I’m trying to find the words.
I’m struggling to gather together the right collection of syllables that can be mushed together to convey my experience of new motherhood, an experience many people likely share but never speak of.
First, no one tells you how emotional motherhood will be. And by emotional I mean exhilarating, exhausting, gut-wrenching and euphoric.
When you get married, everyone starts asking you when you’re going to have kids. They might even push you to have kids.
There might even be grandmothers (no names mentioned, of course) who buy tiny little clothes and hang them in a closet just in case you decide to have kids right then and there.
Just like marriage and weddings, all society really shows us of motherhood is the romance, the surface story that everyone dreams of and simultaneously hides behind. You’ll create the beautiful nursery and be showered with gifts and interview your pediatrician and buy some yoga pants because after all, you’ve at least accepted you won’t be wearing your old jeans for a while.
You think you know what it’s going to be like because people say, “It’s hard, but it’s sooooo worth it.” You’ll hear this about 5,000 times and so you’ll convince yourself that you’re braced and ready for the good and the bad.
But that’s the first thing you didn’t know about being a mom:
1. Sometimes it won’t feel worth it.
There’s going to come a moment where you wonder why you even became a mom at all. It’ll probably come at about three in the morning. You’ll be a little horrified because you’re doing your duty and feeding your angelic little baby but at the same time, you really don’t want to feed them. You’re doing it anyway, of course, because you’re their mom and that’s what you do, but you’re almost mad at the whole situation.
“Why did I do this, again?” you’ll mutter to yourself. Instead of focusing on the bonding moment like you’re “supposed to,” you’ll just want to be in bed. Better yet, you’d like to be out with your husband drinking a pina colada. The kind with the little umbrella and the cherry. And maybe just maybe the bartender will throw a few extra cherries in there for kicks.
I’ll tell you this: It’s OK to let your mind wander down that path, to miss what you had. To remember what once was. Motherhood is a pretty jarring and life-altering experience, and it happens really, really fast. Just a few weeks before, you were getting all snazzy and having that “last date before we’re parents date,” and now you haven’t showered in a few days. It’s a quick transition and so if your mind happens to wander at the crack of dawn, just know I’m right there with you.
2. No one will be affected by their cries like you are.
You’re the mom and in some interesting twist of biological fate, you’re going to be affected by their cries more than anyone else. Your husband might sleep right through it, your mom will tell you it’s no big deal and your friends will somehow seem to handle the crying with such ease that you wonder what the hell is wrong with you.
It’ll take some getting used to, hearing that sound. Something in you makes you want to just jump in and fix it. I’m constantly amazed that the baby monitor is right by my husband’s ear with a baby wailing, and he’s sleeping quite peacefully.
Ladies, take it as a challenge and an honor. Remember that something inside of you is intimately connected with your baby where only you can really get that gut reaction to their little pleas for food or comfort.
3. You’re going to have bad dreams.
There is a strange dream I’ve been having where I think I left my baby in my bed with me and they need my help. I’ve woken my husband up in the middle of the night telling him a baby is in the bed when they weren’t. I’ve reached around in the bed in the middle of the night and felt my dog’s head thinking I left the baby with me. This is all unwarranted since both my babies (I have twins) have been sleeping in their own cribs since the day they came home from the hospital. If you co-sleep, you might dream about something else. If your babies are in a bassinet by your bed, you might dream they somehow aren’t in there.
My daughter was on a monitor for the first twelve weeks of her life. During one particularly bad moment, her monitor alarm went off during a nap, and I found her very pale and unresponsive. It took me about five full seconds of yelling her name and patting her legs hard to get her to come to, and ever since then I’ve dreamed her brother has been in some sort of similar trouble.
You don’t realize that when you become a mom, all of your senses get heightened. Things affect you more than they ever have before. You worry and wonder if what you’re doing is right or enough or will affect them forever. You’ll make sure they’re breathing all the time. You’ll check on them five minutes after you checked on them the first time. I hear these worries subside, especially once you are on your second or third child, but I can only speak of the first three months of motherhood so far.
4. You’ll feel like an ungrateful jerk.
In the middle of all of these emotions — missing your old life, wishing the baby would stop crying and wondering how poop got on your shoulder of all places — you’ll remember that someone, somewhere who wants to be a mom doesn’t get to be one. Someone out there wishes they could be you, in your shoes. Someone wants to get up at three in the morning and at four and five and six. It’s all they want. And you know what? It’s OK to feel ungrateful when you think of all of those women out there.
However just remember that your emotions are very warranted too. You’re allowed to have mixed feelings. You’re allowed to be tired. And you don’t have to enjoy motherhood every second of every day. Anyone who tells you they do is lying or has been so far removed from being a brand new mom that they forgot what it’s like. It’s too much to worry about your new baby and then also worry that you’re being ungrateful. You’re doing great, and you’re allowed any feelings that bubble up, no matter how small or wrong they might seem to others.
5. You won’t want this phase to end, and yet you can’t wait for it to end.
My son’s feet curve in a little. It’s pretty much the most adorable thing in the world, although I admit to a very heavy bias. He was breech for my entire pregnancy, and he apparently was sitting in a little yoga pose for weeks on end because he came out during my c-section with his legs crossed and his little feet pointed toward each other.
Every day I kiss those little curved feet, which get progressively less curved as time goes on. I know I should want them to straighten out all the way. After all, one day this kid is going to need to walk. At the same time, I wish they’d stay like that forever. I folded up all of his 0-3 month clothes and cried, but I celebrated when he slept eight hours for the first time and I felt like a person and not a vampire anymore.
It’s so confusing. You’ll want them to stay babies forever but then you also want them to smile at you and then crawl and stretch out their feedings and eat veggies. One of these days, we’re going to be wishing they’d get their licenses already so we can stop carting them to baseball practice. Oh my God, how did I just type that? Impossible!
These are the things no one tells you. When they say, “It’s hard, but it’s sooooo worth it,” they really mean that you’re going to have more feelings and more emotions than you ever thought possible.
They mean you’re going to fall in love. Hard. At the same time, you’re going to fantasize about getting in your car for a drive and not coming back.
They mean you’ll watch your husband cry while holding your daughter because he loves her so much. You’re also going to hand that same baby to him two days later in exasperation, because her cries are literally making the inside of your ear hurt.
When they say, “It’s hard, but it’s sooooo worth it,” they probably meant to tell you that you’ll be sitting there watching TV at night when the baby is asleep, and you’ll all of a sudden be overwhelmed with the fact that you’re actually a parent. There is a little person sleeping in the next room over, you’ll think. A person I made. You’ll also wonder what bizarre act of talent made it so you son can somehow pee in his own mouth before you can catch it. Definitely the husband’s genetics, you’ll tell yourself.
They mean you’re going to be rendered speechless when your baby locks eyes with you for the first time. You’ll melt when their hands curl around your finger. You’ll feel pride when they cry and only being in your arms makes them stop. You’ll wonder how you got so lucky.
You’ll also feel haggard and chubby and more tired than you ever knew was possible.
But it’s worth it.
It’s hard, but it’s sooooo worth it.