Nothing about my pregnancy was what I had expected. Our journey was not in any of the ‘Natural Mama’ books I had read or the mummy blogs I’d frequented. It took us a while to get pregnant (18 months) and from the 20 week scan onwards, my pregnancy was fraught with a combination of joy and anxiety through weekly scans on our baby's growth and my pre-eclampsia.
Oftentimes, you set out with these pre-conceived notions in your head of a beautiful, natural, earth mama journey, but that is precisely when you’re slammed into reality. Our beautiful boy, James Romeo, spent his first 87 days in NICU (Intensive Care) arriving at 30 weeks and 5 days and weighing only 756 grams.
You can’t prepare anyone for that experience, and with hormones coursing through my body like teary missiles, I was on a wild ride that my family and friends just didn't know how to relate to. Somehow though, you find your inner strength -- like a lioness -- and you keep going, keep showing up, pulling from the deepest well of love and matching your little one's bravery to survive -- and then, one day, you finally get to go home!
The elation of that final drive home with our boy, I can’t even begin to type the words. (I’ve got tears in my eyes just thinking about it.) My husband and I had been dreaming, praying, speaking of this day for 87 days. It was finally here and we were so proud. The three of us as an unstoppable team!
Utter bliss is how I can describe those first few days, closely followed by sleep paralysis. (Nothing new to any mamas out there, but it’s a legitimate torture technique and I can now see why.) Eventually you start to fall into a slow rhythm. Fumbling your way through this first time thing, you ask yourself, Is this normal? Should I feel this way? Am I doing it right? Hmmm... let me consult my trusty Instagram and fellow mums because that’s a clear picture of reality. Right...?
Whilst feeding and everywhere in between, I’d find myself scrolling through social media seeing new mums swathed in activewear, catching up with friends, making a smoothie, and just finishing a pilates class with a fresh face of makeup. Meanwhile, a good day in my books was if I could brush my teeth by midday.What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have that energy? Why do I still look pregnant? I can’t even carve out a time to meet a friend for coffee.
It seemed that every other mum was charging through this like it was no big deal.
For me, taking care of my baby is all consuming. I’m exhausted generally and the monotony of routine is enough to drive any sane woman crazy... but I was determined to have somewhat of a normal experience. I decided to meet a couple girlfriends for coffee and a walk on the beach.
The day started off nice enough, but upon sitting down to have a coffee on this blustery day, the wind picked up as I tried to pull bub up from his pram. Formula burst from the bottle, flying everywhere, and I was rattled. Bub was crying, I was crying. I called my husband with a “Code Red,” got picked up, and promptly wondered why I ever bothered leaving the house in the first place? I can’t do this socializing mum thing -- it’s just not for me.
But the reality was, it was just too early.
Everyone is different. I was trying to catch up with what I thought everyone else
was doing, but I needed to block out the noise and just do me
I needed to SLOW DOWN. Who am I in a race with? That perfect Instagram photoshoot edited within an inch of its life? GET REAL.
I needed to realize that we're holding ourselves up to a standard that is not realistic -- one where we only end up feeling like we’re constantly failing.
I've since learned to be kind to yourself. You are enough as you are. Give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can... and that is enough.
How do you practice self-care?
For me, self-care is switching off and getting completely absorbed in a good book. Right now it’s Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw. I’m very lucky to live close to the water so I go for a walk by the ocean and that’s really healing for me.
What is the one lesson that you'll teach to your kids?
Kindness. My mother taught me kindness and empathy in her words and actions and that’s the main thing I seek in people. There’s not enough of it in the world.
Jen Luby is a ceramicist and painter based in Sydney, Australia. Her creations are intended to instill a sense of calm, depth of color, and the ability to transport the viewer to somewhere new. Visit her on her website at jenniferlia.com.