It might be insanely hard at first. And when I say hard, I don't mean it's hard in the same way that other things are hard. I mean that you may not actually like being a mother.
That's right. You actually might not like it. Yeah, I'm talking to you, to those of you who are overjoyed to be pregnant and so excited to be moms they think they might burst. Women who feel that having a baby will be their crowning achievement and their greatest glory.
In the first hour or two after giving birth to the baby, you will probably feel this way. For me, the time just after I had my baby was magical. I felt like a serene motherhood goddess. It was even better than I'd expected it to be.
But after the exhaustion kicked in and I was sent home with my bundle of joy, things started to get a little hazy and confusing.
I felt a great weight of responsibility to my daughter--a weight that was almost crushing. I think most women expect this, but they also expect a lot of joy to come with it, so it kind of evens out.
I didn't feel a lot of joy.
I didn't hate being a mother. There were certain things I loved about it. But even the things I loved felt like they were going to crush me sometimes--like I loved them too much. Even loving my baby was agonizing in a way I really can't explain.
I could never quite put into words how I felt. It wasn't just that I was tired and frustrated with trying to take care of a newborn. I expected this, so it wasn't surprising. I was prepared to be physically exhausted.
It wasn't the doing motherhood that was the hardest part. It was the feeling it. It was knowing that my life would never be the same, and that from now on I would always have to put this other person first, above myself, whether I liked it or not. And I wasn't sure that I did like it.
In the first month or so after my baby was born, I would often wish I could go back to the days when it was just my husband and me. Those were the days, I would think wistfully. Of course, I knew that back in those days, I was always wishing I had a baby, but I believed that wishing for a baby wasn't as bad as actually having one.
Having a baby, I thought, was not worth it.
Now, my point here is not to depress you. I don't want any pregnant moms to read this and start doubting whether they really want to have babies. (Or more likely, thinking that I'm a terrible mother and they, of course, will never feel the way I did.) I'm not trying to "educate you on the reality of motherhood" and crush your dreams. By all means, keep dreaming of holding your sweet baby and imagine all the love you'll have for that little person.
Because I promise you, it will happen that way.
It just might not be right at first.
I mean, maybe it will be. I think there are some women in this world who really adore the first few weeks after their baby is born. You'd think it happened this way for everyone, from the way people talk. Some people act like this is the very best time of their children's lives and they wish they could go back to it.
How nice for them. I very, very much hope this happens to you.
One very sweet lady asked me, when my baby was a couple months old, "Don't you just love to look at her? When my first baby was born, my husband and I didn't really watch TV or anything. We would just stare at our little baby."
I said something vague and polite, but I was actually shocked that she would say this. This is what I was expected to do? Just look at my baby for hours on end? Let me tell you, I watched a lot of TV during this time. If I wasn't watching TV and I was just staring at my baby, I was probably crying and depressed over how amazing she was and how much I adored her.
I really needed TV. Whenever I wasn't watching TV, I felt like I was dropping off a cliff into insanity.
I felt horrendously guilty about it, although I tried not to. I thought I was going to curdle my baby's brain with all the TV she was hearing.
(New moms everywhere: Just turn on the TV and don't worry about it. Seriously. You have enough to worry about without feeling guilty about watching TV.)
But now let me give you the best message, the message I wish more people would have given me before my baby was born: Someday very soon, your life will be filled with all the joy you hear about. You'll feel like your heart is going to explode with love for your child. You'll be so glad you became a mom and you'll marvel over every move your child makes. The fantasies really are going to come true.
But it might take a little while. Don't worry. Be patient. You're normal, and you're going to love being a mother. I promise.
P.S. If these feelings are very persistent, and/or if you are concerned about your safety or your child's safety, please don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about postpartum depression.