I only just made it.

Some women sail through parenting and can easily embrace the chaos, the lack of sleep and the loss of freedom.

Others do their best not to fall out of the boat. I am one of these people.

For years I have tried my hardest to keep my vessel afloat up shit creek because I knew that if it tipped then I’d probably never resurface.

It was so hard. Like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I can’t actually believe I have made it.

I’m not one for theatrics, well not unless I’ve been ‘made’ to drink shots and then I’m a real hoot, but believe me those early years were hell.

I’ve forgotten so much stuff maybe because I was so exhausted or because it was so mentally tough I had to let it escape my brain or it would destroy me.

A newborn baby who was completely dependent on me, a 21-month toddler who had to be given antibiotics every day because he has a bung kidney, and a 3.5-year-old who was hanging to leave the house and go on adventures and have swims.

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At the moment when I see photos of my kids as babies and toddlers I cry, not just because I can’t remember all of the things we did, but I cry for myself.

Over the weekend I shed ugly big tears for the Emily who spent years treading water, grimacing on the outside and screaming on the inside.

One step after the other she plodded through, at times quietly losing her way, but usually managing to fight the urge to collapse in a heap on the floor. But she did it, somehow.

I think what’s made me think about this is reading posts from mums with newborns, particularly Beth from BabyMac, her honest posts have thrust me back in time.

Our surprise third child threw me for six but it turns out he was the best gift in the entire world. While it felt as though he broke me mentally it turns out he actually helped to rebuild a stronger, wiser and more patient me. He is the gift that keeps on giving.

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Maybe you don’t understand what I’m talking about and if not then I’m pleased as punch for you, truly.

If you can relate to this then please give yourself one hell of a pat on the back for surviving relatively unscathed. People warn you and try to tell you things will be tough, but it’s not until you’re at rock bottom do you realise what they’re talking about.

My youngest is nearly 4 and it has taken me until now to have the sort of mental clarity I wish I had when my babies were young.

I look at the photos of my three kids and I feel a bit robbed. Why didn’t I have the state of mind I have now? Parenting three young children would have been such a joy with the mental toughness I now have.

But is that even possible? Maybe for some it is, sadly it wasn’t for me. It took every ounce of my being to get through each day. Maybe the fact I never stopping writing helped.

It gave me something else to focus on, instead of falling down into the pit of despair I so desperately wanted to lie in, I sat at my computer and typed.

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With an incredible man at my side, I made it through the toughest challenge in my life. It may sound trite but now I know there is nothing I can not conquer or achieve.

I now have the mental toughness to cope with the fact that I will make mistakes, get things wrong and quite possibly fail.

Right now I’m starting a new journey, I no longer feel overwhelmed in my life. I’m living in it instead of just going through the motions.

It’s taken me awhile to get to this stage while others have been there for years. But just look at what I’ve grown and nurtured…. three very happy souls.

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There is a light and there is a tunnel, but it takes a lot of hard work and mental anguish to put the two together.

Did you cruise through parenting? Or was it harder than you thought?

What got you through?

Any surprise babies teach you a valuable lesson?

Comments

  1. Emily your honesty is so refreshing and inspiring. Parenting is the hardest job in the world and it is NEVER all sunshine and lollipops. My Mum has always said to me “You can only do what you think is best at the time’ and I’m sure you have given your best, from however full or empty your cup may have been on any given day and that’s all any of us can do. I’m sure deep down hiding behind many tired smiles of other mum’s they are nodding along shedding a tear or two on the inside thinking “Thankyou Emily… thank you for saying out loud what I dare not say and thank you for validating my feelings and truths… it’s OKAY to feel this way… there is a light”. I’m glad you can celebrate, appreciate and share how far you’ve come and where you are today as a result. Xxxxxx

  2. Emily, I can relate to so much of this. I’m not one that mothering comes naturally, and throw in the fact that I am an introvert and it can feel very suffocating at times. I really was not prepared for how relentless it was going to be, and how much little physical and mental space you get when parenting small children. Only now that my kids are 3 and 5 does it feel like something is starting to lift. Thank you for being honest about the difficult aspects of parenting – we need to see more like this.

  3. Josephine says:

    Hi Emily! I’m a relatively new visitor to your blog and this will be my first comment!
    Thank you for writing this! I am certainly not one of those folk that cruised through newborn/baby land. I have two sons (5 and almost 3), and it often feels like I’ve only just made it! I’ve been feeling a bit sad this year as it seems to me I haven’t been joyful enough in my parenting these past 5 years – motherhood came so much harder to me than I’d envisaged. My sons were lovely, healthy babies (but dreadful sleepers, so they sleep deprivation was real and horrific) and I wish I’d been able to enjoy them as babies far more than I think I actually did (but like you said, it’s all a blur and I can’t remember a lot)! I’ve been feeling sad also because the mental struggle has ruled out the possibility of us having a third. I love the idea of a team of three, but I honestly don’t think I could hack going through it all again.
    So high fives to you. And thanks for articulating what so many of us are thinking!

    • Big high five to you Josephine, I feel exactly that same, I wasn’t nearly as happy as I wanted to be with young babies/kids, but just getting by was so hard. Try not to beat yourself up about it, you did the best you could at the time. I know that having 3 pushed me over the edge. I often think about how I’d love another child but then I think back and realise there is no way I could. I also figure that our kids, two of mine are the same age as yours, won’t remember those younger years so we have a good chance to forge ahead and they’ll only remember us as happy(ish) parents! Thanks for lovely comment. Emily

  4. Oh I hear you! I’ve learnt so much about myself through the process of having small people. I remember my mum saying that she was never a ‘baby’ person and enjoyed my sister and I so much more as we grew up. I used to think that she just didn’t like babies that much because they weren’t much fun or she didn’t like the nappies and mess. Now that I’ve done it I know exactly what she means because I’m the same. Now my boys are seven and almost four I can sleep and I can think and I can read and I can plan and I can USE MY BRAIN. I can be me. I really missed me over those few years. The boys and I can have conversations and make jokes and they are not dependent on me all of the time. It’s fun now and while there were moments of fun earlier I really felt like a shell of the person that I am.
    You have done an amazing job of creating and raising those three little people. It’s all upside from here. You get to be the real Em again and you get to enjoy watching those little people grow into wonderful big people. x

    • I can relate to your feelings with young ones, it’s nice when we can interact, laugh and work with our kids. I too felt like I was just skimming the surface, now I’m actually living deeply. Thank you for this lovely comment x

  5. Mrs Woog says:

    YES! All of this xxx

  6. What a beautiful and honest post. I think it will help so many other people who can relate right now.
    I only have the one child for now but when he was born I think I did OK, but I also never expected it to take over a year for me to feel like me – the real me – again. Physically, mentally and emotionally. I think I had really bad anxiety now that I look back on it (the huge life change combined with some issues I was already dealing with played a part). Help with that might have been a godsend, but I thought it was just me being a typical new parent so I struggled through.
    I think my love for the Little Mister really was a saving grace – we had an instant connection and bond. I feel for those who struggle to have that and know that it’s not a given for everyone.
    I just hope that next time around I will continue to be the stronger me that all of this has taught me to be, but if I’m not I will be quicker to reach out and get help and not be as scared of what other people might think x

    • It sure is a steep learning curve Kez, and isn’t that bond just incredible, I’m so glad I too had that with all 3 of mine. The key is to go slow and steady and run your own race. xx

  7. Go Em. I only have two. They are girls, and they are fairly spaced apart. I have had lots of time to do other things, and actually feel like a person. But I marvel at how you managed. I chatted to a friend last night who’s a single mother, who’s studying psych, working and producing pretty top notch cooking books for Murdoch. How on earth does she do it? I am glad you can enjoy these moments a little more now. x

  8. Hey Emily,

    I don’t have kids, those little miracles scare the hell out of me. It may even seem strange that I enjoy reading family posts. But you make me laugh and I enjoy your honesty.

    But what I see in most mums is a brave struggle. That mental toughness you believe you did not have with the first two, you had with a different twist. While it may have seemed too much and you felt as though you ripped yourself and the rest of your family off, I see a woman who learnt the ropes with the first two, for the third and for the whole family to sail through nice and easy.

    I don’t think I know any mum who got it right or did not suffer doubt and hysteria with their first. I say congratulations to mothers, it is a job that does not have a clock on and off time slot. Day after day of regular routines for yourself and babies, is enough to drive anyone in sain. Hats off to you mothers, I just get to enjoy little miracles for a couple of hours at a time and get to hand them back.

    Rachel.

  9. Gorgeous, gorgeous article Emily! I can very much relate. Our 3 kids are similar ages and I feel a lot of guilt sometimes about not being more ‘present’ when they were smaller. I just juggled and struggled and got through each day! It’s hard to ‘allow’ yourself to feel bad for that person you once were. I really loved the way you’ve expressed that. Raising a virtual glass to both of us (and all of us!) x

  10. Em, this is such a beautiful post. I’ve had moments where I’ve felt like I’ve hit rock bottom. But not the ongoing feeling of treading water for that long. Thank you for sharing your experiences and words.

    I do feel like I’ve reached the same endpoint via a different path, though. While I mostly enjoy parenting and spending time with the kids, I did have moments of feeling like I didn’t have a separate identity, and even moments of resentment for that. Now I feel like I’ve taken that power back upon myself and have that mental toughness you describe. It’s taken that mental toughness and a new sense of self worth for me to be able to prioritise myself from time to time instead of always coming second to the needs of the family. I finally recognise that my needs ARE some of the needs of the family because we all need to have each other’s backs.

    Can’t wait to squeeze you in a couple of weeks. x

  11. Thank you thank you thank you! I was okay reflecting on this the other day thinking…I don’t think this is my time. I just need to survive this stage of life and the best is yet to come I’m sure if it. But I’m still grieving for my idea of having babies. My eldest is only just 3 and youngest is10 months so I’m still in it. I think there will be another in a few years but in 7years or so I’ll be able to breath! It’s so refreshing reading that I’m not alone. I had pnd with my first and a lot of it had to do with my own expectations of myself as a mother. Second time around is much better but I need to keep reminding myself that just because I don’t love this stage it doesn’t mean I don’t love my life and my family. It’s just not my time to shine….yet!!!

  12. Such refreshing honesty Emily and I look at that pic of you with your newborn and just how young your other two were and feel exhausted on your behalf! I think we’ve all had those moments of wondering how we’re going to get through during those early years, although I have to say I do find those really hard times all a bit of a blur now and for that I’m very thankful! You should be very proud of those gorgeous kids you’ve produced.

  13. I loved this Em. I feel like PND robbed me of so many memories with Miss Ava and I hate it. It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  14. A great read Emily. So honest. I am still in the mist and cloudiness of a baby who has only just started sleeping. You are right I am such a better person for having my beautiful babies and oh no I didn’t know it would be so tough. One was easy street so I thought I can do this again but the second is so different but such a blessing. It has given me a few knocks around the head LOL. Wouldn’t change a thing. xxx

  15. Congrats Em, you have made it through the bubba stage! My kids are now 7, 5 and 3 and I have stopped reading the parenting posts of new mums because I can’t go back there. It is really full on to have 3 kids in 3 years. You have done it tough Em. I am enjoying my new found freedom now my kids are older and happy to go to hubby, grandparents and live more independently. And finally get to sleep in past 5.30am haha

  16. This is beautiful Em, thank you so much for sharing. With a 14mth age gap between my two girls, there were (and still is!) definitely times I struggled. I think you are much stronger than you realise x

  17. I totally find parenting a tough gig, and step parenting even harder. Some days its all about just getting through the next 10 minutes, others are a little easier. I totally remember how difficult my first was, with no support, it took me 6 years to consider having another one. I wouldn’t change my experience for the world now, but there were times I would loved to have run away. High five for you Em, you made it xxx

  18. It’s because those tiny people are SO DAMN SELFISH! Seriously, all they do is take, take, take and don’t give a shit what you want! Maybe as they grow up and start to be more independent, it’s easier to see their other amazing qualities 😉

    But seriously, this is a fab post Em. Makes me a bit scared as I’m about to embark on number two, but I’ve never thought it was going to be easy. At least I know there will be a light at the end of the tunnel! xxx

  19. Yes! That’s all I can say. I hear you. I feel you. I could cry for myself so often when I think about raising three little ones. I still don’t feel out of the woods. Thanks for such a great, honest post. Bron x

  20. victoria says:

    i think you’re onto something – bring the car seats into the house and buckle them in…

  21. A-freaking-men from one survivor of the early-childhood war to another. I was you, Em, you are me. I’m a few years even further down the track and let me tell you, after surviving those first 7 or so years, it’s been a joy ever after. I see mums with 3 under 4 as I had and I just want to give them a huge hug and tell them they’re gonna make it. Matter of fact, that’s exactly what I did at the park yesterday. Total strangers, united by the longest, most reassuring, most supportive hug you can imagine. x

  22. I only have two kids and I know how you feel.

  23. great article Emily.

  24. I’m so glad you’ve come out the other end and look how strong you are. I agree that it is sad too. I was filling out background forms as our little guy is starting speech therapy and along with the fact that I have hardly any background about his birth or first 9 months of his life, I also had to pinch myself about letting things slip from my memory. They are there but they get buried by the rest of life too quickly. Enjoy the next phase.

  25. You totally deserve that pat on the back Em and if I could reach through my screen I would give you a big hug too. I TOTALLY relate to where you’re coming from, although I think my journey may have been a bit easier with the age gaps between my kids being a little bigger. Throw in a country move and no more family safety net and I honestly had days where I thought I was going start raving mad!!! I’m still finding it tough on some occasions, but at last I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel too. See you in 3 weeks lady. We’ll toast our survival.

  26. This is such a great post Em. I’m so sorry it was so incredibly tough for you … but your toughness has conquered and by writing about it you are giving others hope. This post is the light at the end of the tunnel. From where I sit you seem to be an amazing mum. Thanks so much for sharing. This is the type of post I will be sharing with others who are going through similar journeys right now.
    <3
    L

  27. I love babies, I truly do. But omg it’s a hard slog. It’s hard enough being sleep deprived let alone doing it on 20% brain power- that’s how I felt for at least the first year each time. It’s been especially hard the second time with a toddler who still doesn’t sleep through consistently and little to no family to help us. We are getting there though and posts like this make me feel less alone- thanks Em.

  28. Ah Em! Beautiful post. You have done so well and definitely deserve a pat on the back, an award even! I don’t know if I could cope with three kids so close in age. A lot of the time I struggle with just two and they are two years apart. You were definitely thrown into the fire with them all so close in age. Look at you now! I feel like I’m almost turning a corner with my littlest almost three. Once we get past the threenager stage, I think I’ll be celebrating like you xxxx

  29. I don’t have kids but I read blogs of, and know lots of people who have. Parenting has to be the most difficult jobs on the planet, especially in those early years. I guess, once the kids starting getting older, all that hard work really starts to pay off, and you can start to reap and enjoy your rewards – your happy souls. You did grown and nurture them, and in so doing, you’ve grown so much yourself. Here’s to lots of lights and ends of tunnels x

  30. Lovely honest post. You know what, we all do our best. You’re not robbed, it was a journey. You were still there, no matter how you felt about it. And when they’re teens, that mental toughness will be your reward….

  31. Go team motherhood! It is a big struggle and I try to remember to celebrate each of their birthdays as something special to me too because I survived another year. I always wish parents congratulations at their kids first and second birthdays, they did it! Always makes them smile and think ‘oh yeah’.

  32. It is the trenches when they’re really young but then they grow and you do too as you say. I wish I could bottle those really early years. It gets easier in a way but also harder as they age. Their problems become bigger and more difficult and I hate to say it, then the stress really hits. Teenage years can be tricky business.x

  33. Em I can so very much relate to this. I blogged my way through PND without realizing that’s what it was until I was a complete and utter mess. I wish I’d sought help earlier because there are chunks that I just don’t remember and other chunks I wish I didn’t. The important part is that I have two gorgeous boys and we’re all doing really well now. My youngest turns three very soon and my eldest is at school next year. I feel like we’ve hit a real turning point.

  34. Brilliant post Em, love your honesty. It is EFFING HARD!! My 2 are 21 months apart and the thought of adding a newborn to the mix makes me feel more than a little ill… although now that we’re finally getting some sleep (youngest just turned 2) my body keeps tricking me into wanting another one. .. husband just says “that’s a NO from me.”

  35. Well done Em! They are 3 gorgeous little humans and you give me so much hope. You’re amazing. 3 in 3 years!! Yikes. Some woman seem to find their rightful place in the thick of the motherhood years but I’m not one who feels like a natural. It’s a slog for me, and I too look forward to the day I have a brain again and hells bells, feel rested. Thanks for keeping it real in this space xxx

  36. You did well and are doing well Em. Even though you had it so tough, you didn’t give up and struggled to see this day of light. Good job you.

    Ai @ Sakura Haruka

  37. I have to say parenting and me has been a bit of a struggle – maybe that’s why I only have one child, whom I love very much. One thing I can add is that now he is school age I am truly enjoying his company. I love that we can now chat and hang out together. I’m trying to make the most of it before we hit those non speaking teen years.

  38. What an awesome post Emily, I love your honesty so much! My second was a surprise baby and though I wanted a second I had not planned that age gap! In the end it worked out perfectly.

  39. I read this post the other day and I just loved it. I remember you telling me about your third surprise baby at the Voices thing and it was a beautiful story. It’s clear that while the journey has been unbelievably hard, it’s also made you an amazing person. I can relate to feeling like I’m drowning in these kids and their constant demands. I usually shrug it off and keep trudging on, getting frsutrated with myself for not shaking off a cold more quickly, or writing as well/often as I should be. But reading your perspective here makes me understand why some things are so bloody difficult. It’s life with young kids. Thanks for sharing x

  40. This is such a heartfelt, raw account of just how hard those early days can be. I’m so glad that you had great support in the form of your husband, and that you are mentally insuch a better place now.
    I found getting through difficult after my second child, especially as we had an awful birth, resulting in broken bones for her and blood transfusions for me. I had only weeks earlier taken my about to turn 2 year old to be assessed for developmental delays and was dealing with the possibilities inherant in that. It was hard. We mamas go through a lot. I had great support too, and though my little boy has an asd diagnosis now and my baby is 13 months old, life is happy and in hand here too.
    Keep up the great work x

  41. You have just made me cry. I remember being pregnant with my 4th and my hubby was struggling that we were having another child. I decided through out the pregnancy that this baby was mine and no matter what I would love it to death – on my own. But everything changed but took a year after his birth. He is the most chilled, rounded child and has made my family the way they are. Oh bugger Em, I’m crying again.

  42. It seems your beautiful honesty has touched many chick and that is such a good thing. I so get what you are talking about and to be honest I often feel sad that I dont remember all that much of my youngest being a baby because I was so busy being stressed out and overwhelmed. I understand why many choose to have bigger gaps between their kids… I have felt clucky myself recently and it it is because I finally at age 42 feel like I am prepared for kids number two and three… although I am 8 and 10 years too late to figure that out now xx

  43. It was so, so hard for me in the beginning when I got pnd out of nowhere {or it felt like it came out of nowhere}. Now I think I’ve reached a nice balance, but we’re thinking of going back again and part of me thinks why rock the boat. I still have the odd shit day but for the most part Im loving it right now. Like you I think writing is helping.

  44. So honest, so beautiful, so true for so many.

    Me I’m griping on with both hands. I get jealous of all the grandparents I see looking after their grandkids. I have visions of the mothers having long lunches. Then I turn that frivolous thought on it’s head and tell myself,

    “Honey, they are probably working. You are getting all the time in the world with your kiddos and only have to work a couple of days a week”.

    But then you get sick when you finally thought you were over the mental shit your body acts up. Grrrr. I’m searching for the mentally tough lady….Some days when my two are completely psycho or need hugs constantly I say to myself,

    “You’ll look back on these days soon, Zoe, cherish them.”

    It’s changing that mindset and even though a PJ day is tempting, fresh air and no TV is good for the soul.

    Thanks for sharing and letting us mums know we are not alone. Zoe xx

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