We see a lot of women in our clinic who are wanting to conceive their second child. And they are having great difficulty.
They didn’t, however, have any difficulty conceiving their first.
Comments such as “We weren’t even trying”, or, “It only took me 2 cycles”, or, “It was so easy the first time, why is it taking so long now?” are frequently heard from these women.
Now that they have one, they want another one. And they don’t understand why it’s taking much, much longer than the first time.
Our diagnosis is often “Mother syndrome”.
So what exactly is Mother syndrome?
And how may it possibly be contributing to your infertility?
Let me paint a picture.
Before the woman fell pregnant the first time (when it was easy), she only really had herself to look after. She went to the gym when she wanted, she hung out with her girlfriends on the weekend for catch-up coffee, she had sneaky drinks at a sexy bar with hubby on a Friday night. They had time to cook their own meals, and prep lunches for the next day, sometimes even the whole week, and they had time to leisurely wander the supermarket food aisles on the weekend for the groceries.
She could schedule hair appointments, nail appointments, chiro, massage, acupuncture etc whenever it was convenient for her on her rostered day off or after work. She would schedule a reminder in her phone.
The dog would be walked regularly and taking a weekend getaway on a whim was as easy as clicking on Airbnb.
She could also get sleep. Lots of sleep. Lots and lots and lots of sleep. She could go to bed at a reasonable hour, she would sleep through and she could even sleep in on the weekends if she wanted to!
She had time.
Lots of time.
Time for her relationships with family and friends.
Time for herself.
Now she has a child.
Now she has no time.
She doesn’t really go to the gym anymore because no one can help look after the baby, and the hours that the creche are open don’t work because that’s baby’s nap time. Or it’s gymbaroo class time, or it’s swimming lessons, or playgroup.
She doesn’t want to go to the gym after hubby gets home and when baby is in bed, because by then she’s too tired.
She can’t really remember the last time she had coffee with her girlfriends without baby, and the pram, and the nappy bag and the 2 changes of clothes and the crying and the late cancellation because baby has come down with a cold. Sorry, can we raincheck please?
There are no more sneaky Friday night drinks alone with hubby at a sexy bar.
Friday nights look like every other night now. Dinner, bath and bed for the baby. Then dinner, t.v, bath and bed for adults. She had to cook 2 dinners because her kid doesn’t eat the food she cooked for dinner.
She still cooks lunches, but it’s all focused on the baby of course. She has a coffee for breakfast and skips lunch while baby has lamb cutlets and vegie patties with pasta for lunch. She eats any leftovers that baby didn’t finish.
Her one good meal for the day is dinner, and she’s hardly drank any water because she keeps forgetting her water bottle when she goes out with baby. And she doesn’t have the time when she’s home.
She does all her supermarket shopping online now when the baby is asleep.
Chiro appointments are still semi regular because they’re only 15 minute appointments and they can be done with baby in the pram, or baby on her stomach. Her last hair appointment was 3 months ago and there is so much regrowth she’s wondering if she should just dye it all back one colour? With a home kit? Which one is good? L’Oreal?
Nail appointments are useless, they just get wrecked anyway. As for massage and acupuncture, these appointments require a fine orchestration of schedules that revolve around hubby’s approximate home time coinciding with “how late does the therapist work in the evenings?”
She doesn’t really need her phone to remind her of any appointments for herself anymore. The phone is cracked anyway because baby threw it on the ground, and there’s some dried in food that got mashed in the corner that she can’t get out.
The dog gets walked occasionally, usually tied to the stroller, so it’s only a short walk now because baby will lose its shit quite quickly.
What is sleep again?
Sleeping through the night and sleep ins are a long distant memory. She collapses into bed at 11.30pm after baby is in bed, the chores have been done, the house is in order and she’s watched television to “have some time for herself to unwind”.
Having sex to make a baby is just another chore on a long list of never-ending things to do.
Sex is now either not romantic, or just not frequent enough. It’s done because “she’s ovulating and she doesn’t want to miss the window”, but they’re both so tired that they only managed to have sex once or twice.
And if she is a working mother, then she does all of the above either before, or after, the hours of 9-5, or on her days off.
Does this sound familiar? Relatable?
Does this sound like you?
Mother syndrome is a feeling of guilt and shame should she do anything for herself that doesn’t benefit, or contribute to the household or the finances in some direct way.
Mother syndrome is feeling guilty for having to ask somebody for help, because they’ve already helped you out 2 weeks ago and how could you possibly ask them to help you out again?
Mother syndrome is the prioritising of others and putting herself last.
Every single day.
Mother syndrome is not taking advantage of rare moments of time when she is by herself to do something for herself, and only herself, to make her feel good about herself. It’s not carving out and scheduling regular specific times to do things for herself.
When you have a baby, your life has changed forever.
You are not the same person you were when you fell pregnant with the first.
Your routine is not the same. You don’t eat or drink or sleep the same.
You have given from yourself another life. You grew that baby from your resources. Your nutrition, your hydration, your blood.
If you breastfed your baby, for any length of time, you had to create another whole food source to sustain and nourish your baby. An entire food source to keep a tiny human alive, created from you.
On top of this, if you are not taking the time to look after yourself, physically, mentally and emotionally, you have nothing left to give to your second baby.
You are exhausted.
Your eggs are exhausted.
Your husband’s sperm is exhausted.
You cannot create another baby, another life, from an exhausted energy source.
I mean, you can try, but it will take a long time. Much longer than the first.
So how to treat mother syndrome?
You do what you can, when you can. You prioritise you. You realise that the concept of “having enough time” is different to pre-baby.
So if your baby is having a nap, drink a hot cup of tea, and read your damn book instead of doing the dishes and the laundry.The dishes and laundry will still be there later, but not the opportunity to read.
Stop filling your baby’s life with activity after activity. Babies and toddlers do not need a full schedule. Take out one thing from their schedule, and reschedule for you! Go to the gym when there is a creche. Better yet, organise with hubby to start work a bit later so you can go by yourself, at a reasonable hour. And get to the gym. Or yoga. Or pilates.
Drink water!!! Put bottles of water at all the places you usually visit most in your house through the day. Like the kitchen sink and the bathroom sink, and take a drink every time you wash your hands.
If you cook lunch for baby, make double and eat a healthy serving!
Or order a meal service that can deliver to your door.
And for goodness sake, stop watching t.v to wind down, and just go to bed with hubby and talk to each other!
It might even turn into romantic sexy time! Like it used to be.