Breaking the cycle

“They say your life changes when you have a baby and they are right, but it is so, so much more than that. My daughter makes me question everything I ever knew about life, myself and the way I choose to interact with those around me. I used to think that you shouldn’t hold a baby “too much”, but now I think back to the first months of my daughters life when I held her for hours every evening just studying her face and memorising every detail, and I wouldn’t change those moments for the world. I used to think that children should be in their own beds because that was all I knew… and yet every night I lie there listening to my daughter breathing and feeling the warmth of her snuggled against my chest – and I know I wouldn’t want it any other way, and she is welcome to stay there for as long as she feels she needs to. I used to think that children shouldn’t say “no” to their parents or talk back, and now I look forward to the day when my daughter feels confident, strong and secure enough to tell me she disagrees with me and I hope she is able to use those skills as she grows into a woman and navigates through life. I never gave thought to the importance of the little things of the future, such as the way I might respond to tears by telling her there is “no need” to be upset and actually making her feel as though her feelings aren’t valid, or by punishing a tantrum during the “terrible twos” when that might be her only way of telling me that life has just got a little too overwhelming to cope with at that very moment. Having a daughter has changed my life in ways I didn’t even know were possible and she makes me want to become a better person for the sole purpose of being her role model. I will be her biggest fan, her advocate and her protector. When I first looked down into her beautiful face, I made a promise to do everything in my power to raise her with empathy, gentleness and love, and that is what I plan on doing until the day I have to leave her. And when that day comes, I hope my legacy will be a happy, healthy, beautiful woman with a passion for life, who will live the rest of her days in the knowledge that she was totally and utterly loved from the minute she was born, and always, always will be.”

Before I got pregnant I imagined myself to be a “mainstream” parent. Parenthood would consist of my children complying with my wishes and therefore growing up to be a well mannered, helpful and obedient members of society. If not, I would teach them through modern parenting tools such as the naughty step and time out and if they didn’t listen I would use punishments to show them that they couldn’t “win” and to show them that I was “the boss”.

I planned to breastfeed until six months (because breast is best) but hadn’t thought much further than that, and of course they would sleep in a moses basket until they were big enough to be moved into their own cot in their own room because everyone knows that is the safest place (and that would be a walk in the park too, and if not they would have to be left to self soothe, otherwise they would never learn).

And then Evie arrived.

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A squawking whirlwind of bright blue eyes and soft squishy cheeks, she made her speedy entrance into the world 5 weeks early, thankfully perfectly healthy. And as I lay there that first night, just me and her in that hospital room, I realised just how wrong I had been. Nothing I could have done would have prepared me for how blind sided I felt by this little bundle in my arms. I wanted everything for her and felt totally unprepared and inadequate. And so I started reading.

The more I read, the more I thought. And the more I thought…. the more things became clear to me about my own childhood and about my own mental health problems. If I wanted to do the best I can for my daughter, I need to address my own feelings about how I was raised and learn from them pretty sharpish. Over the past few blog posts you may have been reading about many of my ponderings, but for the purpose of this post, here they are in brief:

  • Both parents are very invalidating
  • Both parents are very “mainstream”
  • Both parents are emotionally unsupportive

And so began my journey into discovering a way to raise my daughter that I would feel comfortable with, in terms of providing her with an emotionally healthy, stable and validating environment. In my search, I came across Gentle Parenting. In short, there are three types of parents; “Mainstream parents” who follow traditional methods such as punishments for bad behaviour, parents know best and should be respected at all costs etc, “Permissive parents” who do not set boundaries and allow children to behave in any way they see fit for fear of ruining their relationship with them, and then those in the middle known as “Gentle parents” who set boundaries and limits and stick to them, but do so in an empathetic manner, by respecting the emotions of their children regardless of how they are demonstrated (temper tantrums etc).. There is so much more I can say on this but that is a subject for a separate post.

They say your life changes when you have a baby they are right, but it is so, so much more than that. My daughter makes me question everything I ever knew about life, myself and the way I choose to interact with those around me. I used to think that you shouldn’t hold a baby “too much”, but now I think back to the first months of my daughters life when I held her for hours every evening just studying her face and memorising every detail, and I wouldn’t change those moments for the world. I used to think that children should be in their own beds because that was all I knew… and yet every night I lie there listening to my daughter breathing and feeling the warmth of her snuggled against my chest – and I know I wouldn’t want it any other way, and she is welcome to stay there for as long as she feels she needs to. I used to think that children shouldn’t say “no” to their parents or talk back, and now I look forward to the day when my daughter feels confident, strong and secure enough to tell me she disagrees with me and I hope she is able to use those skills as she grows into a woman and navigates through life. I never gave thought to the importance of the little things of the future, such as the way I might respond to tears by telling her there is “no need” to be upset and actually making her feel as though her feelings aren’t valid, or by punishing a tantrum during the “terrible twos” when that might be her only way of telling me that life has just got a little too overwhelming to cope with at that very moment. Having a daughter has changed my life in ways I didn’t even know were possible and she makes me want to become a better person for the sole purpose of being her role model. I will be her biggest fan, her advocate and her protector. When I first looked down into her beautiful face, I made a promise to do everything in my power to raise her with empathy, gentleness and love, and that is what I plan on doing until the day I have to leave her. And when that day comes, I hope my legacy will be a happy, healthy, beautiful woman with a passion for life, who will live the rest of her days in the knowledge that she was totally and utterly loved from the minute she was born, and always, always will be.

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2 comments

  1. Wow. I am in remission and have been through DBT but only recently thought I might be able to be a parent. Were you not afraid that the stress and the inability to do enough self care would destabilize you? I am 49 and very close to deciding whether I will pursue IVF with a donor egg, but still so unsure…

    1. Yes, I was, amongst being deeply concerned about other things (the genetic element of bpd, my parents influence over my children, the lack of sleep being a major trigger in my illness).

      Let me honest, it’s been hard. And now I am 22 weeks pregnant with #2, it is even harder. But it is the best thing I have ever one, and the most healing experience for me. My child makes everything seem real and seem important. On the occasions I have needed to self harm, my love and respect for her and myself as my mother has stopped me.

      I made sure I had adequate support in place in terms of mental health services for when she arrived and I knew it would be harder than normal, but thankfully I didn’t need it.

      If you want children, don’t let your illness (of the past) hold you back). It’s the best thing ever. Xx

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