Our Noble Pursuits

Living the good life. And writing about it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A simple truth

I’m not sure why I feel compelled to write this today, but I do.  Maybe it’s divine intervention.  Maybe there is someone out there who will stumble upon this blog and need to read it.  Maybe you are that reader.  Maybe you are a new mom, with a baby a few weeks old.  Maybe you are pregnant and you are anxious (and terrified) to meet your little one.  Or maybe this is just about me writing a truth that a lot of people don’t – or at least a lot of the people I talked to before Annie was born.  Ready for it?

Okay, here’s the thing.  Being a new mom is HARD.  Being any mom is hard – whether your child is 4 days old or 4 years old or 40 years old, there are challenges and concerns and feelings that you just deal with because you have to.  That’s not to say it isn’t wonderful.  But it ain’t easy.  Particularly, in my opinion, in the first few months.

Some of you may be thinking, “Um, yeah.  That’s not such ground-breaking news.”  But for me, it was.  I knew I wouldn’t sleep as much.  I knew life would change.  But I didn’t understand the magnitude of what we were doing by having a child.  No one told me.  Seriously.  Or at least I didn't listen.  And now I know why – because the pros of parenthood far outweigh the cons.  The rewards make the challenges manageable.  The feeling I get when Annie stands in front of me, arms raised, smile on her face, saying, “Up!” make the memories of her screaming herself red all over when she was newborn a little harder to recall.  But make no mistake – that did happen.  And it was hard for me. 

And (this is the real reason I’m writing this right here) I was really hard on myself about it.  I fully expected to seamlessly slip into motherhood.  To handle midnight crying and breastfeeding issues and the constant fear of something happening to my precious, tiny, helpless daughter with ease.  And when I cried when she cried, when I made the difficult choice to give up our attempts at nursing in favor of sanity-saving pumping and then, sooner than I had hoped, formula feeding, and woke up with a start in the night because she hadn’t, I beat myself up over it.  I relished the time my mom spent in our home in those first weeks, helping me care for Annie, doing our laundry, fixing our meals.  But I felt guilty for not being able to pull it together and do it all myself.  (Thank you Mom, you were a life saver.  Truly.)  David tried numerous times to get me to go out with friends or go have a cup of coffee by myself, but I wouldn’t do it.  I felt like I shouldn’t do it – I shouldn’t leave her.  I held myself to a standard of motherhood that was not only unrealistic, but was unhealthy too. 

I sporadically kept a journal during the first several weeks of Annie’s life, and I recently went back and read some of the entries.  In several of them, I basically chastised myself for not enjoying every moment.  Because that’s what people tell you to do, you know.  Every moment.  But you know what?  Some moments are not to be enjoyed.  It’s just not possible.  And yes, I do sometimes miss how it felt when Annie was small enough to curl up on my chest and sleep, her little curled up fist resting on my collarbone.  But I don’t miss the anxiety I felt over whether or not I would mess up her sleep habits by allowing her to sleep that way – on me instead of in a crib.  I was just such a bundle of nerves...and I felt like I was the only woman on Earth who had ever reacted that way to suddenly having a tiny person to be responsible for.

Well, I’m here to tell you new moms and soon-to-be-new moms that if you are like me (and I think if we are honest with ourselves, most of us are), you are not alone.  If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, sad – it’s okay.  You aren’t the only one who is struggling, or has struggled.  If you feel isolated and alone – it’s okay.  You aren’t alone.  Read that again.  You aren’t alone.  If you feel like you are the only woman who is or will someday be called “Mommy” who isn’t able to find joy in every single moment of your child’s existence, who Googles “postpartum depression” more times than you would like to admit to make sure you aren’t showing the signs, who allows the thought to cross your mind, “What have I done?” – you aren’t.
Our Mr. T. in training.
But rest assured, all those people who say it only gets better?  Yeah, they are right.  And now, although we have gone from the challenges of a helpless newborn to the challenges of a toddler embracing independence and testing boundaries, it is really so much more fun.    And I have more confidence now, so I don’t constantly worry that I am screwing her up somehow.  And she responds to that confidence.  And, call me silly, but I think it inspires confidence in her. 
Water table fun.

Even as I have been typing this – this confession, of sorts – I have worried that maybe I am wrong and I am actually the only one who has ever felt like this.  But I don’t think I am.  I think it is normal and natural and real to feel like early motherhood is something less than rainbows and flowers and sunshine.  But it really is worth it.  The labor and the recovery (which I truly have forgotten all about…at least the uncomfortable parts – seeing Annie’s face for the first time is something I will remember forever), the first weeks at home, the 2 am feedings, the inability to find time to take a shower, the guilt I felt for going to Target alone.  It’s all worth it.  Trust me.

Because before you know it, you'll have someone doing this kind of thing in your house...

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