My youngest son, Reuben, turns one in a few short weeks. And I’ve been doing that really beautifully upsetting scroll back through all of my photos on Instagram. My personal ones that is. They are everyday photos that are soul-filling to me in exactly the same way your children’s photos are soul-filling to you – they capture something that my heart will always hold a piece of, but over time it’s very likely that my memory will not.
Looking through the evolution of our young family, from now back until when I was pregnant with our first child in 2011, I am hit with a wave of raw emotions. Moments in time, stages in each of our children’s early lives that felt so massive, so adorable, so hard, so amazing that I held a belief deep in my bones that I would never, ever forget them. But some of them I have. Not the necessarily the feelings, but the more tangible details – the colours, the light, the context, the interactions, the sounds, the games, the early words.
Like most every mum, motherhood is proving to be the biggest life challenge I have ever faced. And every day, every single day, there is something new for me to process, to learn, to try and digest in a way that helps me to move on to tomorrow and continue to grow in this still new-to-me role.
I’ve not hidden on Eighteen Fifty One’s social media my personal battles with anxiety. I know it is something that is far too common amongst women (and men) in our generation, and that our experiences as mothers, while being the most beautiful gift in our lives, can often be the most intense triggers of this unrelenting condition. Giving rise to the voice in our head that questions our judgement, our reactions, our tone of voice, our wish to be able to step away for more than the moment it takes our babies, or toddlers, or little people (or all of the above in some kind of miniature conga line) to find us in the toilet, or laying on our bed, or standing out by the clothesline.
And it’s hard. It’s hard to have a moment like this one I’m having tonight. When I look at these beautiful family photos and feel more guilt than pride. Guilt from a voice that says “you really don’t just remember all of these things?! You seriously need a photo prompt?! Well, they mustn’t really be that important to you”.
So often cruel. Unrelenting. A voice whose words and tenor we would never speak to someone else, but that our mind seems to want to speak to ourselves.
But then, amongst it all, I know that tomorrow will come and give me a moment when my baby will rest his head in the crook of my neck and tuck his legs up over my still wobbly belly. When my toddler will stamp her foot and say “I want mummy to do it!”. When my son will shuffle over from his TV watching spot on the couch to snuggle in under my arm.
And these moments from my now, these moments that right now I live and breathe, that I can recount in such perfect detail that you perhaps could even feel that heavy head against your own chest, or hear the demands shouted in that little voice… my mind and my body hold all of the details of my now, which will one day likely be forgotten just as the details of the moments in my photos seem to be.
I know now that we’re so quickly moving out of the baby stage, that the hours spent rocking a windy newborn through the early morn already feel so distant. That the exhaustion, the emotional strain that felt so all encompassing has been so diluted by time that it already has me thinking of how soothing it was to have held each of my children when they were just a few days old. When they smelt new, and their hair stood right up and tickled my chin.
Perhaps there is a reason for it all. For this process of feeling, with such full force, all of our now, only to realise further down the track that what we believe would be wholly unforgettable has become fuzzy and blurred. Perhaps it’s our mind’s way of encouraging us to really live in the now. To soak it up in a way that brings us joy everyday.
So, I’ll try to remember that I will forget. I’ll try to live each moment into my soul so it can live happily there until it is replaced with another. Because it seems to me, epic mummy guilt aside, that is what we might be hardwired to do.