“You’ve got to be so in love already!”
I’ve heard these words countless times since Little Man was born, but the truth is, responding with a “yes” has made me feel like a liar. Of course I love my baby, but it is a love that has been evolving. An acquired taste, if you will.
Upon first laying eyes on him, I was in complete awe. I couldn’t believe that this perfect little human came from my husband and I, that I had grown him in my body, and that he was all mine to care for for the rest of my life. I knew that I would do anything for him. I had love for him immediately, but I would not yet say that I was “in love”. I know, it sounds horrible, but to anyone who has never had a baby, I promise that saying this does not make me crazy- it just makes me honest.
I read an article once that talked about our society’s quickness to diagnose new mothers with post postpartum depression. Don’t get me wrong, I know that PPD is a very real problem that affects many women, but I couldn’t help but snigger in agreement at the premise of what I read. The article compared becoming a mother to acquiring a CEO position at a big company. When you become a CEO, the expectation is that there will be a learning curve. The expectation is that you will still have a personal life with some semblance of the one you had before your new job. The expectation is that you will get overwhelmed from time to time, especially at first. If you breakdown and cry during your first few weeks or months, no one will be shocked. When we are new moms, the expectation is that we will know what to do immediately. The expectation is that our personal lives will do a complete 180 from what it was just a few days before. The expectation is that we will handle this all in stride, with a smile on our tired faces and love for our babies in our hearts. The reality that we face is this: if we are exhausted or overwhelmed and not completely “in love” after just one week of our brand new lives, we are “depressed and need to be medicated”. If we break down and cry during our first few weeks or months, “something must be seriously wrong.” We, as a culture, need to do a better job of respecting the learning curve for new moms. We all need an adjustment period. We need to remind each other that we have all felt this way, and these feelings don’t make us inadequate- they make us sane! To go through a major life-changing event without some challenging emotions attached to it would make us all crazy.
Don’t get me wrong, I experienced a lot of moments of pure, unadulterated joy and bliss during those first weeks, but many will be shocked to learn that a majority of the emotions that I was working through were not positive ones. I was dealing with a beautiful cocktail of hormones, plus the stress of being thrust into a completely new and different lifestyle. To boot, everyone in the world expected me to love it and be a professional at it all right away.
The first emotion that I really had to work through after my amazing mother headed home and my darling husband went back to work was isolation. I felt like I was the only woman in the history of the universe who had gone through these ups and downs of new motherhood. As I’ve said before, there are not a lot of other women in my life at this point who have chosen to begin their motherhood journeys. I did not feel that there were others who I could be completely honest with about what I was feeling. I was excited to spend time with my baby and bond, but how was I supposed to navigate getting out of the house and to the store with a baby when I couldn’t even get him to settle down long enough to do my hair? How was I ever going to enjoy social outings again if I had to hide and breastfeed my baby every hour or half hour or, some days, nonstop all day long? I felt as if my baby were holding me hostage in a life that wasn’t mine.
The next emotion that I really had to work through was yearning. Mostly, this was yearning for my old life. In moments of exhaustion and frustration, I found myself thinking things like “What have I gotten myself into?” and “Will my life ever feel normal again?” I felt so much guilt for thinking these things. For so long, all I wanted in this world was to meet my little boy and to hold him in my arms, but now that he was here, I was wishing it away?! What was wrong with me?! At the same time, I was also yearning for more help or less help or for someone to come visit or for someone to go away. I was insatiable. It is really difficult coming to the realization that becoming a mother is a process. You will yearn for “the way things used to be” until you reach the point where you “can’t imagine what life was like before.” You will yearn for more alone time, until your brains are turning to mush from breastfeeding and watching a marathon of TV shows all day. You will yearn for peace and quiet until your guests leave and you realize that you now only have an infant who can’t even hold up his own head to keep you company all day. Our yearning stems from a fear of the unknown, but once we get more comfortable in our new mommy shoes, that yearning will most likely shift into a yearning to do it all over again.
The last of these emotions, and perhaps the hardest to talk about, is resentment. After a few days of being exhausted and covered in spit up, where the only lunch you have time for between breastfeeding and soothing a crying baby is a few peanut butter crackers, you will begin to resent… basically everyone. You will resent your partner for having the freedom to leave and go to social outings (or even go to work!) at will. You will resent your friends for being able to go to a nice restaurant for a last minute dinner date. You will even resent your dog for being able to sleep through the night. You will also know, on a very real level, that none of this is their fault. This, however, will not stop you from feeling this way. Why doesn’t their life change more drastically when yours has? Well, the simple answer to that is that you are the mom. You are the one who is allowing your child to thrive by nourishing his body with milk from your own. You are the first face he sees when he wakes up in the middle of the night because he is still adjusting to life in this new world. You are the last voice he will hear before he is rocked to sleep in your arms. And chances are, once you’ve gotten yourself free from the “baby blues” hormones, you will realize that its a pretty fair trade off.
Tonight, as my son was crying from exhaustion and fighting sleep, I said to him
“Its OK Baby- I have everything you need right here.”
When he finally settled and peacefully closed his eyes, those words weighed heavy on my heart. The world could end and as long as he had me, he would be fine. I can feed him with my body. I can keep him warm in my arms. I can shelter his heart in the safety of my love, and as long as he was safe and happy, I would have all that I needed too.
In that moment I was taken aback by the raw truth in my words, and I realized for the first time, that
I am completely in love.