And it is that time again for another entry for Artifact motherhood, a beautiful  blog circle which is a collaboration of artists & mothers from around the world sharing stories of the joys and struggles of our journey. These are more than photographs with dates written on the back. These are the artefacts we are leaving behind for children and the generations to come. Please have a look through mine and then check out  the next artist in our circle.

One year. You turning one has made me so emotional and so reflective. This past year I have felt every emotion under the sun and moon.  This time a year ago we were still in that hazy otherworldly phase of postpartum deliciousness adjusting from a family of three to a family of four. I still remember how I felt when I held you and your sister in my arms together for the first time,  it was like the floodgates of a sea of love came pouring out with such intensity, it felt like the wildest ride I've ever been on and all I could do was close my eyes and breathe it all in. It was a moment of absolute transcendence. I wish I could transport myself to that time whenever I wished.

How is it possible that in one short year, you went from a tiny little human who needed me for absolutely everything to someone I'm now  trying to stop from running into the sea?! Getting the chance to experience brand new life again has been such a wonderful gift. Knowing you are most likely our last baby, has made the passing of time especially bittersweet. 

I want to be able to say that your first year in our lives was one of the best years of my life, it’s hard not to compare you to your sister especially when her first year and yours couldn’t have been more different.  Her first year was truly one of the best years of my life, I felt like I was on another planet in a way, just so blissfully happy during that first year as a mother and I couldn’t understand or relate to other mothers who didn’t have that experience and who instead found that first year super hard. Now I feel I have experienced both extremes. Your first year has been one of the hardest years of my life. It was a year of tremendous guilt, the worst I've ever felt.  My heart broke so many times and at times I didn't think it was going to be possible to put the pieces back together. 

The first couple of months were absolute bliss but then you started to become very unsettled and had a lot of stomach pains and the next few months were really hard, so much of your time was spent crying in pain and discomfort and the only time you seemed at peace was when you were either nursing or asleep. This experience was so new to us, we weren’t used to a baby that cried so much. When your sister was the same age she barely ever cried to the point we were worried if it was something we should be concerned about! But she was just lucky and never had any type of stomach pains and I guess being the firstborn she never had any reason to cry since we were always there in the instant she needed something. 

As much love you brought into our lives, the transition from being a mother to one to two was a lot harder than I had anticipated. Before I became a mother of two I had never really heard anyone talk about how hard the transition from one to two can be.I had wanted you in our lives years before you even existed and to be having such a hard time with it all made me feel awful. 
The guilt of not being there in the way I wanted to be for your sister was such a painful thing to go through, the feeling of us drifting apart while I had to purely focus on your needs at times was so hard to bear. Yet at the same time so happy to have you and to take care of you. I felt full of contradictions.  I felt split in two yet I was still not able to be what either of you needed me to be all of the time, and that just felt like the slow breaking of my heart.

It wasn't until towards the end of June when I started to question my mental health, I blamed it mostly on my lack of sleep and convinced myself that it would get better. Without any family many friends nearby, I felt so isolated and alone and had so many days where it felt I was in a heavy fog and spent so much time with tears pouring down my cheeks. I was in survival mode for so much of the time, just trying to make it through the day, counting down the hours until your dad came home which for most of the year wasn’t until after 20:00. I remember I reached such a bad place that one night I just broke down to your dad and he took some time off from work so I could try to catch up on sleep and meditate out in the forest and have a little time for myself. It really helped but it didn’t sustain me for very long and I continued to struggle with my mental health throughout the summer. 

We made sure I had more time for myself on a regular basis so that I wouldn't get to breaking point before I prioritised my own needs and I found solace with my photography in a way I don’t think I’ve experienced before. It became my therapy and really restored balance in my life. Expressing myself creatively is a need and I get so much pleasure and sense of purpose when I’m shooting things that set my soul on fire. But even all of this couldn’t sustain my mental health and by the time  September rolled around I started feeling really bad again and by the end of October I hit another real low and experienced an intense couple of weeks that felt so incredibly dark.  

I am finding this hard to write about, just taking myself back to this part of our lives feels painful & is making my eyes fill up with tears but I know that for me healing always happens when I let things out into the world. Otherwise these thoughts just fester, piling up internal feelings of guilt and shame without anywhere to go. And I know through experience that keeping painful feelings to myself only creates more pain.

I felt I had become a shadow of the person I once was, I didn’t recognize myself, I hated the person that looked back at me in the mirror, I had reached such a bad place and felt like the worst mother ever and that I didn’t deserve either of you. I had become the parent I never thought in a million years I would be: impatient, shouty, snippy, mean, indifferent and felt so incredibly lethargic and depleted of all life. I felt consumed by such intense feelings of shame because I never thought I would be a person that would act in the ways that I had been. I really felt there was something wrong with me. I had thought this way for a while but kept making excuses thinking it’s just my lack of sleep but then one day as we were rushing out the door to catch the train I shouted at your sister so loudly and in such a horrible way because she was taking so long to get her shoes and coat on that it terrified me. I sounded like a monster. I instantly apologised but the damage was already done. It scared me so much that later that day I called my GP and made an appointment. I was desperate for help. I thought it must be postpartum depression and was even ready to be prescribed antidepressants and I’m someone who would rather go the natural route and rely on meditation and self healing but I came to the painful truth that I didn’t have the time or space to be consistent with that in my life and only cared about becoming the mother the two of you deserved again. The strength the two of you give me is extraordinary.  

“Your darkest days are simply evidence of your resilience” -Nikita Gill

While writing this I came across the above quote and it's so true and something I want you to always know.  Life is full of ups and downs. You cannot have a life with only happy days just as you cannot have a life with only sad days. Everything in life is cyclical.  The key here is to remember during the harder times that  “IT WILL PASS” and even on my darkest days somewhere inside a little voice (even if it was barely audible) would say nothing stays the same forever which always gave me enough hope to move forward.

Now back to my story, I had a couple of weeks before my appointment and I had done some research and started taking some supplements: Magnesium, Vitamin D, CBD oil and started taking my prenatal vitamins again.  I remember one morning when I went to take them that your sister looked at me and asked “is this going to make you feel better and make you a better mummy again?” and I felt such great sadness that these were words that had to even come out of her mouth but this was the beginning of the most extraordinary change in our lives. By the time my appointment came around, I was already feeling so much better. After chatting with my GP she just thought I must have been so extremely deficient in nutrients and minerals for such a long time that my brain wasn't functioning properly. She told me if the low moods did come back that I could call and be seen the same day which felt great to have as a backup. But the days turned into weeks and then months and I continued to feel better every day. 

It felt like I had awoken from a deep sleep, the thick fog had finally lifted and I felt truly alive again and started waking up each morning excited about the day and it's infinite possibilities. Peace felt restored in our lives and each day with you and Nixie felt like the most beautiful dream. I wasn’t able to truly realise how dark my life had felt until I made it out the other side. Hindsight is such an incredible thing. One incredible thing I have learned about myself so far in life  is that whenever I go through a very tough &  painful cycle I'm undergoing a transformation.  Your arrival shook me up, made me become aware and forced me to come face to face with my darkest parts.Through the  darkness comes the most incredible light and this experience felt  a part of my rebirth and none of it would have happened if you hadn't arrived and for that I am eternally grateful. It's really amazing the power you have,  until I became a mother I never knew such power existed, your sister has it too.You both have the power to change world's,  to guide my every move, now that's pretty spectacular.

 I feel lucky that it's part of my nature to document our lives and to capture memories because once they are all put together they become our family’s love story. I have always cherished having photos to look back on but this rings even more true for this past year. They remind me that even though things were hard (and maybe I still carry some guilt and feel a heaviness when I think about the past year) it wasn’t the whole story, we still experienced so many beautiful moments, moments that were so incredible that they made me cry tears of joy (which if i’m honest are my favourite kind of moments).

In one year I have had the privilege of witnessing and experiencing so many firsts with you: the first time you rolled over then the first time you sat up on your own and finally to your first steps. I got to experience your first sounds, your first tooth, your first time tasting so many different kinds of food. I discovered your first favourite song (Lenny Hebert) and got to witness the first time you properly danced to music. I also got to be there for the first time you touched a tree and felt the earth and also the first time you dipped your toes into the sea and discovered seashells, seaweed and sand. There were so many memories that were made and I am so happy I have images to take me back to them.

I am also excited about all the new memories that will be made along with getting to experience even more firsts with you. I’ve been able to savour you in a way I couldn’t when your sister was a baby because now i’m truly aware of how quickly time passes. I just love that you are in our lives and I love being your mama, the stage you are in now is making my heart burst pretty much all of the time and my current favourite thing to do with you and one thing i never want to forget is the way you put your cheek to mine and really nuzzle in when we dance to music together, I never want to forget the softness of your skin, the way you smell like the fresh breeze on a summer morning but in the midst of winter. You truly are magic.

Now we have begun a new decade & it feels like a fresh start in so many ways.  I feel grateful, happy, joyful & full of hope. Each day spent with you and your sister fills me up in the most amazing ways. I don’t think I’ve truly felt this good since becoming a mother and if i’m really honest many years before that too, it’s a happiness that can only come from great darkness.

And now please check out the next wonderful artist in our Artefact Motherhood blog circle, Chloe Lodge and continue through all the artists until you get back to me!

To learn more about this beautiful project please visit Artefact Motherhood