I picked the perfect day to write this post. I’m coming down with something, it’s snowing again but school isn’t closed (thank God), the kids are still rammy wanting all of my attention and none of it at the same time. I’m achey and tired and would kill for nothing more than some peace and quiet for a few hours. All of this brings me right back to those newborn days. I’m not feeling at the top of my game, I need more sleep, and someone else always has a higher priority than my own and that same someone can’t always explain what it is they want.
I’ve been ruminating on this subject for a few weeks now. My social circle is experiencing another baby boom. My Facebook feed and mailbox are filled with pictures of adorable newborns. I can’t help myself from “liking” every picture posted or cluttering my refrigerator with birth announcements. New babies are the best. But I often remind myself it’s not just about the new baby. It took two people to make that squishy, pink human that has me “oohing” and “ahhing” at my computer screen and it took one person in particular to keep that baby safe for nine months and then bring that baby forth into our world. Often though, that same person is pushed to the side, is a secondary thought. A polite “how do you feel?” is usually lobbed her way while staring and cooing at the new baby. Because it’s all about the baby. Always.
I wish people had been more open and honest with me about the struggles of post-partum and new motherhood. Even if I didn’t listen immediately, I would like to think I would have recalled that little piece of information about it being normal to feel like a zombie when I’m up for the seventh time in two hours in the middle of night nursing a creature so small but as ravenous as a grown Olympian. I would like to have heard I would have been pushed aside for a chance to gaze at the new person I brought into the world. I would like to have heard that I would not recognize myself in word, deed, or appearance. I really wish I wasn’t so damn surprised; that’s why I’m writing this.
I want to tell all the new moms, whether this is your first baby or third, it’s an adjustment, to say the least. There will be times after having your baby, hours, days, even months later, when you won’t recognize yourself. Your confidence will slip. You’ll doubt yourself, every decision, every action. You’ll pray to God or to the walls or to whatever you subscribe to that this swaddle/latch/bouncy seat will finally provide your baby some comfort and in turn you a few minutes of reprieve. You won’t recognize yourself in the mirror. The dark eye circles will seem as if they are permanently tattooed. You’ll feel about as squishy as your newborn. You’ll ask yourself “what the hell was I thinking?” more than once. You’ll wonder if that person you knew before this undertaking will ever come back and the truth is “not entirely”.
I wish someone would have made my needs and Tim’s needs a bigger priority than seeing the baby. I wish someone would have checked in on me, not the baby, but me. I had the baby well taken care of but the rest of my life was turned on its head. Tim offered a lot of support when he was home but he was also adjusting to a new baby. I want to tell you it is not selfish to want and to ask for the support you need. When someone says “Do you need any help?” I want you to say “Yes! Clean the dishes in the sink and then flip the laundry in the washer.” It’s not rude and if anyone scoffs at you kick them out of your home immediately. Do not pass “go”. Do not get to see baby. Is it 10 p.m. and you suddenly need pork rinds and ranch dip? (Am I the only one who had nursing cravings instead of pregnancy cravings?) Ask your husband to get them. Order out dinner. Invite friends over for coffee and make sure they bring an extra large with cream and sugar from Dunkin Donuts with them.
There’s a part of my “self” that changed. I thought I would be able to put my kids in daycare six weeks out and head back to work without a glance back. Nothing could have been further from the truth. I mourned the loss of freedom to spend money a little more freely, choosing to go out for beer and wings on a whim; choosing to do anything a whim. You’ll make compromises with yourself that you thought you’d hold fast on and you’ll think nothing of it. It was hard and it happens for every parent. You will not be the same person you were before that baby came into the world but you won’t be a complete stranger as well.
These were hard lessons for me to learn. I am proud and it’s a fault as much as a virtue. I struggled under the burden of trying to be everything to everyone after having my kids but especially as a first time mom. I didn’t want to appear weak or incompetent. I smiled and said “I’m fine” whenever anyone asked when the truth was I would have much rather have been in my bed with my baby instead of playing hostess. I wish someone would have said to us “you guys are doing great…sometimes kids are jerks and like to scream in your face for no reason.” I wish I could have found former self sooner under the mommy thoughts of feeding schedules and diapers.
So to all the new mothers out there this is what it’s like. It’s trying emotionally, mentally, and physically. It’s ugly and you’ll be vulnerable but you’ll make it through. I can’t say when or how but one day, you’ll wake up and you’ll know you’ve jumped the hurdle.