People say you can never be prepared for motherhood and I always thought that just referred to the sleep deprivation, but there’s so much more. I’d had a lot of experience with children, but I wondered what exactly I was meant to do with the baby all day. I had planned to take a few months of maternity leave and envisaged myself watching some favorite shows, learning how to play the keyboard, and organizing the house we had just moved into – in between mothering, of course. I didn’t understand why other mothers laughed at me when I shared my plan. …Until I actually became a mom.
Motherhood is hard.
Maternity leave is no holiday. It is one of the hardest things I have done in my life. It is also one of the best, but it took me a while to feel this way. I was told to be open minded about the birth and to expect the unexpected, and so I was. Which turned out to be good thing as I never thought I would go through the experience I did. The one where the nurses tell you they can’t hear your baby’s heart beat, so you’re rushed to the OR for an unplanned C-section and wake up to hear that your premie baby had to be admitted to the NICU, for what ends up being over two weeks.
I wish I had talked to more friends or family about the hard times before I went through them – not about the birth, but about the days, weeks, and months after that. Maybe if I did this, I wouldn’t have felt like such a failure or a horrible mother for going through the things that I did – the doubt, the resentment, the guilt, the feeling of total inadequacy.
When my baby girl was born, a friend responded with a congratulatory message and said, “Isn’t motherhood the best?” I read this and felt terrible. No, it wasn’t the best. It was hard and I felt totally overwhelmed, I didn’t know what I was doing and I wasn’t enjoying it.
Other moms responded with similar, joyful, mother-loving, words of encouragement and joy, and I felt this pressure that I was supposed to be loving this journey. I wondered what was wrong with me because I was gifted this beautiful baby girl and I wasn’t sure if I liked everything that came with it. Of course, I loved her, but I wasn’t cut out for this.
I felt like the worst mom and that made me feel like a horrible person.
I didn’t like the newborn stage, I wanted her to grow up, be more fun, be easier. I felt like I was the only one who wasn’t enjoying this because I had never heard friends or family talking about their dislike of looking after a new baby. Perhaps people complained of being tired, but no one said they disliked it.
None of the new moms around me talked about how they were feeling and I was too ashamed to be honest about how I felt – to them, to my husband, to family. I’d wonder why I was struggling so much, why was I so weak when others were strong.
I would sit on my bed, crying at 3am while also hooked up to my arch nemesis – the pump, trapped in this world of feeding and pumping because my little girl was too little and too weak to nurse. I’d google “how to cope with newborn stage,” praying that there were others out there struggling so I didn’t feel totally alone in this black hole.
In the first few weeks, my brother told me he was so proud of me and I wanted to ask why. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything to be proud of. I felt like I was failing as a mom and not feeling the way that a mom should feel, so why be proud? How silly of me.
I had just created a human being and I was keeping her alive and helping her to thrive; I should’ve been the proudest I’ve ever been. I know it now. And I feel lucky enough to have had a chance with my second to really cherish what those first few weeks can be. The snuggles, the bonding, the middle of the night kisses.
I wish I could have a do-over, but I also know I was going through something bigger than me, and I wish I was more open about it.
And so I started writing. And I shared what I wrote – with family, with friends, with new moms I met at the park, and for all those moms who might be doubting themselves or feeling like they’re not cut out for this. Just to let them know that they are not alone. They are actually pretty incredible, and whatever they’re doing, they’re amazing.
There will be hard days, there will be really hard days, there will be days where you just want a break, and there will be days where you wonder what happened to yourself and your previous life. But then there will be days where your heart wants to explode with love for this little person that you created, and you’ll realize that you’re actually pretty awesome at this mom thing.
You got this mama, I’m proud of you.
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