Be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself your failings. It is only human to make mistakes.
In my novel Mine, the main character Sasha is a doctor. When she meets her baby for the first time, she is adamant he is not her son. Doctors conclude she is mentally unwell and admit her to a mother baby unit against her will. She chooses to hide her true beliefs behind a mask and goes along with the medical staff’s charade, even as she desperately searches for her true son. Sasha has also long before buried her guilt about a deceased patient behind a façade of coping. The novel follows Sasha as she performs acts of enormous courage and struggles to embrace self-compassion. But will Sasha allow her walled-off heart to crack open and begin healing in time to find her son?
Mine not only calls into question the motives of its characters, but also asks for readers to call their own unconscious bias into question. My hope as an author is that readers interrogate their own judgements towards themselves, and other human beings, as a result of reading Mine.
As for my mother-patients, they were gradually able to shrug off the unwanted expectations of society that had been thrust upon them as they opened up to the supports around them, thereby gaining confidence in their new role, and learning to embrace the delights and challenges of motherhood as they come to more realistic expectations of their mothering selves. My doctor-patient developed skills in self-compassion – that is, treating herself as she would a close friend – through which she was able to remove her protective cloak and grant herself forgiveness for her perceived mistakes.
This, then, is what I would say to new mothers, and their doctors, as well as readers everywhere: be kind to yourself. Forgive yourself your failings. It is only human to make mistakes. It is a hard, hard thing, but a worthy and brave and honest thing, to finally remove your mask.