…said one of my colleagues echoing my sentiments exactly and after I had told her how hard these first few months of motherhood have been. I wondered why nobody tells you (read, warns you) about how challenging being a new parent is (I am sure if you specifically go looking for that info, you will find it but I didn’t go looking) and she simply said, “You didn’t ask me.”
Just a few weeks ago, exhausted by Baby J’s incessant crying and refusal to sleep, I had declared that “I frikin’ hate motherhood.” My exact words were, “Everybody keeps asking me how I’m liking motherhood. Except for his smiles, I frikin’ hate motherhood. I hate it!!” I spitted out. At least thrice on three different occasions, I have told Aaron, “I just want to take a really, really long walk and never come back”. After my third time saying it, when Aaron said, “You realize you are talking about abandoning me and our child”, I told him that I of course didn’t mean what I said but it feels good to just vent.
In the early days of motherhood, I cried a lot. Not only would I blame the baby blues I experienced but in hindsight, I believe I was mourning the loss of an “I” identity. I wondered aloud about what had become of me, my being, the day I sat hooked to my breast pump the first time. My situation was further aggravated by the sheer amount of work I still had to complete. I wasn’t technically on leave until three weeks after baby J was born so I still had emails to reply, documents to read and review, and other tasks to accomplish – all by specific deadlines.
Given work stress and the fact that I had to tend to Baby J so frequently due to nursing, trying to get him to sleep, and soothe his tummy issues, I really did despise what I was going through. Having my mother to help with everything except nursing and completely take over the cooking was EXTREMELY helpful. I CANNOT imagine how I would have managed without her. She even did my laundry.
My dad would clean all my pumping bottles and accessories after each use so they were ready the next time I wanted to use them. He did the dishwasher, trash, and recycling as well. Having my parents here was absolutely, unquestionably the most life-saving of situations I could have ever wished for. Not to mention, Aaron was always just a shout away. “Aaron, make the formula!” “Aaron, bring my Ipad!” “Aaron, move the coffee table closer so I can rest my legs while pumping” etc. etc. I got waited on by everyone.
Dinner was served, plates were cleaned away, fruits were cut and placed where I could reach them when pumping. I had a LOT of help thanks to my parents and husband and YET…I didn’t really enjoy that time as a mother when I all I really had to do was just that..just be a mom.
Breastfeeding didn’t come easily. It took a while to establish. Baby J had a great latch from the moment he was born and yet I couldn’t satiate him because I didn’t produce enough. I agonized over feeding him formula but made peace having chosen Baby’s Only Organic Dairy with DHA & ARA Formula, 12.7 Ounce after a lot of research. We kept supplementing him with the brand the hospital gave us when we left for a few weeks after which we switched. Once my supply was established, we fed him this formula only at night before bedtime so he could sleep longer.
The early days of motherhood (or parenthood/fatherhood for that matter, but because I am a woman and I am writing this post from my perspective, I will stick to using ‘motherhood’) are not easy and for a variety of reasons –
Earliest days of motherhood were challenging because of: baby blues, physical and emotional recovery, breastfeeding issues and concerns over supply, pregnancy weight issues, and grey hair. I was not in a a physically fit state of mind to take care of my baby. Nature sucks like that. Just when you need all the energy and strength to be there for a newborn, you are so exhausted and drained that you have to muster all human fortitude to love your baby and care for it. This latter part wasn’t hard for me but because I was always in pain in different parts of my body AND sleep deprived, it didn’t make a very good combination for enjoying motherhood.
Early days of motherhood were challenging because of: Baby J’s tummy/gas issues and crying. I shed many a tears watching my son writhing in pain, cursing the Gods around me, threatening to change his name (middle name named after a Hindu religious figure). End result – I continued to remain grumpy, angry, exhausted, and sleep-deprived. While I was recovering emotionally and physically, that recovery was inconsistent. Some days were better than others. A day without gas/tummy pains for Baby J was a great day for me.
Motherhood is challenging now because of: Baby J’s unpredictable sleep schedule (For e.g., he was up 4 times for night feedings last night. Additionally I had to go up to his crib four times because he woke up and couldn’t put himself back to sleep). Because he doesn’t sleep through the night and has suddenly developed an unpredictable nap schedule too, my nights as well as days are cranky. I hold him, rocking him to sleep for an hour sometimes only to have him open his eyes the minute I put him in his crib. He cries if I don’t hold him, he doesn’t and can’t sleep on his own so he cries, he cries when he is hungry and he cries when he is sleepy.
I feel stressed and often feel like I am on the verge of losing it when nothing seems to work – no amount of singing, shushing, keeping quiet, rocking, patting, rubbing his back seems to help him fall asleep easily. Eventually when he does sleep, it doesn’t last very long and if it is night time, he’ll be up again in 2.5 hours for the next feeding which is just around the time I am ready to sleep.
I haven’t had a single night of uninterrupted sleep since the day he was born. I am not sure when that day will come again.
There is a lot more I can say about that but the fact of the matter is, it is politically and socially incorrect to voice out loud the fact that it is quite possible for a woman to hate motherhood in its early stages and this may especially be true for a first time mom.
I know I did and I have my moments now too.
Socially and culturally, motherhood is supposed to be this all-encompassing, self-sacrificing disappearance of the personal self to be replaced by a selfless, all-giving nurturing being to whom only her baby and her/his well-being matters. In this regard, I AM selfish. If I am not happy, I cannot be a happy mother or partner. For me to be happy, of course baby J needs to be a perfect being which is not possible. I have accepted my reality. I love my baby to no end, sleep issues and all but I don’t like having to go through this tough time.
Everyone says to enjoy this phase, that it won’t last long, and that I will miss these days when he is older. I probably will but honestly, I could do without the sleep deprivation. I won’t remember his infanthood any less just because he sleeps through the night and in fact I will remember it even more fondly than I do already because I will have had the energy to enjoy these young days of his life. If all I am is grumpy and sleep deprived, it is only going to take the enjoyment away.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being a mother. I have always known that I wanted to be a mom and I always knew I would make a good one too. When women around me expressed doubt about what kind of mothers they would be or they were afraid of motherhood and such, I never understood it.
I knew it would come naturally to me and it does.
I am very instinctively attuned to Baby J despite occasional challenges and YET even someone with the confidence I had going into this has her moments of frustration.
During these times strange though it may seem, I sometimes remember Dr. Phil’s words from some random episode I had watched a few years ago. I don’t even remember the premise of the show but the gist of his preaching was that the baby in question “didn’t choose to be born. You brought that child into this world” and I don’t remember the rest of it but the bottom line was ‘act like a responsible adult and do right by that child’ (my words, not his) and that is exactly the realization I had a few weeks into this self-pity party.
As always, I was lamenting the days gone by and mourning the loss of my ‘self’. “What has my life come to? Is THIS my life (hooked to breast pump or having to console a baby in horrible pain crying till he was red in the face, pain in every part of my body, etc.)?” were common questions that circled my brains but then one day it hit me…I remember thinking to myself.
Get over yourself. This IS your life. You CHOSE it. Live it.
Somehow magically from that day onward, I started feeling and doing better on the inside. I guess I did get over it. Of course I still have moments of frustration but I no longer “hate” motherhood. It is an experience and I know I will love it more and more every day especially as Baby J gets older. Just one big smile from my baby is enough to melt my heart.
I love cuddling him, reading to him, kissing and hugging him, moving my hand over his head and hair as he nurses, singing to him, holding him close, seeing him lay his head on my chest and fall asleep so content in this little embrace, I love his smell, I love all his new adventures, I love talking to him bilingually, I even love changing his diapers (easier now that he isn’t on solids yet :)) and this is only the beginning of a long and loving relationship.
Finally, as serendipitous as it may sound, as I was getting over myself and accepting, even embracing motherhood, I heard a quote on one of the shows I watch, ‘Criminal Minds’. The show attributes the quote to Joseph Campell:
We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
This made perfect sense and spoke to my situation so appropriately that I cried bucketfuls upon hearing it. I do believe though that you don’t have to completely ‘get rid’ of that plan but you can adapt it to your new life.
Also, the closing song on that season finale was a song by Lily Kershaw titled, As It Seems. I loved the song so much that I immediately looked it up and bought it. My favorite lyrics:
Well in this life you must find something to live for
Cause when the darkness comes a callin’
You’ll go back to where you were before
Cause this life is as
Fragile as a dream, and
Nothing’s ever really
As it seems…