A sweet friend sent me a text with a link to a blogpost, which I read in the middle of the night when I was up feeding Squeaky E. She wrote in her text that she shared it with me not because she thought that I needed reassurance, but because she thought that she might need this one day and I will be the person that she looks to for advice because I “manage to keep [my] shit together and make it look easy (even though it isn’t always) and [I] take it in stride and remain [my] funny, down-to-earth lovely self.”
I’m not sharing CC’s words with the Internet to gloat, but because I think there’s often a disconnect between the reality and perception of being a new mom. B and I have been incredibly lucky; we’ve been blessed with a baby who gets a decent amount of sleep and generally doesn’t cry unless he needs something (though he still cries just to cry sometimes). We’re lucky to live in Canada and to have good jobs; both of these factors mean I can spend the year with E instead of trying to balance work and baby right away.
I was secretly very terrified of post-partum depression. I’m a nurturer by nature, and always looked forward to being a mom someday. It’s scary to think that when that day finally comes, you could feel disconnected and miserable through no fault of your own (or your baby’s). Being a mom is scary. You worry that the baby is getting enough to eat, that he’s healthy and warm enough, and that he knows you love him even though you sob, “Dear God, what is wrong with you?!” when you’re exhausted and he’s clean, dry, burped, and still wailing his tiny head off. You worry when you accidentally clip his fingernails too short or you hit him in the head with your water bottle as you breastfeed in the middle of the night. You breathe a sigh of relief when he sleeps for a blissful eight hours one night, only to rush to his crib in a panic to check to make sure he’s still breathing.
We live in such an age of information, which is both good and bad. There is so much to read, but you compare yourself and the baby to what these sources say you should be doing and how the baby should be developing. You have to constantly remind yourself to take it all with a grain of salt, and that it’s okay to not want him in your arms all of the time, or to wait an extra 10 seconds when he starts crying in the night to psych yourself up to take care of him. It’s okay to pee while he screams impatiently. No mom can have it together all the time. It’s hard work, around the clock. You envy your partner’s “me time,” even if its just the time he spends commuting to the office, because you haven’t even had time to shower in days. You feel guilty because early visitors barely get to see the baby because you are constantly breastfeeding but you get frustrated when well-meaning in-laws take your baby from you and won’t give him back because he’s been eating for what seems like hours, but he’s screaming for more and you’re hormonal and tired and crying because you feel you can’t give him what he needs. They don’t seem to understand that you can’t physically or emotionally rest when you hear that tiny human screaming and you know in your gut that you’re the only one who can help him.
One of the best things to happen to me was to hear my sister talk about how it’s hard sometimes being an introvert and getting your energy from being alone and balancing that with being a mom. At times, being happy and being a mom seem to be so at odds with each other, and it feels like you’ll never be alone again. There are other women in the same boat, but we’ve spent so much time with these messed up views of moms who are pulled together and seem to be doing it all that no one wants to say it aloud and feel like they are failing or bad at this thing they’ve looked forward to doing for so long. Everyone has good days and bad days. It’s just that the good days are the only ones we take to Twitter or Facebook to brag about how we showered, did the dishes, or managed to bake something or prepare supper.
This is a rather lengthy post now, but I wanted to put out there that it’s not always easy. As women, I think we need to acknowledge that and support each other through the good times and the bad ones. We need to stop judging each other for our choices (breastfeeding or formula, cloth diapers or disposable, switching to all organic everything or not, crib-sleeping or co-sleeping), and celebrate the fact that we are actually doing this thing.
This face makes it all worth it.