On the heart-swelling but frightening journey of early parenting

Our second guest post comes from my friend and mother colleague, Jen Delaney. When I saw Jen's Facebook post below, I was taken by her ability to write about The Hard Things in a way that was raw and powerful, and tinged with hope and beauty. Tonic & Tea is privileged to be able to share this with you all.   


I did not mean to write the following post.

I had spent a beautiful, sunny day with my toddler, happily walking around our neighbourhood completing tasks. All the while I had marvelled at how strikingly gorgeous I found the tree-lined streets, how confidently and positively I engaged with every person with whom I spoke, and how the smell of jasmine flowers made my heart sing.

That evening, after having tucked my little daughter into her bed, I was relaxing and casually scrolling my Facebook feed. A good friend of mine
herself another new mum of a daughterhad published a short, copy-the-text-and-post-your-answers style survey listing some of her favourite things, with the heading "Why not get to know each other better?"

Not normally interested in those things, I surprised myself by thinking, "Absolutely! And why not get to know myself better too?" I began my response post, intending to introduce it with a short acknowledgement of my friend for the idea, but then this tumbled out of me instead.
I know that for the last year plus, I have only shared with you what my baby girl gets up to every day. Maybe you are a friend that I care about and you're not even reading this, because you got sick of my relentless spam and unfollowed me. And I accept that.

Of course having my daughter has changed my life, and she has all but become my life, but I'm finding myself in a moment of transition. Not least because I am testing out coming off the anti-depressants that I have relied on to keep from crumbling for the past year.

Initially I felt privileged to experience the heightened emotions that becoming a mother provided me. Each day between learning about the tiny new human that I was holding, I was looking inward and learning about myself, and finding the ability to articulate these observations into writing. But looking back I can admit that there was some early paranoia there also, as well as the unavoidable exhaustion that comes with mothering a newborn child.

I can clearly identify the day that the enormous responsibility of keeping alive the most important, precious, irreplaceable living thing in my personal existence crashed over me like a enormous wave and cracked me. I spent the better part of 24 hours in a physically painful state of anxiety, feeling helpless and alone. I felt like there was no air in the world for me to breathe, but no one could see me turning blue.

From the day after this event until a couple of weeks ago, I swallowed a tiny tablet every morning that muted my feelings of panic and despair. But in doing so, it toned down everything else as well. My capacity to introspect and communicate my thoughts kind of dissolved.

I am really enjoying feeling everything again. I have cried a lot of times this week
not because I am fragile, but because I have been overcome by something touching that I have read, or have seen something just so beautiful occur. It feels good to connect again. 
I suppose my own take-away from these words is that the early journey of parenting is absolutely heart-swelling, and can be equally incredibly frightening. I wondered in the early days why no other mother had warned me that simply wanting to protect my tiny baby from harm could feel like so huge a task that it brought me partially undone. Then when other friends followed me into the dizzying world of new motherhood, I realised that I was scared to tell them how hard it can be, as I suppose the friends before me had been scared of telling me. 

To illuminate the dark and desperate places that new parents find themselves in, I hope that we can all start talking about the scary stuff.

About the author: Jen Delaney is, among many other things, a rockstar mum to Lola.