You are not enough

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It was the summer of early 2017. I lay on the beach, pregnant. My tummy was starting to swell and my cheeks were starting to glow. Gone were the days of morning sickness and hormonal charged pimples; I was morphing into a mother.

While my head was in the clouds and was busy imagining how cute my perfect, little angel child was going to be, I forgot one very important thing: Sunblock.

The sun faded, the burn began to show and I felt myself fall back in to my regular rhythm of self-doubt. How on earth was I going to look after a small child when I could barely look after myself?

The more I thought on it, the more aware of the problem I became and the bigger the holes in my life started to seem. Not only did I have no idea what I was in for, I was useless at forward-thinking and planning ahead - how was that going to work when I had to pack bags or lunches or nappies for my child?

I'd spent most of my life hoping that everything would turn out fine, without any planning and effort. Usually, however, I ended up burned by this (metaphorically and, clearly, literally).

Now that there was a baby in the mix, I would no longer just be putting myself on the line. I had to start thinking practically and putting my new family first. I wasn’t confident I'd be able to do that.

I'd be fine if I just went with my instincts. I was enough. I was. Wasn’t I?

When Ashton was born, I quickly set about establishing that I was. He was demand fed, he was rocked soundly to sleep every night (by either me or my husband), he slept in our bed. I had no routine, except for the one he set.

Suddenly self-questioning my parenting abilities started to fade. Life had continued and my baby was fine.

So a year later, when my husband left for a two week work trip, I thought it wouldn’t be too much of an issue. Sure I’d be parenting by myself again, but. I. was. enough.

I could hack it on my own.

He left last Sunday, just in time as it turned out. As Monday night rolled around I went to bed feeling just a little bit off. It wasn’t too surprising, a tummy bug had been making its rounds of the members of my family.

“It’s fine, I’ll sleep on it and wake up back to normal” I thought to myself as I climbed into bed that night.

I woke at 12:15am to the sound of my son crying through the baby monitor. He had begun to wake less in the night again, but still, it wasn’t surprising. I rose from my bed and felt my stomach knot up, nice and high. I knew the feeling. I was sick.

He woke again at 3:30 am, but this time when I rose I felt instantly nauseous. After settling Ashton again I picked up a plastic bucket from the laundry and spare towels from the cupboard and placed them around me on the bed.

He woke once more at 5:30am and this time he wouldn’t settle back in bed. We sat in the lounge like zombies, motionless and grey in the face.

When I picked up the remote slowly to switch on the Wiggles, Ashton stopped crying. His eyes became glued to the screen. I lay my head down on a cushion to stop the throbbing in my head and the nausea in my throat.

Wait, my throat? Uh-oh, that meant… I had two seconds before... You know what I mean.

I sprang to life, whipped my arm out from Ashton’s tiny little body and lept from the lounge to the toilet in a few great strides.

I threw up for a good five minutes.

Thankfully, Ashton was fine. In fact, he was still in the same position I’d left him, happily watching Emma Wiggle on the screen.

I was enough - along with the Wiggles on Netflix.

I fell back into the cushion on the couch feeling incredibly tired. My eyelids couldn’t bare to be lifted. I was a good mum, I was all my boy needed, so I couldn’t fall asleep now, could I?

“I’ll just rest my eyes,” I thought.

I woke fifteen minutes later to a loud bang followed by a panicked scream. Ashton was not fine.

While I’d accidentally fallen asleep, he'd wriggled himself off the couch and pulled himself up to stand at the clothing horse. The extra weight had made it topple over and he was trapped underneath the frame and a mountain of clean washing.

I hurriedly lifted it and scooped him up for a cuddle. His chin was bleeding in two places. I felt sick. (literally and physically).

I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.

The thoughts raced through my mind. How was I supposed to look after this child when I couldn’t even look after myself?

I get why we all want to be independent superwomen boss ladies who get things done and never complain about it. We want to know that our best efforts are good enough to keep our children from harm and grow them into strong adults. We genuinely want to be good enough, for their sake.

But, despite our efforts, we get sick. We have bad days. We have dumb moments. We have things that are out of our control. We get lazy. We make mistakes.

We are never going to be able to be there 100% of the time for our precious babies, no matter how hard we try. Despite the saying “You are enough” that seems to circulate on all the motherhood social media pages, we are not enough and we’re not meant to be. It’s time we stopped trying.

I did. I looked at my son, his chin bleeding and tears streaming down his face and I started to cry too. I wanted to care for him but this illness just wouldn’t allow it. It was taking up all of my energy. It was too much.

At that moment my dad walked in.

He didn’t say much, he just saw me looking worse for wear and offered to take Ashton upstairs while I rested. No judgement, no prerequisites, they just disappeared from my sight.

I breathed a big, deep breathe of nauseating air. My whole parenting journey, I'd been trying to prove to myself that I could do it on my own, but thinking “I am enough” is like saying your kid only gets what you have to offer and nothing more. I wasn’t enough, but wow, I didn’t have to be. When I couldn’t do it anymore, there were others to take over.

That’s why, as a whole, I truly do believe the traditional idea that the mother does everything on her own, no matter the cost, needs to be put to bed. It’s sick. It’s unrealistic. It will run you ragged.

Whether its a partner, a friend, a family member, a plunket nurse, a doctor, or a preschool teacher, we need to have support people around us. We need people who can offer more, or can offer different things, or can take over when it is not possible for us to do it on our own.

It’s time to stop saying “I am enough”. Yes, we can get the job done most of the time, but we’re not where the buck stops. No one should have to do this journey alone.

Not only did Ashton have a fantastic day with his Poppa, my sister came over to aid him as well, bringing me an iceblock and Powerade. They got me through. After six or eight hours I began to feel like myself again.

Mum was back baby, and more appreciative than ever.

Rachel Chen