Sunday 15th saw us in Eyam, a lovely little village in Derbyshire famous for an outbreak of plague that occurred there in 1665, wiping out most of its inhabitants. Sunday was also Mother’s Day here in the UK, a fact which didn’t affect my husband’s decision to take me to a place noted for death and disease; because nothing says, “I love you Mummy!” like a spooky walk to the revolving sheep roasting jack.
Plague and freezing temperatures aside, it was a beautiful day. We had cuddles in our new Girasol Northern Lights and Oscha Matrix Satori ring slings, ate obscenely large cheese-stuffed paninis, shared a big pot of tea, and explored Eyam Hall and its lovely gardens. Little T is walking confidently now so there was lots of chasing for Daddy to do while I hung back with the camera. It’s nice to have a chance to enjoy my little livewire from a distance; it makes it easier to focus on what a delight he is when he isn’t whacking me in the eye with a pastry brush.
And being the contemplative sort, I also took the time to reflect on my last year of motherhood, and I realised with all the amazement of a child at the zoo that I actually felt I deserved this special day, a day spent honouring my role as Mummy. I walked with my head held high and a big smile on my face. I felt proud carrying my boy in our sling, his little face nuzzled into my chest, and prouder still with my husband’s arm wrapped protectively around us both.
As a new mum caught in the throes of PND, Mother’s Day 2014 wasn’t such a happy event.
Imagine waking up one morning and the people you love most have thrown you a birthday party. They have cards and gifts for you, and tea and toast in bed. They keep saying ‘Happy birthday!’ and you feel a knot in your stomach and you want to cry because they’re wrong, it isn’t your birthday at all, and all their effort and sweetness isn’t deserved.
I wasn’t a Mummy then. I was a parent, technically, and I nurtured and cared for my baby, but my heart was empty and my head was full of hurt. What I wanted more than anything was time alone, to sleep or cry or both. Big T and I argued; neither of us had done anything wrong, we were simply overwhelmed by the need to make my first Mother’s Day ‘perfect’ and I couldn’t do it, not with the world ending around me. He perceived that as his failure to make the day a good one and felt he’d let me down, which of course he hadn’t, so I felt guilty too… And it spiralled. Most of our arguments were like that then, guilt feeding off guilt and exploding, usually inwards rather than at each other, which makes a different kind of mess but a mess all the same.
So this year felt as though it was my first true Mother’s Day as a proud mum deserving of the title. I basked in it like a cat in the sunshine, grinning at strangers as I held my son close as though to say, “I’m a MUMMY, bitches!” (that’s an idea for a slogan t-shirt right there).
I know it’s just a day, a commercialised farce invented to make us spend money on cards, flowers and chocolate, and maybe we won’t make such a big deal out of it in future, but I loved every second because it celebrated the journey I’ve taken to get here; the years of wanting a child, of dreaming but never believing I’d be strong enough or lucky enough, to the joy of early pregnancy and the devastation of antenatal depression, to a difficult birth and sinking into the blackest hole I could ever imagine. It’s all part of where I am now, which is a place of tentative but very real happiness.
This year’s celebration also gave me the opportunity to consider my relationship with my own mother. In a way, parenthood forces you to see your own parents in all their fallible humanity, especially when you remember that they were in your position once, sleep deprived and scared, still feeling like a child themselves underneath the mask of age and responsibilities. Some (most) days I want to crawl back under the duvet and let someone else take care of my son, just until I’ve had enough sleep or spent some time doing something for me. I don’t want to wash pissy nappies all the time or read ‘Whose Tail?’ over and over to the point I want to punch the lion in the face at the end. Sometimes I want to be able to yell when my son pulls my hair or gleefully hits me without restraint, but I don’t, because it’s not the kind of parent I want to be, and I have to keep that adult armour on all day every day for his sake.
I now understand that my own mother will have felt the same, especially spending much of her life as a single parent. I know there were days she’d have been exhausted from work and would rather have curled up with a book and a glass of wine than helped my brother with his homework or combed nits out of my hair. That’s not to say those things weren’t done with love; they most definitely were, and that’s why I admire her so much. Not once did we ever feel like we were a chore to her. She never complained, she always listened, and we never wanted for anything. I’m sure when the weekend came and we went to stay with our Dad, she collapsed in a tired heap and maybe even had a good cry. But we never knew.
I understand now how hard her days could be and what the love I took for granted actually looked like, the true depth of it, and I’m so, so grateful for all she did. I don’t parent the same way she did, our values are slightly different and our methods occasionally at odds, but I always hope to model her affection, encouragement and creativity with my own children. I can now wish my mum a happy Mother’s Day as a daughter but also a sister in the sorority of parenthood.
And I hope all my other sisters in real life and here had a wonderful day celebrating with their children. You’re all amazing. ❤