Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Down and Dirty: Motherhood Real-Life

I have been lucky enough to have lots of wonderful girlfriends who aren't afraid to be real about motherhood and put the truth out there. However, I know that not everyone has those friends, and that some people wonder if they're the only one in the world who feels "this way" about motherhood. You're not. There are some people (probably) who adore every minute of motherhood, and they cherish every stage of infancy and childhood, etc. But from my experience, most of the rest of us don't feel like that. So let's get real.

The obvious disclaimer is that I adore my kids. I love being a mom. I am grateful I can get and stay pregnant, and deliver a healthy child. But it's not all pink onesies and roses. Motherhood can be hard. Really hard.

I want to do a couple of posts about the less glamorous side of motherhood, the feelings that are sometimes hard to talk about. And for this first one, I want to start at the beginning.

When I was pregnant with my first, a woman I know had us over for dinner and gave me some advice. "Just so you know," she said in her timid, kind voice, "having that first baby is really, REALLY hard. I don't know why, but no one ever told me that. And I wish that they had." I rubbed my belly and nodded, thinking I understood. I didn't then, but I did later.

Having my first baby changed my life. And I kind of liked my life the way it was. I had a job that I was good at, I had friends I loved spending time with, a family I enjoyed traveling to see on a weekly basis, and a husband I didn't see much to begin with. Then.... I had my daughter. And of course in some ways my life began that day. But in other ways, the life I had known ended. And I mourned that. And I felt stupid for mourning it, which made me feel worse.

No longer did I spend my days doing something I felt skilled at. Instead I spent them in the servitude of a screaming infant who apparently hated me. Was I doing this all wrong? Was I bad at this? I hate being bad at things, anything, and this was the biggest thing of all! Did my daughter hate me? Why was she crying so much? No one around to answer my questions other than the internet, which only provided me with horror stories or smugness.

And it was so PERMANENT! Marriage had been a big decision, but if you really regret it, there's always a divorce. But once you have a kid, barring unspeakable tragedy, you have a kid. Even if you don't stay married to the kid's father, even if you don't have custody of that kid, you are a MOM to someone running around on this earth. And that feels pretty heavy sometimes, for a decision that can be made pretty flippantly (or even made for you by good old Mother Nature).

While older women counseled me to "savor every moment," and "enjoy each stage" because "time goes so fast," I was horrified that this was supposedly the pinnacle of motherhood. EVERYONE enjoys this sweet and tiny phase, everyone! Well, not me. It's hard when you don't know their schedule yet. You don't know what their cries mean. They don't seem to know you or love you. You're not sleeping, you're attempting to breastfeed (PS - also HARD!), you can't even figure out how to collapse the stupid stroller while they're squalling in their carseat and all the strangers are looking at you and probably thinking that you are a pretty sucky mom. I remember sitting on the floor of my hallway bawling into my hands while my daughter cried, and wondering if we had enough money in our checking account to leave this mess I'd created and go get a hotel in Palm Springs and lie by the pool sipping a daiquiri (we didn't).

And all the while, every time you go out, you hear this: "Oh, is she a good baby? Is she sleeping through the night? Don't you just love it?" And the answer can't be no! What kind of a mother says no to those things? "A good baby? No, she isn't. She just screams all day. Bummer, huh?" Can't say that.

Honestly, I think it would have alleviated a lot of anxiety for me to just know - it's okay not to love it. The newborn phase is HARD. It's okay, even, to hate it sometimes (that stage, I mean). Now several years later I've had a lot of  laughs with my friends at those early days. If I had a nickle for every time I've said or heard, "If I could give birth to a six-month-old, I would!" then I would have the beginnings of a college fund for my kids. But no one ever said that to me then.

I guess I'm just writing this because I want new moms to know that it's okay to feel really, really overwhelmed by motherhood. It doesn't make you a bad mom, or mean that you shouldn't have had a kid, or that you shouldn't ever have another one. It just means you're exactly like thousands, maybe millions, of other moms out there. It's just not so glamorous to talk about. Anyone else want to 'fess up to having a hard time with the newborn stage? Or am I about to get flamed in a really big way because now you all think I'm an ungrateful, crappy mom? I'll be honest, I'm a little nervous. But.... posting anyway.

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Brianne said...

Katie - thank goodness for this post! I started reading it last night at 4:30 when Max had decided it was time to be awake and fussy for over two hours. It is seriously good to know that I'm not alone. I love this boy, but sometimes it is a lot to handle. I can't imagine what it would be like to get more than 3 hours of sleep at once. It was perfect timing for me to read. Thanks!!

Ramsey said...

This is me 100%! Rhys is almost 3 months old and I'm just now making it through the day without saying, what have I done? Why did I think I could handle two?
Kids are hard.

The EDBDmommy said...

Honestly, I am in total agreement. Not that I disliked my kids, or didn't enjoy those first precious months of motherhood, but I would rather start with a two-year-old.