I had a near perfect pregnancy… no morning sickness, no problems with the baby, all tests were normal. Other than a little heartburn, swelling, and carpel tunnel at the end, my pregnancy was really easy and I enjoyed every minute of it.
My body responded so well to pregnancy, I assumed the transition to motherhood was going to be as easy and happen as smoothly. I was still reading plenty of books and articles but what I was reading was the same advice over and over again and seemed so obvious. And as the final weeks of my pregnancy ticked down, I felt little fear about what was to come. It was all just going to fall into place, just like it was supposed to.
The first few days at the hospital were just that: everyone smiling, on cloud nine, emotions soaring. I was drowning in oxytocin as I laid next to my baby in bed and sang to him in the middle of the night. It was directly out of a fairy tale. And then we moved home.
Oliver would not sleep in his own bed, no matter what we tried, so I was spending nights with him on the couch. Lack of sleep was making both our emotions run in every direction and sometimes smack into each other. Breastfeeding was painful and hard to correct after not starting out correctly. All of these things that should be coming naturally were so difficult. With a screaming baby in my arms and tears running down my face, I questioned myself as a woman and as a mother. I wondered if there was even an inkling of motherly instinct in me at all.
The raw, ugly truth is that I wondered if I had made a mistake by having this baby. More than once, through his cries, I would apologize to him for not being what he needed. I honestly thought that he would be better off with someone else raising him because I didn’t seem to have a clue. In a particularly bad moment, I told my husband in all sincerity that we should give him away to someone who knew how to handle him.
To top it off, I felt so alone. I felt terribly ashamed for feeling so frustrated and for feeling anything other than love for my son. I felt guilt for struggling to provide the basic necessities for him. And I was certain I was the only woman in the world to feel this way. In all my reading and classes, I had never heard of such a struggle so I must be the only one on, right?
Imagine. Our household was an emotional mess for several weeks. My husband, the patient saint that he is, put up with so many tears (from baby and me) and emotional ups and downs that it’s a wonder he’s still here. Gone were the love hormones that swirled around us in the hospital and here were were the kind that made me cry at the drop of a hat, the kind that made me doubt myself so fiercely.
It’s messy, I know, and not what you expect when talking about a new addition. And I know there are some of women out there that will gasp at some of the above, specifically those that DO just fall into motherhood without skipping a beat. But it’s the way it was and I’m not going to sugar coat it.
As my hormones were brought under control, I realized that I really wasn’t the only woman to feel this way but no one ever talks about it. There is this shiny, happy bubble put around a new baby (that is perfectly accurate in some aspects, don’t get me wrong) that keeps people from speaking frankly about their experiences. Anything less than perfection is stifled to keep up this perception of the perfect new family.
Personally, I think that mothers (especially new mothers) need to speak more frankly about their experiences. This is my start and will continue to be my motto as I write here. My hope is that a new mother will stumble across this blog during a particularly painful feeding at 3 am and realize that she’s not alone. It does get better.
The breastfeeding turned around (we’re champs now). We used the Baby Whisperer techniques to get Oliver on a routine and into his own bed at night (highly recommended from this camp, by the way). All of these things just fell into place and every day continues to get easier. And I have loved my son since the moment I saw his purple, wrinkled, little forehead on the bed in front of me… don’t let the words above make you think otherwise … and love him more every single day. After all, he’s the reason I’m here, my purpose.