Baby and me

Mum confession: I’ve been using my baby’s pushchair as a proxy for dealing with my mental health

Nadia Amer

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I’ve owned a pushchair for over 10 months now, and in that time, I’ve forgotten how to have free hands.

If you’ve never owned one, then the only way to describe using a pushchair every day is to imagine for a moment that you’re a beast of burden, like a horse, and that instead of working at an office, your job is to cart around livestock.

People call me a mum now, but a more accurate title would be something like ‘intelligent transportation system’ or ‘urban transport unit’ because that’s what I do.

I push.

No Gretchen, not like that.

Exactly, Ms. Norbury.

Sometimes when I’m pushchair-free, I lift my hands up in front of me and try to remember all the things I used to do with my hands before I had a baby.

Turning pages in books, typing out a quick blog post, eating…

But most of the time, when my hands aren’t tightly wrapped around a handlebar, they’re tightly pressed against my cheeks, like Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

I used to find this painting morbid, but now I recognise the emotion on his face for what it really is.

Edvard Munch was probably a mum.

I’m sure there’s another more complete version of this painting lurking in an attic somewhere, with a Babyzen YOYO pushchair languishing on the promenade in front of him because he’s had it up to his f*cking eyeballs with pushing. He probably just wants to reply to a Whatsapp message that he’s been meaning to respond to for a week now, but he’s utterly paralysed by the very notion of independently bending his fingers and thumbs.

People talk about motherhood and mental health all the time, but no one talks about how much they hate pushing a baby around in an overpriced handcart. Not because pushing is hard, but because of the independence and freedom you lose.

My mental health right now

I have depression and anxiety and being a mother has impacted both.

Last week, our son was sick with a tummy bug, and our GP asked me if I had been feeling sick too. I told him I had had diarrhoea for four days, but I attributed this to a sudden intolerance of eggs.

The GP blinked at me as I launched into my millennial diet manifesto and cut me off to explain that it was highly unlikely that after 30 years of eating eggs, I’d suddenly developed an overnight intolerance to eggs.

The truth?

I was sick too, but I was so busy caring for our baby, I’d forgotten to care about myself.

Mind. Blown.

What seems careless and almost silly to someone who isn’t looking after another person full-time, signifies the start of a slippery slope for someone who is in-demand 24/7.

This is how things begin to unravel for someone like me, and this is why it’s so hard to share myself when I’m not feeling okay.

I’m usually knee-deep in a rant about prams or the way I don’t get to use my hands the way I used to before I realise that there is something altogether more troubling happening inside my head. The problem? Most of the time, I only realise I’m in need of support once I’m way past the point where support is enough to calm me down.

Pam is my spirit animal

Whenever I meet health professionals for my son, I get asked;

How is mum doing?

As if mum is another person, and not me at all.

Often, I don’t know how to reply because the truth is, I’m collapsing like a dead star, and my sweaty, new-mother glow is just the dwindling aftermath of my supernova implosion. The only thing really left of me is gas (because oh-my-god how much do I fart now I’m a mum), and who I have time to become in the margin of my motherhood.

I’m terrified that if I say this out loud, they’ll confiscate my baby and I’ll have to push home an empty pushchair, so usually, I say “I’m fine” — a phrase that (if applied with enough faux-conviction) doubles as a tourniquet that effectively stems the outpouring of any and all emotion.

The past 10 months have been exhausting

Most days, I walk around town staring at all the other mums, absorbing their mum-energy in jealous silence because they look younger than me, more awake than me, skinnier than me, more beautiful than me. Thankfully, I have a pushchair with ample under-carriage storage, so most of the time I throw my feelings under there and keep on pushing.

But I guess that’s the problem.

I’m a pusher, remember?

I don’t know how other mothers feel, but I do wonder if that’s why the high street is so full of women pushing prams and pushchairs and buggies and strollers. Maybe we’re all feeling the same way but we aren’t quite sure how to articulate the pain. So we push. And we push. And we keep on pushing.

One day my baby will grow up and I’ll lose my wheels and I’ll go back to being a two-legged human with independent hands again, and maybe THEN I’ll deal with my feelings.

Right now though?

It seems like every time things get on top of me, instead of talking about it or working through it, I put my baby in his pushchair and get ready to go out.

At moments like this, my husband will often ask where I’m going (as I frantically pack the pram with enough gear to keep a baby alive for a month). At this question, I usually become WILDLY defensive and will snap.

My main issue isn’t that he’s asking where I’m going, what kills me is that wherever it is I AM going, it’ll never be far enough or long enough to run away from the feelings bubbling up inside of me.

My freedom is tied to motherhood, so my leash is short and I tug at it like an angry dog.

I’m not crazy, just crazy-lonely in my head, and this is why I’m writing all of this down…

Unpacking my feelings so I can be okay again

Journaling my thoughts has always been one of the most effective ways for me to manage my mental health, and though I publish into the deafening silence of the under-internet, where unknown writers go to busk, I know there’s still a chance that someone might pass by and relate to this.

I love my little boy, and my heart soars when I go into the Card Factory on Sutton High Street, and realise that the Mother’s Day display now applies to me and that one day if I’m fortunate, he might buy me a ‘MUM’ mug, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days.

Learning to love who I am now that I’m a mother is hard. I’m not okay with myself and I’m really trying to be.

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Nadia Amer

Copywriter & Bo̶n̶e̶ Story Collector | Roam here for the BBQ version of me. Lots of raw bits, burning pain, and meaty memories | Hire me at imnadiaamer.com