Love is a doing word

su and tom second pic_cleaned up1

Motherhood; day 1. Image: Leslie-Gray family archive, 1998.

 The boy-child was not a model baby. Although delivered full-term, he weighed barely 2.5kg at birth, and we struggled hugely in his first few months with feeding difficulties and erratic sleeping patterns.

I’m not entirely sure what I expected of motherhood, but certainly not the exhaustion, guilt, fear, loneliness and utter helplessness I experienced. I had told clients I’d probably be back to work after about eight weeks. In reality, as eight weeks became twelve, I still considered it a good day if I managed to get both the baby and I dressed and out of the house.

The post-natal depression with which I was diagnosed lasted for years. Long after the boy-child’s sleeping ceased to be a problem, I still experienced the same sick, clenched stomach if he did cry out in the night.

There is a lot I just don’t remember about my son’s first year — and I certainly wasn’t up to taking lots of photos, or keeping a “Milestones” book as many of the other new mothers I knew did.

When I think back on that time, what I do remember is the music. The soundtrack of my son’s babyhood may well be the best bit, and there are so many songs I could choose from that time.

But I’ve always loved the opening line of this song, and I think that although it isn’t about motherhood, it speaks brilliantly to the essence of a mother’s love.

Love, love is a verb

Love is a doing word

Massive Attack, Teardrop

Sarah at Art Expedition is hosting 30 Days, 30 Songs for the month of June. You can see her latest post here.

Why not join in — as Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind so brilliantly puts it “casual players welcome.”

62 thoughts on “Love is a doing word

  1. Lovely, lovely post, Su. You conjured the extremes of mixed emotions perfectly. In western culture having a baby can be so very isolating, which is frightening of itself, let alone the fears for a new small being whom you don’t yet know.

    Liked by 5 people

      • Yes, it’s an awful shadow to fall at a time when everyone around you expects you to be joyous. I did read once there was in all likelihood an actual hormonal cause, due to the crash of progesterone levels which would be at the highest just prior to giving birth. Mainstream medicine tends to concern itself with oestrogen, and especially its depletion during menopause, though there are some practitioners who will prescribe natural progesterone cream. Low levels of the later can cause havoc in the female body through mid-life and beyond. Dr Christiane Northrup MD has been writing about this for years – in the first instance to overcome her own ill health ‘Screaming to be heard.’ But she has a big web presence these days and lots of common sense: https://www.drnorthrup.com/video/bioidentical-hormones/

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks for the link Tish. I had progesterone cream for a while when the boy-child was little. It was to help treat endometriosis. I’m not sure how much it helped, or how much worse it would have been without it. It was certainly never offered or mentioned when I was diagnosed with PND — and I can see how I might have benefitted then.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. I can so relate to that, Su. Mine weren’t model babies either. It’s tumbling down (like love falling apart). One canny doctor asked me what I did for fun. I looked at him blankly. I couldn’t answer the question. It then occurred to me that I had had post-natal depression for 20 years. I wonder if that is possible?

    Liked by 5 people

  3. I hardly know what to write in response, Su. This must have been such a difficult time for you, a time that went on for much too long. Thanks for sharing your story. I agree that love is a doing word but sometimes people either try to do too much or they do too little. Hard to get it right.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. First of all, an utterly touching post. I have a similar story but I’m not here to tell…. this is your blog.
    Suffice to say that baby cried his heart out and his head off every day of his first three years of his life.
    He is rather a quiet man now…. 🙂
    Second, as I knew nothing of this song, I bothered to find the lyrics. Here they are:
    Love, love is a verb
    Love is a doing word
    Fearless on my breath
    Gentle impulsion
    Shakes me, makes me lighter
    Fearless on my breath
    Teardrop on the fire
    Fearless on my breath
    Night, night of matter
    Black flowers blossom
    Fearless on my breath
    Black flowers blossom
    Fearless on my breath
    Teardrop on the fire
    Fearless on my
    Water is my eye
    Most faithful mirror
    Fearless on my breath
    Teardrop on the fire
    Of a confession
    Fearless on…

    A fine song going right to the core – and so suitable to this posting! I only hope that boy child will eventually – as mine does (now) – gives you much reason to smile and to be proud of and happy for later in his life. Makes up for a lot of anguish, even when you had to suffer incredibly for the longest time.

    Liked by 3 people

    • As soon as my son could walk, he was able to channel of all his energy, and his sleeping improved. As soon as he could talk, he began asking wonderful, challenging questions and became truly delightful company. He still is!
      I’m so glad your son brings you joy too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sarah; thank you for your kind words
        Su Leslie; my son chose not to speak for a long time and then he spoke in full sentences and started asking really weird questions…. When he did, I asked why he never spoke before, he said: Up to now everything was always alright…. (no, that’s so not true!). 😉 I guess he is now making up for his then need to ask and talk an endless lot by being the quiet one!
        Our child slept once we moved to a different town and place. For at least another year I woke in great panic and run over to his bedroom wondering if he was dead – I was so not used to him sleeping and not crying! It’s good that we don’t know ahead of time what’s coming up our road. It leaves us room for thankfulness later on.

        Liked by 1 person

        • That is a really good point about not knowing what’s ahead.
          My son used to ask wonderfully weird questions too. My favourites were “what colour are your tastebuds” and “how come when you look at a plane flying it’s going really fast, but when you’re in it, it feels like you’re not moving.” How do you explain relativity to a four year old?

          Liked by 1 person

  5. You have gone through a lot of stress. I can understand your feeling of helplessness and the postnatal blues as my wife had gone through the same experience with one of our children. But the love for your baby boy overcame the problems in the end. Thank you for sharing this with us, Su!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. All these years later, I kept thinking that I wasn’t a good mom to my firstborn. I hadn’t a clue about anything. Looking back, I know it was postpartum depression. I thank you for bringing this up, Su, if only for the fact that it somehow lets me know that this happens and nothing we can do but try to work through it. My words are not coming out right–but thank you for this.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you Lois. I fear that there are far too many women suffering alone.
      It was only when I had PND that I realised — to my shame — that one of my dearest friends had endured this too. At the time her son was born, our lives had diverged so much; I was a post-grad focused on my career and having fun while she was stuck in the outer suburbs with a crying baby and a fairly unsympathetic family. I just didn’t “get it” and was a hopeless friend. I realise now that is quite common because we women aren’t great at asking for help. I remember at one stage being hysterical; terrified that if I appeared weak my baby would be taken away from me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Cecilia. I can’t imagine having five children, but I totally get losing huge chunks of time and memory. My journals of the time are pretty depressing reading. I marvel at people who have those Milestones books and remember their children’s early lives as a series of weight gains, hours of sleep and hair growth.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. A most urgent post, beautifully written. I have only read about these things, and like Tish, some of its origin. I hope everything is fine now, even if you had to wait for far too long a time…My second child is a boy, born three weeks too early, but very low weight. Many tests were done on him trying to understand why he came out so small a baby. We had to stay at the hospital for three weeks and had some tough months waiting for the tests – but he was alright. Nothing wrong.
    Thank you for posting about a tough thing – there are many young out there going through this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad your boy was alright in the end; what a terrible ordeal for your whole family.
      It does worry me how many young women experience depression and loneliness as new mothers, and our modern lives where we often live far from family can only exacerbate that.

      Like

  8. Was your mother there Su? It’s terrible when this supposed joyous time in our life turns out not to be so. This is when we need a lot of support and help from our mothers, sisters and friends.
    Leslie

    Liked by 2 people

    • My mother did spend time with us, and at first it made things worse as she wanted me to stop breast-feeding so she could take charge of the baby. I felt like feeding was too important to give away — not just because of the health benefits, but because it made me feel really close to my son.
      After a while, it did get better and I really appreciate all that my mother did for us in the boy-child’s early years.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You are so right about how no one can anticipate how overwhelmingly hard it is to be a new parent. Although I did not have post-partum depression, I do remember feeling so incompetent, exhausted, emotionally drained, and scared to death—but also so much in love with that new baby. The second time was only a tiny bit easier, to be honest. I thought that I’d be more prepared, but nope.

    Somehow we all survived, didn’t we?

    Liked by 4 people

    • 🙂 yes, that combination of exhaustion and absolute love is a weird one.
      I know a couple of women who never recovered from post-partum depression; one was hospitalised more or less permanently and her son was raised by his older siblings and an aunt. That was 50+ years ago, and I’m told that it wasn’t uncommon in NZ for women with PND to be locked away in psychiatric institutions. It seems so barbaric.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Amy, isn’t it great of Mother Nature to make us forget all the deep trouble we had with our children and the birthing process? If we all did remember this, there would surely be no more babies born…. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  10. A very moving post, Su, and I can imagine how hard it was for you to write about this very difficult time. In a few days I’ll share a song connected to a similar time for me. It was hard writing this, and I’m still thinking about deleting it, or rewriting it, but I think I should simply let it go.
    I can only imagine how you must have felt back then. A former neighbor of mine had the same thing when her boy came, she lost so much weight during that time and looked like a ghost. You could actually see the energy and life draining out of her. Her Italian mother then came to visit and supported her and her husband. They’ve moved now but by the time they did, life had changed to the better. It was a scary thing to watch if I’m honest.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It is difficult to bare our souls like this, but I must say, I find our WP community incredibly supportive.
      I began writing about my depression while I was in the midst of it; it was pretty much the only thing that really helped.
      I am glad that your ex-neighbour got help from her mother; it sounds like her physical health was really suffering as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Hard to know what to say, but my heart goes out to you. I never experienced anything like that with my babies, though it was hard living overseas and not having family around for the firstborn. I think the sleep deprivation is something you do not understand before having a baby though we all know how that affects our moods and ability to cope with stresses. I think many new mothers function on automatic pilot for those first months.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jude. I can imagine it would be really difficult knowing that your family was so far away. My mum was a few hours away in Scotland, and did spend quite a lot of time with us. At first it made things worse, but eventually we figured out what worked, and in the boy-child’s second year particularly she was a godsend — and loved seeing so much of her grandson.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My mother was only around for my third baby as he was born in England. But then only for a short while as we returned to SA when he was 3 weeks old. It was the first time that my mother and I really got on since my teens, either she had mellowed or I had matured, but that brief time changed our relationship for the better.

        Liked by 1 person

        • 😀 it is really interesting the way motherhood changes our relationship with our own mothers. I appreciate mine now much more than I ever did because I am experiencing the same things. Her politics still stink though 😂

          Liked by 2 people

  12. I wish there was a Love button for this post. Love is a doing word. I am so counting on that. Also struggling with PND with all three boys, I’ve never managed to be a huggy-kissy mother to my boys but I’m putting my hopes in the DOING side of love that I managed will mean my boys will go through life believing they were/are loved. You survived early motherhood and raised a beautiful and healthy boy, Su. Be proud of that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh Heather, I’m so sorry you experienced this with all your boys. When I read your posts now, your love for them is so clear and so strong, I can’t imagine that they could even begin to doubt it.
      I am proud of my son, and of the way his father and I have raised him. The Big T and I had almost diametrically opposite childhoods, and both feel very strongly we wanted something different for our boy. I think in a way, those differences helped us balance out the tendency to over-compensate for our own sense of what we’d missed out on — if that makes sense.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I didn’t have PND but I did have a very difficult first baby. I had a lot of support and help but the worst part was the subtle and not so subtle comments that you, the mother, must be doing something wrong if your baby isn’t sleeping, eating or behaving like most other babies! I think the non-sleeping habits of my first born aged me 10 years; I certainly started going grey after her arrival. I am glad you were able to share some of your life-changing experience with us. And I hope young mothers today have better understanding and access to help than our generation did….I am not so sure about that though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are absolutely right! A huge part of the loneliness I felt stemmed from a reluctance to go out and socialise with the other mothers I’d met at ante natal classes, etc (and everyone else I knew was at work). To a woman, they seemed to have chubby, quiet, sleepy babies while mine was a howling scrap. They were all very nice, but I was exhausted by their endless fascination with the minutiae of their babies feeding and bowel habits, etc. and complete lack of interest in anything outside their experience of motherhood. And the endless bits of well-meaning “advice” …. grrr.
      I later discovered that one particularly smug friend who went on endlessly about what good sleepers her girls were was giving them Phenergan at bedtime.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Bittersweet for me. I always wanted to be a mom, but wasn’t able to. Now I am a mom to six cats and a dog. They need me. I think they actually love me. But I will never know what it’s like to raise a human child.

    Liked by 2 people

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