During my daily morning cyber amble through the Facebooks, I came across this article about a new mother who posted a photo of herself that has gone viral. In the photo, she holds her 3-day-old son close to her bare chest and stares directly into the camera,expression raw, eyes red from crying. Mothers from all around the world have applauded her honesty and her courage in not sugar coating the realities of the postpartum period.
The article that accompanies her picture describes this woman’s tough new reality. It includes input from experts explaining just how hard this time really is for mothers. It talks about isolation, feelings of loss, inadequacy, loneliness, physical pain. The photo, the article says, “is a perfect answer to the overly curated image of new motherhood that we get on social media”.
The reason I came across the article this morning is a result of not needing to rush to get out of bed, which is a result of being 39 and a bit weeks pregnant, finished work, and trying to follow everyone’s orders to “take it easy”. Basically, I’m about to have a baby, which translates into spending a lot more time then usual trawling mommy blogs and finding out how little I know about anything to do with babies.
Reading the article, though, I was struck by conflicting feelings. On the one hand, I think it’s great that women aren’t forced to present some flowers-hearts-smiley-smile version of new motherhood. I have no doubt it’s going to be a tough time, and I appreciate the honesty. But on the other hand, the article’s very honesty, its undertones of desperation and darkness, make me question the whole idea of even having a baby. I find myself wondering – do I really want to go through that? It doesn’t sound very nice.
And it struck me that many PhD blogs I read are equally gritty and raw. They present the warts-and-all version of the PhD process, with people attesting to their struggles. Again, I appreciate the sense of solidarity that these offer and the knowledge that I’m not alone in finding it hard. But I do wonder, if I’d read these before I started studying again, would I even have got so far as registering?
Granted, it’s a little late to back out of either my baby or my PhD at this point, so I guess I’ll take what I can from the articles, particularly that it’s OK if it’s not all perfect all the time, and try not to expect the worst from either process. And then, I will watch some ridiculously cute baby animal videos (like this one of a kitten meeting a baby hedgehog) and proceed with as much calm as I can muster.