I made lists in my professional life to help me keep organized and time savvy. I made lists in my private life of to-do’s so that I could cross things off and feel satisfied at my productivity. I made shopping lists, wish lists, if I won the lottery lists.
Lists lists lists. I loved lists. I even made lists of lists.
And then I got pregnant.
And oh the list heaven I was in!
Lists of boys names. Lists of girls names. Lists of cheeses I could eat. Lists of antenatal appointments, classes I was interested in taking, things I knew, things I didn’t know, things for my husband to do. Hospital bag lists (actually I downloaded about 10 online versions to pick & choose what I thought I might like to have and made my own), revamped hospital bag lists to something more practical and where I wasn’t taking the kitchen sink with me (!). Birth preference lists, people to call lists. Things that needed to be done in the first week of having the baby lists.
And I forgot my lists. I forgot a lot of things whilst I grappled with my new role and “mother” title. When I did remember to make a list, I forgot I had made the list or where I had put the list. But lists were needed. My daughter came early and beat the week when we were going to stock up and finish off getting the last bits and bobs. So, lists: Equipment needed, clothing, feeding/baby bowel movements. Except that my brain kept getting distracted by this beautiful little girl who made my heart sing, my fatigue levels challenged, my coping skills stretched. I forgot all about my lists.
My organized, in-control self was gone. And in its place was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants woman who tried to go with the flow, but also do it all.
I have a vivid memory of doing the dishes about 3 weeks into parenthood and starting to sob into the suds – my husband bundled me into a hug and asked “what’s wrong?!”, no doubt thinking something truly dire had occurred. And through my tears I replied “I don’t know who I am anymore, this is me – I’m doing the dishes, and the washing, and the cleaning, and changing nappies – and I know its just the hormones exploding but I don’t know how to be this new me”.
In the middle of it all, trying to cope with everything, and wanting to contribute to the house by “domesticating” myself, I had lost my Self. I had lost my Lists. And nobody tells you about the post-pregnancy hormone surges that can drive you into a weeping mess. I was sleep-deprived, feeling horrendously guilty for my body’s inability to breastfeed, worried about everything that my daughter was experiencing, was she eating enough, sleeping enough, pooing enough, safe, tired, happy, hungry? I wasn’t sure how to do 50% of the practicalities of babyhood, in google-hell trying to find out my caretaking options, worried that my husband wasn’t getting enough sleep to properly function, feeling guilty that I was at home and he had to work, feeling like I had to do it all, now, be the “ideal” wife and mother. The role models I knew made it look so easy! Of course they had either been doing it for years, and/or never confessed the dirty little secret that it’s really bloody hard – particularly in the beginning.
Being a new parent is stressful. No getting around it. Especially if, like me, you’ve not been particularly “domestic” beforehand. Grappling with a new role. The awesome responsibility of caretaking a new human being. And when things don’t fall into the “ideal” picture of parenthood then it can all cave in. I was lucky enough, through the endless support and patience of my husband, and sheer willpower, to not fall into postnatal depression – but I stood at the precipice and could see how it happens. And it’s a really really fine line.
I don’t know exactly when it was, but one day I took up my pen and pad of paper – and began a list. It was a list of all the good things, which then led to a list of all the things I was grateful for, then a list of all the things I loved about my daughter, and then my husband, and then my new life. And then a list of things I could do with my daughter. Things to do as a family. Things to do around the house. A shopping list, a wish list, an if I won the lottery list.
*sigh* Part of me was back.
Truthfully, I had never gone. I had simply changed my role in life. And I learned that as hard as it was, as tiring, as challenging, as scary – I loved it. I really loved it.
I was still me. A new me. And in writing those lists I found the space to think. I wanted to change it all. I wanted to not go back to my old job. I wanted a new job. I wanted to help new parents not feel what we felt – fundamentally, the overwhelming lack of knowing our options. If I could’ve armed myself with some fore-knowledge of the practicalities of babies I truly believe I could’ve handled the emotional side more easily.
And in case you haven’t guessed it already … at the end of a class with me … you get … a List (hah!) … a recap of everything we talk about and explore, so you don’t have to take notes – you can just enjoy the class and explore, and later that you don’t have to fret, you can just pick up your list and you’ll remember that there’s always choices. And you can just get on with learning about your new baby, and the new you. Giving you the space to breathe and feel, knowing that there’s one aspect you don’t need to worry about. Because – you have a List.
Long Live the List!
*afterword: of course there’s always the option to not have a list – I know lots of people that do really really well without ever having made a single list – I love that, and am slightly in awe … but you’ve always got a choice … and that’s what we do – reinforce your choices …. Oh, did I mention I love lists?*