I've wanted to write this post for a very long time. It's sat, swirling like a gentle whirlpool in the back of my mind and in the centre of my heart. I've spoken about it in safe spaces such as reflection sessions with my beloved fellow Sanctus coaches, spaces where I'm not consumed by the fear of judgment or the worry of alienating other people. It makes me feel guilty, superstitious, and strangely ashamed. And it is this - I found having a newborn baby easy, joyful and relaxing.
Even as I write that, the words struggle to come out, tears are brimming inexplicably and my cheeks are hot. It's such an extreme and contradictory reaction, and I've spent many hours trying to unravel WHY I feel like this. And I suspect that it is partly this: there is a prevailing and acceptable narrative in our society that having a brand new baby is exhausting, scary, difficult, and something you just have to get through to get to the other side. Well, that wasn't my experience.
Don't get me wrong (and this is where my guilt and fear of alienation start to bubble up). I am hyper-aware that this narrative IS the reality for some, even many, people. I have friends who have had a horrendous time with physical recovery after birth, the myriad difficulties of breastfeeding, extreme sleep depravation, post-natal depression, infant health issues, and feelings of isolation and overwhelm. It isn't fair, and I have tried my very best to support each of them with love, compassion and empathy.
But I believe strongly that we must be able to share the positive stories too, without fear of gloating or of jinxing ourselves, for one simple reason: ALL experiences matter. There is NOTHING in life that is experienced in the same way by everyone (except perhaps increasingly, the horror of Brexit). Not childhood, not adolescence, not sex, not relationships, not work, not happiness, not sadness, not privilege, not poverty, not parenthood. It would be a pretty bloody dull world if we did all live the same life.
And yet it seems to be much more acceptable to be having a hard time of it, than it does to be enjoying something. As a collective society, we're conditioned to seeing bad news, we use expressions such as 'misery loves company', and we love to hate those who we perceive to have a charmed life.
The movement of recent years to be more honest and authentic online is incredibly important, and supportive of a more compassionate and empowered society, but we have to tell the happy stories as well as the challenging ones. For me, it's always been much easier to talk about the darker aspects of my life, such as loneliness or infertility or the protracted IVF journey to pregnancy. It feels more comfortable to make light of difficult circumstances and my own idiosyncrasies, than it does to say 'I did this well. I found this easy'. But that ISN'T being authentic. It's telling the story I think people want to hear, that I think will make people laugh and feel better about their own struggles.
So the truth is this. I loved being pregnant. I felt strong, healthy, powerful and calm. I loved giving birth, even though it ended in emergency c-section. I loved the early weeks of hazy happiness, feeling surrounded by joy and support and getting out every day with my husband and son to do things we love, like going to restaurants and museums. I loved getting to know new parent friends. I loved breastfeeding and found it natural straightaway. Hudson slept well, had no health issues, and seemed happy the majority of the time. We travelled extensively from seven weeks, settling back into the rhythm of our life, but with this adorable new addition.
Does that mean parenthood is always (or has always been) easy and enjoyable for us? Of course not. But on the whole it has been much easier and more enjoyable than modern folklore prepared us for — our life as we knew it DIDN'T end. And I want to own that part of my story — the positive part — as much as I own and want to learn from the 'negative' bits. After all, one person being miserable is not going to make another person's journey easier. It simply leaves us less able to support one another when times get tough.
I'm building a coaching programme to support men and women navigating early parenthood. If you want to learn more, or be part of my guinea-pig-crew as I develop this, please feel free to sign up here!