When I first had my baby, I discovered that some of my experiences were different from what other mothers had. I would hear mums talking about their big issues, which seemed to be these:
- sleepless nights which led to extreme tiredness
- projectile vomiting or constant ‘sicking up’
- reflux and arsenic hour
- engorged and/or leaky breasts
So I mostly kept quiet about the fact that I didn’t have these problems. I also didn’t talk much about the challenges I did have because no-one else talked about those things, so I figured I was on my own and different.
In recent years, I’ve discovered that I wasn’t actually on my own. When I share my stories now, I make connections with other mums who are also, often, keeping quiet because they feel their situation is ‘different’. Here are some differences to think about.
- Facing infertility when you already have one child is quite a different experience from facing infertility when you have no child.
- Managing life with a toddler who has given up daytime sleeps (it’s exhausting!) is quite different from having to schedule your life around toddlers still needing daytime sleeps.
- Undersupply is a different challenge from oversupply.
- How to help an only child develop good peer interaction contrasts with navigating the complex waters of sibling rivalry in a larger family and finding quality time with each child.
- After a difficult birth, how do you face future labours with calm optimism?
- Hyperactivity, learning difficulties, chronic illness, irrational fears, school stresses, bereavement … as the motherhood journey progresses, we mothers face new challenges and our survival stories change.
While our mothering experiences may be different, in one respect we are all the same. We are mothers. And we are survivors. So whether we’re facing the ‘big four’ or other less common challenges, we can be a sisterhood of encouragers to help each other thrive in the various stages of our mothering journey, wherever that takes us.
I have found four things that have helped me in this game of survival:
- The first is the nature of life itself. Life moves forward like a machine whether we are ready or not and often just moving to the next life stage means the one before is passed (and survived).
- Finding a strategy. It took me a while to translate that first truth about life into a strategy but now, when I’m in the middle of a survival issue, I just remind myself that in 2, 5, 10 years’ time this will be in the past. I try to project my mind forward to that time and put the current trouble into a more distant perspective.
- Other people’s experience is helpful. Whether it is found in personal conversation, published books or by searching on-line, you can learn a lot from other people that will help you survive – whether it is by adopting, adapting, observing or discarding.
- Talking to God about stuff. …about anything and everything, big or small. No explanations needed. Not even words. No misunderstandings. Survival feels much more likely to me when I remind myself that I am in God’s care.