Thursday, July 23, 2015

My advice for mothers-to-be.

This is for all the pregnant new moms out there, the women who are about to enter motherhood for the first time. Whenever I see a woman pregnant with her first child, this is what I always want to say to her:

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. 


  1. I love this! As far as pregnancy, labor, and birth, I felt I had it really easy. l felt like that goddess you spoke of, and I basked in the glow of a beautiful baby. But then I got home. My mom stayed with us for about a week, and her help was invaluable. Then I realized that she was going to leave and I would be All Alone with this baby! I had a really hard time coping with it. I wanted to run away from my baby and give up on myself. I felt like I was going insane. I finally started turning it around after realizing that I was experiencing post-partum depression and getting past the barrier of thinking that i was a bad mother and feeling ashamed of that. The joys of motherhood are real but so is pp depression. It's important for all soon-to-be and new mothers to know that they are not alone in feeling this way. It's OK to need help. Talk to someone who knows what it's like.

    1. "The joys of motherhood are real but so is pp depression. It's important for all soon-to-be and new mothers to know that they are not alone in feeling this way. It's OK to need help."

      Thank you for saying this.

  2. This is a great post! I remember trying to communicate a lot of this stuff to you when you were pregnant, but I didn't say it nearly so well. I think a lot of the people who think they absolutely adored the first few weeks of their first child's life are just having altered memories from the sleep deprivation of that time period. Most of my memories of Summer's entire first year are really hazy, like remembering a dream. But I do remember a few of the things I wished. I wished that people could take on motherhood on a part-time basis, rather than getting thrown headfirst into the most time-consuming part of raising a child! And I remember wishing that I could have taken Summer on a trial basis, maybe just for a year, and then re-evaluated the situation. An 18-year commitment seemed overwhelming. (Now the idea of giving her up is horrifying.)

    I didn't even have a few hours of a honeymoon period with Summer. When she was born, it seemed like pure insanity that I was expected to take care of her. I had just been in labor for two days! I wanted to guzzle water and then sleep, not learn a new skill (breastfeeding) and care for a helpless infant. (Fortunately, Mom was there, so I did get to get a little sleep.)

    I agree that TV is practically a necessity with a first baby. Newborns are BORING! And they don't let you read or go places for very long or do anything that requires both hands. I had completely expected to give up TV cold turkey when Summer was born, but I actually watched it more when she was a baby. Once she got old enough that I could resume other hobbies, I phased out most of the the TV watching.

  3. I totally relate to what you said about even the things you love about motherhood being crushing, and loving your baby being agonizing. I just felt so protective of my newborns that the weight of dealing with their pains and sadness felt overwhelming. You just feel so vulnerable, as vulnerable as the little baby is, because you know you'll never be able to protect them the way you want to. The emotions are so intense, probably partially due to hormones but also because your life just isn't the same as it was a few weeks ago, and it never will be. When they start to get older, your love doesn't lessen, but it does get balanced out by all the experiences you have with them and their growing ability to handle life's challenges without you. Still, sometimes when I think about how many hours my kids spend outside my loving care, it hurts a little, even though I know they don't need me hovering over them anymore. The amazing thing about parenting is that if you do it right, you work your way out of a job as they grow!

  4. Motherhood is painful because you're learning how to TRULY be selfless. It defiantly is no picnic and I really really want to sleep when I want to sleep. I have found that the joy in motherhood is in the moments. Like when my 6mo old smiles at me or when my 2yr old prays or tells me she loves me. You collect enough of those moments and you find yourself thinking, "I wouldn't trade being a mom for the world."

    1. And btw, when my first was born, my reality shattered as I hit rock bottom and was swept up by postpartum depression. I couldn't handle breastfeeding so I formula fed, a decision that saved me! I definatly watched a TON of Netflix those days, but they provided enough of an escape. I can say today, that I made it through the newborn days! Twice! Now it's trying to help my toddler stay in her bed since her sister still has the crib. The work of a mother NEVER stops, but my love NEVER stops growing for the two cuties I've been blessed with. Someday, they'll be grown up, off to college or married, and my heart will just ache to have them home again.