A series of letters to my younger mama self.
“Welcome to Artifact Motherhood.”
A collaboration of artists from around the world who have come together to share our stories of the joys and struggles in our journeys. Through our writings and photographs, we want to create memories that are more than photographs with dates written on the back. These are the artefacts we are leaving behind for our children and for generations to come.
At the end of this article, you will find a link to another mama’s blog and her take on motherhood this month. You will be able to follow the blog loop until you get back to me.
To learn more about Artifact Motherhood, please follow this link.
As we celebrated Sayan’s 5th birthday, just days ago, it occurred to me that this article was coming at the “right” time. This is when it’s OK to believe that things happen for a reason, and in the most intricate of ways sometimes. It’s also at this time last year that I was in therapy, for the first time, to tackle some serious shit. I talk about depression below. Numerous episodes of depression, caused by things lived in my childhood. It won’t get that grim, but it might not be comfortable to read. Don’t feel that you have to, but know that I am grateful if you do. This is chapter 2 of a letter to my younger mama self. Next up in the loop is the gorgeous, lovely and talented Min, all the way from my dear Malaysia.
You found out you were pregnant with your second child as your husband was recovering from nasty dengue fever. You were so busy looking after him and Leila that you didn’t realise you’d missed a period. And there they were, these lines on the stick. Man, you took control of yourself there. You swore to yourself the back pains you experienced during your first pregnancy wouldn’t come back and you started Pilates every week and it was awesome. You were rocking that pregnancy you were, and working away at weddings and families sessions, bump in tow. Loved it, felt great, piece of cake. You even had the best ob-gyn, like ever, and you wouldn’t have minded a third child just so you could spend more time with her…
No pain relief could be taken and labour was fast. This time you felt e v e r y t h i n g. You still feel grateful for that even if your body did go in absolute shock and shook uncontrollably for a good hour. That blood pressure was not doing well. But no matter, Sayan was here and safe and perfect, just as Leila was. You still remember Leila meeting her little sister just a few hours later, it was as perfect as can be.
So why the fuck are you crying so much ?
Do you recall the morbid thoughts flooding in after coming back home ? “Leila is going to be on a bus crash for sure” and you wouldn’t relax until she was home again after school. You were scared death was at every corner, lurking. Sayan was a great baby : she slept and ate well (excepts she grunted so loud at night) and you even had time for showers and proper meals and stuff. Your husband had stacked up the fridge and he cooked and there were people for you, people who had even flown to help. Except it was no use, it wasn’t helpful. All you wanted to do was to cry in the shower for hours. You should have been so happy and yet you could not shift that weight. That shadow was getting bigger and bigger over and inside of you. “Must ignore, must make efforts to show you are happy”.
“Because you are supposed to be and you should get over this. Be grateful, what is wrong with you woman?” The worst is when your own mother came to visit all the way to Malaysia. You were breaking inside and screaming and no one could hear because you did not know what to say, or whom to say it to. Or did you but could not tell, because it’s not supposed to be that way. Back then, you still didn’t understand, my lovely, that you can not shove years of pain under happiness just like that. You will have to remember things, it will feel like waking up in a nightmare and you will have to to do the work, and you will have to accept, and you will have to unlearn, and re-learn.
That time, 6 good months and some it takes you to see the fog disappear. One morning, as your feet touch the ground, you notice the sun is shining and you notice it makes you smile for the first time in months. In a sigh, it’s gone. For now. Until the next time. Until it shifts again. Until the next time. Until it shifts again. Until the next time.
Your motherhood. Look it right in its face and you see your own childhood. How can it be ? Oh it’s scary. It’s haunting and it’s there, inside of you, waiting to burst open and let the blood gush out. What will it take ? You can not trust yourself… It will get so dark. So, so dark you will not want to be alive to feel it. You’d rather disappear than even come close to doing to your children what’s been done to you. You will shed more tears, and go through the hurt again. It will get so dark in spite of your loving husband, in spite of your beautiful girls and their joy. It will get dark to the point that you will have to decide. OK, so your father and mother have broken you in million pieces, but, you can choose life and you can face what needs to be faced, one day at a time. You’ll be misunderstood or ignored by some people, but you will make progress because of you and because of some extraordinary people who will be there for you.
One day I promise, you will look back and you will see how far you have gone. You took control. You will lay some of it out in the open, you will break the silence, you will say “enough”. You will tell your story in whatever way you find strength to, and try every single day so your daughters don’t have to endure it. They have their own stories to build and that’s what you will need to keep hanging on to. You will replace bullying with gentleness, the screams with questions to understand, the physical violence with hugs and kisses, the guilt with “I’m sorry” and “I love you”. And you Mama, as this happens, you will find a bit more peace. So remember to write your story as you want it to be, not how someone else dealt the cards for you. It’s not weird or random that you are a family photographer now. That you look for connexions and love, and that you do that with kindness, patience and joy. And talking of joy, remember that when you can’t feel it, it’s not because it’s gone forever. You will feel it again. Better yet, you will be able to give it too.”
Please do follow on to read on about the lovely and talented and gorgeous Min, all the way from my dear Malaysia.
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I am moved by your vulnerability and words here, my friend. I have several friends who battled postpartum depression (and see it often in my career as a OB nurse), and it’s not always cut and dry like you so eloquently put. It’s happiness and sadness all in one. It’s fear, morbid thoughts. It NEEDS to be talked about more so it’s not such a hush hush thing, as it’s more common than people think. I can sense your absolute love for your family, you are truly beautiful. <3
If you are right in front of me at this moment, I will give you a big hug. I won’t tell you that everything is going to be ok in the end because no one really knows for sure. You are one strong mama and I adore you for your honesty. Take care, my friend.
THIS! Your courage in overcoming such adversity is such an inspiration to not only myself, but for others who read this as well. I see the silver linings you’ve painted so beautifully here, in your art and words, I see the gentle, loving, understanding mother you have become. Not any easy journey by any means, but one that matters. Thank you for sharing a piece of you soul. Much love Caro, and well done.
I feel the strength in your words is as powerful as your resolve to push past and break trough these feelings whenever they next reappear Caro! You are a brave woman for facing your fears, sharing them and conquering them. Funny that I also come from a broken family, perhaps in a different way, but have also ended up wanting to show other families how much love there truly is, you just have to want it, see it, and as you say most importantly, give it. xx
I admire your honesty and your vulnerability which is a strength in itself, I believe it’s so important to tell our stories and I love the way you express yours. Beautiful raw honesty. There’s so much power in that.
This is absolutely breathtaking. Such a beautiful read and I really love your work!
Such powerful compassion in reading this, Caro. I can feel a woman fighting back and taking back control of her life, which has me in utter admiration. I think we can turn off the light on ourselves by letting darkness seep in; so hard to shift when you are small and vulnerable. But you are not now. You have beauty, strength and love around you – I hope you’ll be able to just find peace too soon. XXX
Such a beautiful and powerful letter of hope Caroline. I’m so sorry for your struggles but so inspired by your strength to face them and overcome. That seems to be the resounding theme this time around I feel. All the love to you and your girls xxxx