Some days …
Some days I look at that door and imagine leaving. Some days I try and picture what my life would be if i’d not had children. Some days all i want to do is go back in time. Then I feel guilty. All the time I feel such overwhelming guilt for thinking things contrary to the ´motherhood is perfect´ideal that so many people perpetuate, or wanting something that I – as a mother of two beautiful children – shouldn’t want.
Getting dressed would be a great start!
The guilt started when I was pregnant. My first pregnancy was an accident that happened with a man I hadn´t known long and who I wasn´t formally committed to. I felt the first lashings of guilt as I wondered how we could get this to work – was I being too selfish? – and how the flying heck was I going to be able to care for a newborn when I was terrified of the things and had the uncanny ability to make them cry. I obsessed over everything during that first pregnancy – I only ate certain foods, omitted everything else that could bring some kind of risk to my growing fetus, exercised, read up on the benefits of Mozart for babies, sang to my stomach, played my flute and regular recordings of Chilean music (I went back to NZ), planned my natural homebirth (best start for baby, right?), stocked up on organic and all-natural everything, made my own babywipes (no chemicals for my son!) and tanned my nipples in the hope they´d harden up in time for breastfeeding, although I wasn´t too committed as I knew I´d just be a natural because I wanted it (LOL – read about my breastfeeding horrors here).
I also worried excessively. According to all the baby books, my diet had been less than perfect when I fell pregnant. I also had smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol because I found out at 7 weeks). And surely – somewhere along the line – I´m sure I´d eaten ceviche (I was in Chile). And every now and then I´d give in to temptation and whirlwind emotions and binge eat my way through a bag containing Twisties and Whittakers Peanut Slabs (I would sell a kidney for either of those Antipodean treats right now!). I ended up putting the baby books at the back of the wardrobe because they made me feel so scared and guilty, and they only ever saw the light of day when I´d dig them out to see what kind of fruit my baby was that month (I still have no idea what size a kumquot is).
Skip forward to pregnancy number two, and guilt struck again. This time it happened when we were in the sh*t financially and were living on a weekly food shop valuing CLP$20,000. Getting pregnant was happening easily for us, which must have been hard to deal with for my sister in law who was in a ´perfect´ relationship and was going through endless fertility exams and treatments to fall pregnant (and yet my brother in law was never tested – go figure). And then I went into labour at 26 weeks. I´ve never been so scared in my life. Had I eaten something bad? Was it my body? Was I not eating enough nutrients? Worse – was I rejecting my own baby? I was terrified for baby M – whom I loved before even meeting – but I was also terrified of all the needles, drugs and exam results. It was also bloody humiliating to have to call over a lady with a potty every time I needed the toilet, and relieve myself lying down in the bed. I also started to feel upset at the thought I wouldn´t likely have the perfect birth experience I´d been dreaming of. Back at home, being on strict bed rest drove me out of my mind and, even though I loved my unborn child, I had to fight the urge to get up and do anything. I felt sad I didn´t get to take E to his first day of jardin, and check it over to give it the Helen seal of approval. During this time I had to give my trust completely to my partner and an endless stream of doctors, nurses and midwives because I literally couldn´t protect my child in any other way.
(Perhaps now would be a good time to give you a brief overview of my time in San Jose Public Hospital in Independencia. The Urgencia was absolutely horrendous. I waited a long time to be seen (I´b been to Clinica Davila first and there was a marked difference). It was really dark, hardly anyone around, and there was a heavily pregnant woman screaming in pain for HOURS who was left unattended and I heard her being treated nastily by the nurses. I went over to her and rubbed her back, because even though I was in early labour, this poor thing really needed help. After this, I was transferred to the labour ward, with ten other women who were in the midst of full labour beside me (let me tell you, nothing is as scary as being in labour beside ten other screaming women who are forbidden to sit up in their bed, and forbidden to have visitors). I was here for a day and night. After this the risk of popping out M early was lessened, so I was transferred to the regular maternity ward. This was really nice!! The staff were helpful, came right after I called them, I was given food whenever I wanted it (really sugary but at least I got food), and all the doctors kept me updated and answered all my questions (unlike when E was hospitalized at Roberto del Rio). After my week´s stay, I had to return to San Jose for all my checkups. This was awful. They don´t take appointments, you just have an allotted time when you have to go join the queue … beside at least 100 others. Despite being on bed rest, I would have to stand for around 6 hours to wait for my turn. The doctors and midwives I saw were always friendly, but they were crazy overworked. Despite everything, I got my perfect birth with M, with my regular holistic midwife as after so many weeks it wasn´t dangerous for M to be born. I gave birth (with Fonasa) in Talagante Public Hospital. My midwife was beyond amazing and I stayed just one night afterwards but it was really pleasant -I can´t fault the place).
Photo taken at Museo a Cielo Abierto, San Miguel
When you have more than one child, everything becomes different. In a way you segment, because you have to give so much more of yourself to your family, and what you give has to be equal. It gets really hard to think of yourself as anything other than a mother, and when they all start crying at the same time it gets really hard to just take a breath and deal with it, and the crying rings in your ears long after they stop. As I work from home and my partner is almost never here as he works during the day and studies at night, it can seem like a lonely life. Let´s get real, babies and toddlers do not make the best conversation partners and in all honesty playing Thomas the Tank or knock down the blocks expires in funness pretty darn quick. Sometimes it almost feels as though my brain is rotting away up there, or at least drowning in nursery rhymes and tears, many of which are my own.
As an expat, you have the additional pressure of being without the support network you would likely have in your home country, as well dealing with both a new language culture. Making friends with Chileans can be difficult as they aren´t stereotypically very open or trusting, and while you can make easy friendships with other expats who are in a similar boat, the truth is the time will come when they – or you – will move on. Throw in a cross-cultural relationship and boom – you find yourself in a multi faceted pickle sometimes!!
I was recently given some advice from a fellow expat who describes herself as a ¨trailing spouse¨, one who follows the work commitments of her partner around the globe. Her advice is golden, and here it is in a nutshell:
Make time for yourself and check in on your own thoughts. Maybe this means waking up before your family, doing a guided meditation, twerking like Beyonce when they fall asleep (I do!), learn a new hobby, WHATEVER, as long as it is for you.
Start networking. Doing things you enjoy will introduce you to like-minded people, or use Facebook groups like Discover Chile: English Speaking Moms to set up playdates, or connect with a global network of expats with Facebook groups like Two Fat Expats or I Am A Triangle. You won´t click with everyone and friendships take time, but putting this effort in is a great way to meet people and get things off your chest.
Have a think about what you are interested in, or what you liked before you had children, and find a way to bring that back into your life. Whether that is charity work, cooking, yoga, dance, reading – it all counts! Many suburbs offer classes at their local municipal library or you can find free online courses all over the internet.
Nutrition. Food is what fuels you so make sure you are getting enough of the good stuff. A great tip is to hard what might be unappetizing to you inside a smoothie, and there are heaps of ways you can get food delivered direct to your door. Try La Paloma Saludables or if you are in Santiago/Viña del Mar area, you can sign up for organic meat from the Cow Share initiative.
Finally, talk. Let it out. I have been told I am too honest, that I overshare and make people feel uncomfortable, but also that my honesty has helped people to recognize the truth about their own feelings and speak with their partner or even a professional. I believe talking can be cathartic and is a great way to find out what is really bothering you.
What other advice would you give? Please give this a ´like´ if it resonated with you and remember to follow me on Facebook or WordPress to keep updated about new blogs! I am also on Instagram, where you can see photos from my daily life in Santiago. Have a great day and SMILE please!! Smiling – even if you force it – is a great way to boost the good vibes inside 🙂
Some more Mummy Diaries you might enjoy:
Mummy Diaries: Control
Mummy Diaries: Love