Bean was giggling as she was thrown in the air, her little squeals saying ‘again! again!’. Except today I couldn’t be the one to catch her. And it broke my heart.
You see, right now I can’t pick her up. I can’t lift her at all, let alone toss her in the air in the way that gets that giggle. Every. Time. And the ironic thing is, it’s because we had to make a decision to put my health first, so that I can put her first.
Last weekend I had surgery to sort out some post-labour shenanigans (don’t worry, lads – no TMI here). There were a few complications, so I’ve been left feeling a little more delicate than planned. Long story short, two weeks at the very least with no lifting at all, and our sent-from-somewhere-wonderful mums are taking turns to look after our girl. My word, do I miss her. You’d think because she is right there in front of me in the same room that it wouldn’t make a difference, but it does. I can’t be her ‘person’ right now, not in the same way as I would normally.
As you can imagine, the Should Have gremlin shuffled in when I was under the anaesthetic. He’s sneaky like that, and he’s trying really hard to stay. I haven’t even offered him a biscuit yet. I shouldn’t have said yes to the operation. I should have waited – I could have coped, right? I should be there for Bean right now – she needs me. I shouldn’t be wasting the last few weeks of my maternity leave not being able to look after her or enjoy our time together.
I shouldn’t have put myself first.
The thing is, I did. I had to, and I just have to get on with dealing with the consequences now. It’s so difficult, but it can’t be changed. Ohhhh but how to deal with it? That’s the question.
Having a mindful approach to life is often misconstrued with being constantly relaxed, floaty and empty-headed. So then when something uncomfortable comes along, we panic because we don’t feel relaxed and floaty anymore. But that’s not really what it’s about. It’s more about changing your reaction to stuff that happens – accepting all the good feelingness and all the bad feelingness. A feeling of relaxation often comes along as a by-product of that, because your resistance to negative events and feelings has lessened. Buddha (except it wasn’t him – oft-attributed, but it was someone else wise since) once said, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”. We all feel pain in life – both physical and emotional – but the lasting suffering comes from a layer we put on top of that. It’s our reaction to pain that has the capacity to make us spiral.
It would be easy to panic and spiral in the situation I’m in now: it’s blinking uncomfortable, both physically (surgery hurts) and emotionally (I can’t be with my baby), and there is absolutely jack all I can do about it. The pain will ease in time. The suffering, however, that I can do something about. I just have to accept the pain.
In short, I need to be kind to myself, despite instinct (and a lot of shouty people on the internet) telling me I should now come second. I’m a person too – I was before I had my baby and I continue to be. I needed this treatment and I need this rest. In doing so, I will be able to a better and more present mum to my little girl in future. Surely there is a reason we put our own lifejacket on first?
I keep reminding myself that it’s all ok really. Bean is safe, happy and loved – she is being looked after by family and friends that she adores. I am right there in the room with her as much as I can be, and doing as much of our daily stuff as I can manage. She’s clearly a bit peed off at times that I’m not picking her up, but hey, so am I.
So no, it’s not ideal. I’d change it in a heartbeat. But bopping myself about the head with a great big Should Have bludgeon is not going to change it, and it’s going to make the whole thing feel ten times worse in the long run. Short-term pain for long-term gain. This too shall pass. In a week or two, it’ll be me who’s there to catch her and I can’t bl**dy wait.