Ever since the minute my first child was born, EVERYTHING about being a mum has been NOTHING like I expected. I can't ignore or deny there have been some pleasant surprises over the years, however I have a pretty good feeling my postnatal depression was impacted on the most (perhaps even caused by) how unexpected a lot of things were.
I always knew labour would be hard but I didn't expect to feel so uncomfortable and so exhausted and for it to go on for as long as it did. I was expecting to fall in love with my daughter immediately... but I didn't. I didn't look into her eyes and burst into tears of joy. I was too distracted by the reality that labour had ended, at last.
I expected breast feeding would be a piece of cake. I went to the classes and joined the Breast Feeding Association. I read the books and bought the feeding bras. Wow - I wasn't expecting the pain on day 3 when my boobs turned to rock solid balls of steel and were so heavy I couldn't even lift myself out of bed without getting help. I was expecting my baby to just look around, sniff, feel and latch - like the baby did in the video we watched in our antenatal classes. Nope... not even close. She had no idea... I had no idea... it wasn't what I expected.
I expected to enjoy being a mother more than I did. I expected to get more sleep than I did. I expected my husband to say certain things to me... but he didn't. There was a lot I was expecting... and a lot I wasn't expecting.
I wasn't expecting to feel so depressed for no apparent reason. I wasn't expecting to find it so hard to leave the house. I wasn't expecting all the daytime tv I watched... and all the middle of the night trash. I wasn't expecting to feel so exhausted all the time. I wasn't expecting to miss my old life. I wasn't expecting to wish I could go back to the way things were before...
I've learnt a lot since then. I've learnt (or at least I'm working on it) to adjust my expectations in life.
I'm not expecting my pre-baby body to return - she's gone and gone forever. Yes, I can make good food choices and exercise, however if I expect by doing that I will look like I did when I was training for a triathlon at the ripe age of 32, then I'll only end up getting disappointed.
My first mother's day was a big disappointment because I was expecting the day to be a certain way, and it wasn't. Again I expected my husband to say certain things to me, and he didn't. I expected to be made to feel like a female warrior - strong, resilient, amazing - but I wasn't. And that isn't anyone's fault. My husband loves me and made sure I knew it on the day... it was because of my own expectations.
When I take my kids to mass, I no longer expect to sit in peace with 2 quiet toddles beside me. In fact I no longer even expect to make it to the end of the service. Then, if by some chance I do, it's a bonus!
This Christmas, I knew would be busy and chaotic. 9 adults and 3 very crazy kids in my mum's lovely yet very small house = mayhem! I don't cope with mayhem too well these days. If anything is going to flare up my anxiety, it's mayhem. The me last year would have expected well behaved kids who ate their lunch quietly without any fuss and compliant adults who spoke in hushed tones and agreed to not play any games or watch any tv while my 2 kids slept. I would have expected the day to run smoothly. But I'm not that person anymore. I am learning to adjust my expectations. This year instead I went to my mum's house and expected noise - so when I got noise, I was prepared. I expected tantrums - so when they happened, I was prepared. I expected an interrupted sleep for my baby - so when he didn't sleep along as usual, I was prepared.
Adjusting expectations. It's not easy and it takes time. But the more I do it, the less I'm disappointed. I can't take credit for this quote - actually I don't know who said it first, but they said it perfectly... "The key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should be."