not working or the dishwashing liquid running out. I’d stare at them, trying to sympathise, but realising that trivial things are just that – trivial.
That’s not to say that small things don’t bother me anymore, of course they do. But I can see the bigger picture now. I can see that life is about love, wonderful, hard love. And when you’ve got that, the smaller stuff will work itself out.
Having a baby scream non-stop for three hours and not doing something regrettable teaches you a self-awareness and discipline that you never knew existed in you before. Waiting for your toddler to put on her own shoes before school in the morning teaches you more patience than anything else in the world.
I’ve only been doing this motherhood thing for three years, so I know that there are many more trying times ahead, especially in the teenage years, but I also know that we will get through them in the same way that we got through those first few months. We are all growing and learning, and my daughter has taught me more in her three years of being alive than I learnt in the 29 years before that.
I know my limits. I know what I’m capable of. I know how to squeeze a million tasks into one day and I know how to survive on two hours of sleep a night. I know hope to prioritise in my life and I know how to love unconditionally.
As a health and wellness coach, Saskia V is the owner of Whole Again Health, a holistic business that offers health and wellness consulting, nutritional advice, personal training and sports massage therapy. She is an expert in the field of health and wellness, and can speak confidently on any topics relating to this area. Saskia has been nominated for two MTN Radio Awards and is currently the weekday lunchtime presenter on Mix93.8fm.