Motherhood is a funny, fantastic, raise-you-up and slam-you-down ride.
Every day has its highlights and deep depths – whether it is listening to your ‘baby’ playing imaginatively by themselves, contentedly in their own world and feeling your heart burst with love and pride, to the grim reality of cleaning vomit from your cleavage for the third night running. Raising children keeps you, literally, on your toes (because darn it, the minute you sit down the ankle biters are going to scream for more. More Playdoh! MORE Jigsaws! More of that toast you just unwittingly crammed into your mouth! Sigh.)
We all get suckered into that beatific ideal of parenthood at some point. It might be that for years you have yearned for the moment you pop a watermelon-sized human out of your vag, or it might be that you found yourself day-dreaming about your child and the mother you’d be once you received your copy of Emma’s Diary at the booking in appointment. Whenever it happened, it definitely happens. We buy into the images in the magazines and devour tips on parenting sites about organic baby-led weaning and using black and white flashcards with the baby when they are the grand old age of er… four weeks. We enrol in baby massage classes; some even getting a head start with enlisting at the local Montessori. We slap the Bio-Oil on and go bonkers in Mothercare buying every gadget thrust in our faces. We buy that fandangled light thingy-me-jig that means our baby is going to sleep all night, every night. DAMN! We have this shiz COVERED people! We might be only 9 weeks pregnant but we’ve seriously got this parenting lark NAILED.
Oh. Oh ho. Ho, ho… NO.
So then the baby actually comes out of the sunroof rather than breaking your poor old hoo-ha, and despite not being able to get out of bed without a grunt and wince that Maria Sharapova would be proud of, you look on the positive side of intact bits and you start to breastfeed and oh good LORD that hurts, and so you hook yourself up to a human milking machine so you can express, and you can’t sleep because the baby doesn’t seem to like, know that it’s bloody night-time, not big-eyes-open-and-suckling time and keeping you up all the hours that God has created (why? Why TWENTY FOUR hours GOD?! That’s like 86400 seconds and believe me, every second counts when you are rocking a newborn.) Finally you get back to breastfeeding and it’s on demand and the baby cluster feeds all the time, and you are knackered, cream crackered, putting-your-tea-in-the-fridge tired and slowly, the sleep deprivation sinks into your bones, and everything feels heavy and hard and oh… no. Here we go.
Panic attacks. Not one, not two, lots of them, sometimes one after another. Wailing, howling, deep sobbing and the secret is out and it starts. Get Help: GPs. Health Visitors. Medication. Lots of ‘Are You Going to Kill Yourself?’ questionnaires. Concerned looks. Suffocating cuddles.
Let’s get one thing straight: PND is Shit. Shitty, McShitty, McSHIT. It’s all-consuming. It’s like a deep, dark cavern that you can’t stop yourself tumbling into. It fills your bones with sadness. It’s a black dog that sits at your feet and a thick fog that engulfs your head. It holds your neck and chest in it’s anxious grip. And it’s really, deeply, isolating and lonely.
That was, and, to a much, much smaller extent, still is, ME.
So roll forward to last June, bleary-eyed and, well, still flipping knackered, and slowly on the up from that depth of PND, I logged onto Facebook and created a group called The Sandpaper Eyes. (Huh?! Well yes, but I know you know; that weird gritty thing that you get in your eyes when you’ve only had two hours sleep in three days). I added some good, close friends who had children around the same age and we got chatting frankly and honestly about the highs, lows and everything in between of motherhood. Out of that, came this sort of lightness, this support and feeling of being bolstered and others Getting It. And after my husband had a light bulb moment in the car one day whilst we were chatting about this amazing group of women, the group was renamed, and The Motherload® was born. (YES. I admit it. My husband came up with the name and NO he’s not getting any shares, he’s got ME, the lucky bugger.)
Today, 3 June 2016, we celebrate the first birthday of The Motherload®! From that first day 12 months ago, with only 12 friends in the group, we have grown to an amazing community of over 4,000 members. The Motherload® is now a Limited Company, with a team of three phenomenally talented women beside me; Alison McGarragh-Murphy, Laura Bennett and Anna-Belle Cao. We have built this site, with our own bare hands! We have brought together some phenomenally amazing writers and entrepreneurs to celebrate their talent and support it through our group. Within our community, we have over 120 posts a day on our Facebook group, all supportive, honest accounts or advice about being a parent, delivered directly from the coal-face. We have ridiculously, snort-through-your-nose, funny photos and images from our members showing the cray-cray that our kids get up to and the general whirlwind of glorious madness that comes with raising children. This is a place where you can admit that motherhood maybe didn’t quite play out to the perfect parent plans you had, or that those insta-filtered photos of your sunny and well behaved, smiling and radiant, clean kids took 30 minutes and an entire camera roll filled with ‘out-takes’.
But at the very heart of The Motherload® is that every member firmly believes in lifting each other up, supporting every other mother and not judging those moments where we all make mistakes or say stupid things, or just want to throw the towel in that day. In a world where parents are blamed or guilt-tripped or made to feel like failures for feeding the kids fish fingers for the second time in a week, you can be assured that your fellow Motherloader (MOLO) is going to be ready with a wine emoji, a virtual cuddle and a lot of words of wisdom and love. We know that sigh, we know that laugh, we know that moment of OH MY GOD LOOK WHAT THEY HAVE DONE! and we are going to laugh along with you, soothe you when you need it and lift you up and make you feel like the bloody WONDER that you are.
Welcome to our brilliant community, for brilliant mothers. This IS The Motherload®.