I am pushing myself to be honest here. Really honest. This is a difficult place for me to go. I am thinking of my firstborn and how our first days together were, and this is painful because she died accidentally three and a half months after she was born. She was placed on her tummy for her nap at daycare, and she suffocated. This is a firm reminder: BACK TO SLEEP, TUMMY TO PLAY. Because her life was so short, I want to share with you a happy story about a blissful time, but I cannot tell you that story. The truth is, the earliest days of my daughter's life were a blur. A mixed bag of tears, fears, and disconnection.
I had a fairly normal delivery in a hospital, and came home after the allowed 48 hours. The first clue that settling into motherhood was going to be a challenge should have been the fact that while my husband had one foot out the door before the discharge nurse had paid us a visit, it seemed that I would do anything to stay there just for the help from the nurses who seemed to have a better idea of how to take care of this wiggly little bundle than I did. The dark, secret truth is that I wasn't sure I could pull off this "mothering" thing. While I had desperately wanted this child and anticipated this status of "family-dome," I was not feeling like a natural from the get go, as I had imagined I would.
All the book reading, all the storytelling, all the daydreaming in the Universe cannot prepare you for the experience of becoming a mother. The first time I held my baby girl, I was unprepared for the feeling of holding a complete stranger and being told she was mine. It's a big moment, and I've always been sad that it wasn't how I pictured it. It was more confusing than beautiful. Even as my memory has infused the life experience that followed that moment into the story, I would have to really put lipstick on it to make it sound even remotely beautiful.
But SHE was beautiful. I could see that from the start.
The early days were marked by so many changes in my experience, my atmosphere, and my body. A girlfriend told me that when she saw me the day after giving birth, she became terrified of ever going through the process herself. That was the part that I couldn't keep secret, that I looked like a wreck on the outside, but I was feeling like a wreck on the inside, and I was determined to keep that to myself -- because I knew that feeling that way was not how it was "supposed to be."
Once we were home, I fell more deeply in love with my husband. This was an amazing gift that this experience brought me. He shouldered the burden of being the attentive daddy and the house manager. One day he left me at home alone while he took our daughter for a walk. I was supposed to be writing Thank You notes. While he is reading this post - he is finding out for the first time that I cried the entire time they were gone. Both from fear of what could happen to them while they were gone, and for fear of having to be a mom again when they returned. I have kept that a secret for six years.
Later in the week, I was sitting on the front steps of our house holding my slightly jaundice baby in the sunlight (as I had been told to do - I was excellent at following the instructions) when a girlfriend who had a four-month-old pulled up to my house for a quick drop-by. I wasn't expecting her. I was wearing sunglasses, and had been crying for at least an hour. She came bouncing out of her car, looking rested, happy, and in shape. She couldn't have been more excited to hold my baby. I felt tired, sad, and out of my body - and was hoping she would hold my baby and give me a break, and that she wouldn't notice me in the process. I spent a lot of time in those early days hoping nobody would notice me. She did notice me. She said, "It looks like you're having one of those days." I was simultaneously filled with relief and horror. Relief because it sounded like she knew what I was feeling. Horrified because she had never told me this might happen. I felt as though the sisterhood had failed me. Was this the way they all had felt in the beginning? Why didn't they tell me? And why hadn't they asked me if I was feeling that way, too? I got myself together enough to ask her that last question and she told me that I was making it look easy so nobody thought anything was wrong.
This is why I am reluctant to believe new mothers when they tell me that everything, everything is blissful and beautiful. There is so much guilt when it isn't that way. We all want these babies and love them so much, that to admit that it's difficult and we don't always feel like a natural at it makes us feel like we are failing. And from where we sit, it looks as though everyone else is making mothering a cinch. We know that "this sucks" is the wrong answer when someone asks how motherhood is agreeing with you. The awesome news is that I settled into the role quite nicely. After a few weeks, the amazing moments FAR outweighed the hopeless moments. These experiences didn't repeat with my subsequent births. I credit experience, honesty, and in my case - the help of antidepressants. By the time I had my other children, I knew how to ask for support and I knew what I needed.
So, that's it, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's my story, but everyone's is different. Take a look for yourself by checking out some of the blogs linked below. If you have a blog, and want to share your story, please LINK UP! Thanks for visiting!