Failed relationships, broken friendships, harsh words spoken in haste to loved ones, and fights with my husband. Specifics are gone – washed away with the best cleanser of all – time. Which is the way I like it. When I look back on my life, I don’t want to remember ridiculous arguments – I want to remember love, warmth and kindness.
So I forgive.
It’s always been difficult for me to accept that it’s easiest to be hurt by the people closest to you. Their words seem exceptionally harsh. Maybe it’s because they know you and know where to strike. Or maybe it’s because they know you so well and can still think ill of you. Either way, I have found that silent treatment and grudge holding do not help. It’s far more important to me to have peace with my loved ones than it is to prove that I am right about something.
So I forgive.
And that distance I feel in between myself and my husband/sister/brother/father/mother/anyone-I-cannot-live-without after a horrendous argument over not much at all – that distance? I hate it. That silence? I hate it. That quiet, seething anger? HATE it. I can’t live my life holding onto that stuff. So I say sorry…
And I forgive.
It’s a less complex way to live. The moment I give an apology and forgiveness, I instantly feel lighter.
So why is it that when it comes to me, I beat myself up over eating some chocolate after dinner before I’ve even bought the damn block? That I can almost see the hatred oozing out of my eyes when I check myself out in the mirror after that extra bowl of pasta? That I look back at every single error, stupid remark, and bad decision I’ve made and practically sweat with embarrassment while simultaneously trying to push the offending memory out of my head? Why do I hold onto all the bad stuff?
Why can’t I forgive myself?
Sometimes I lie awake at night thinking about my pregnancy and the days after my daughter’s birth – some of the most stressful days of my life. They should’ve been my happiest. You know what one of the nurses in the hospital said to me? That my little one was so unsettled because I was too stressed out during my pregnancy; that, essentially, she lived in a pool of cortisol for nine months.
That killed me when I first heard it. I created a tough environment for her to grow, develop and try to survive in when she didn’t need to be tough and fighting for survival. She deserved to be completely helpless and reliant on me to provide her with a relaxed and comfortable little home. But because of me, she was born starving and stressed. I cry when I think about it. I cry as I write about it.
Why was I so stressed? Well there were a few things going on that were out of my control – like selling our tiny unit for a larger house in preparation for our bundle’s arrival, and my father’s heart attack and near death. But some things were in my control. I could’ve said no to 10+ hour days at work with no lunch breaks. Instead I sat at my computer eating cheese toasties everyday and worked up until 36 weeks and 3 days. I was induced with pre-eclampsia and had my baby at 37 weeks and 6 days.
It upsets me that while my baby was in my tummy, my mind was filled with thoughts of death, rather than life; that my life was filled with rushed and jam-packed weekends instead of relaxation; and my weekdays were comprised of ridiculous working hours when I should’ve just said no.
It’s no surprise I developed PPD, come to think of it. Not only was my unborn child enveloped in cortisol, so too was my brain – throwing all my neurotransmitters out of whack. I’ve always been a believer in people taking the medication they need for mental illness – as long as it’s administered safely and correctly. But when it came time to accept that I would have to join the ranks of the medication-taking masses, I stalled. This is not necessary, I thought. I don’t need these meds! I just need to toughen up and get a bit more sleep!
The berating and denial went on and on. I couldn’t forgive myself for my daughter’s rough start. I couldn’t forgive myself for falling into a depression. I couldn’t forgive myself for hiding in my house, for being afraid to walk across the road to buy some nappies and nipple cream. I couldn’t forgive myself for waking up unhappy each and every morning.
Dammit, I just couldn’t forgive myself.
But then I realized something. It wasn’t just about me anymore. It was about my baby too. I had to be in the best possible mental state so that I could take care of her in the best possible way. I had to admit I was struggling. I had to get better.
I started therapy. I took the medication. I forced myself to exercise when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I wrote when I couldn’t open my heavy eyelids wide enough to see the computer screen properly. I went for walks when I physically felt like my body would not be able to move an inch. I stopped the greasy takeaway and carved out time in the day to drink a smoothie and eat a salad sandwich. I started to look after myself so that I could look after my daughter.
I had to learn how to accept my faults and all the things I did “wrong” during and after my pregnancy. Not just accept them, but let them float away out to sea – release them, set them free.
I had to learn to forgive myself.
I’d love to say that I’ve nailed all this. But I haven’t. I still beat myself up all the time. I still have negative thoughts about my body and appearance. I still get an attack of the guilts in the chocolate aisle and when I think of my pregnancy. But I try to remember, in these moments, that I am worthy of the same kindness I show other people. I force myself to look at my daughter and think about what she needs. A mother that carries the weight of the world on her shoulders and feels so weighed down she can’t get off the couch? Or a mother who chooses to let things go? A mother who chooses happiness? A mother who forgives not only those around her, but herself?
If I were a little girl who was home with her mum pretty much 24/7, I know what I’d want.
So . . .I fight to forgive myself.
Marina is a sometimes scientist, sometimes jewelry maker, accidental chef, and an always mum. She has slowly emerged from the trauma of the first four months of her baby daughter’s life to…write about the traumatic first four months of her daughter’s life, and the brighter days that followed. Follow her on Instagram @themarinesss where flowers, cats and food reign supreme.
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