Mummy Diaries: Guilt

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.

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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).

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The truth is that having a family can light up your life, but just like a light there comes a time when they turn off and darkness sets in. It isn´t always rainbows and happiness with children, even though you love them like crazy and can´t bear the thought of not being with them forever, sometimes all that love and need can feel overwhelming.

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).

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E and I

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).

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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 motherand 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.

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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!!

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Reaching out – such a small action but so important. Reach up and up you will go!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

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    My absolutely non-negotiable time for me every day is the shower. I am obsessed with Lush and my must-have products include Ro´s Argan Body Conditioner, Full of Grace facial serum, Godiva 2 in 1 shampoo (great for hard water) and Sympathy for the Skin body moisturizer (Dream Cream, which is above, is great for sensitive skin so I use it on Emilio sometimes).

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 🙂

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Some more Mummy Diaries you might enjoy:

Mummy Diaries: Control

Mummy Diaries: Love

Day in the Life Of

The Truth

25 Things Every Mama in Chile Should Do

 

Mummy Diaries: Respect

Right now, Max is in that stage where he can´t stop going backwards.  At the moment he is currently bashing his head into the sofa, destroying a Sophie the Giraffe teething toy and simultaneously crying and laughing. He sounds like an ewok. Should I go rescue him? Yes …in five minutes.

We don´t have a full-length mirror in our house. I turned it sideways and hung it on the wall to open up our teeny tiny bathroom. I haven´t seen my bottom half in months, only my boobs which have been out so much they are no longer interesting. They have taken quite a beating lately. Max is like a flaming grizzly bear sometimes and the last few weeks it seems like I´ve been feeding him every half an hour (I want to say not literally but …)

In fact, my breasts have seen so much action in the restaurant recently – on the side of the road, in the supermarket, on the metro – that they have lost all hint of sexual connotation. They are literally non-things in the bedroom (they aren´t big anyway, to be fair). This depresses me for two reasons. The first is I was enjoying not needing a pushup bra (I wrote pushchair there like five times – doh!) and that amazing feeling that I still had cleavage in a granny bra (oh the comfort!). The second is that they got crazy sensitive in the months after Max was born and things were coming very easy (if you know what I mean!). Now nothing happens!

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Here we go again!

The other day I took the mirror off the wall because I dug out my winter leggings and they seemed tight (around my calves of all places!). Maybe some of you will be annoyed that this was an issue for me but honestly I nearly burst into tears. I went my whole pregnancy thrilled about my weight (I gained 7kg) which was all gone a week after Max was born, something I didn´t try to achieve it was purely due to all the vomiting. With Emilio I put on 18kg so it was something I really noticed because every second person was telling me how huge I was (thank you, considerate friends and strangers). But in the last two months something strange has happened to my appetite. I am eating – A LOT. I have been crazy, crazy hungry and – because this is Chile after all – I have satiated my hunger with marrequeta, that ubiquitous bread people wax lyrical about.  All that bread has gone straight to my hips. My thighs. My calves, ankles, arms, face, stomach – everywhere except my breasts, basically.

This has bummed me out so much that I have literally gulped back a tear every time I have gotten dressed in the morning (or at noon – meh).  It had even started to affect those (rare) intimate moments with my partner. I would run away, turn away, cower in the dark, dress in sacks and squeeze into jeans and get all aggressive with my muffin top.

It was exhausting.

Focusing all that hatred and negative energy at myself in a moment when I was already fragile was like half pressing a self destruct button.

So I stopped.

The time came when I had to make a choice – either go forward and be happy, or go forward and be miserable. My decision was sparked after hearing my own mother say something negative about herself when showing her our holiday photos. I told her she had to pay a thousand pesos every time she said something bad about her appearance.  I realized I should apply the same advice to myself.

I can´t tell myself to love my body when there are so many things I would like to change, but I can tell myself to have some respect. 

I made a human being!!!  

My stretchmarks are battle scars, they circle and lead away from my bellybutton like lion claw prints, evidence of the amazing achievement it is to grow a baby beneath them.  The pouch that hangs over my jeans or that dangles like an alien life form when I lean forward is the remnants of the home I had built for my sons, a home that protected them and nourished them when they couldn´t survive any other way. My aching nipples and limp, fluctuating breasts are the single source of life for Max – they perform tiny miracles every half an hour. My body has worked and is working HARD, doing something that so many people around the world crave to be able to do. I am blessed to have my body, and am so lucky to have it work the way it does, albeit with a few varicose veins and cellulite ridden pockets of skin here and there.

So I have come to the realization that this is my present. I don´t know what the future may bring but for now I am drawing strength knowing that my body is strong. This realization spreads to all corners of my life – yes, even to the bedroom – because I refuse to be a victim to more evil thoughts.  Confidence is what is sexy – own your body, ladies!!

 

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The Mummy Diaries are my own diaries based upon my life as a mother in Santiago.   I publish them because I believe that there are many universal themes that we mothers come across, but these themes are not always touched upon publicly so it is easy to feel isolated – especially if you are an expat (like me!) living in a foreign country. I fully subscribe to the idea that communication is everything.  Share your thoughts below, get in touch privately, talk to your friends – but if this is not working please get in touch with a healthcare professional. For those living in Chile, I can recommend an amazing nurse who is fluent in English, Spanish and Arabic, who can point you in the right direction.

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