I started this blog some time ago. I needed a place to vent and complain in a safe environment. Now, a lot of my old posts are hidden since I went “public” with my blog a while ago. I realize that many of the posts could have hurt some of my loved one’s feelings and they may not understand why I wrote them. I started the Mom’s Club page not long after I started the blog as I felt that no one was being truthful to parents, in general, and mothers specifically, and I wanted to dismiss a lot of those myths. Since then, this page has been hidden for some time, too, as I climbed out of post-partum depression with my son and struggled to stay out with my daughter.
Over all those years I have learned a lot about myself and when I first started this page, while my intentions were true, I had no clue what to say or how to say it. I think I have an idea, now, what to say as others have felt the same as I do and have worked to abolish that myth that all families are happy go-lucky. That all moms are always perfectly dressed and clean like in the commercials. That all dads are willing to help with the kids or the housework like in the magazines. That all kids are just mischievous little monkeys that need a pizza roll like in the advertisements. That babies just need a soft blanket or special potion to help them sleep at night like in the baby store ads.
All veteran parents know, and new parents are finding out, none of the above is true. So, now that I know what I want to say, I am willing to find out a way to say it here. Keep in mind that some, or none, of this may pertain to you. That is ok. If all of this and more pertains to you, that is ok too.
First things first. What you are feeling is ok. It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran parent or a new parent. Parenting is hella frustrating. Sometimes it downright sucks a$$. Sometimes the clouds part and a ray of sunshine hits you and your family like a blessing from God. Sometimes that shit just stays closed and dark and rains like the Flood and you are the one drowning. If you have ever felt this way, it is ok. Cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t make you a terrible parent.
With that said, I want to point out that as a woman and mother, most of what I am talking about is from a woman/mother perspective. That does not mean that men/husbands do not feel any of this. They do. However, I don’t feel comfortable speaking on that only because I am not a man/husband. If you are a man, or know a man, who is feeling or had felt any of these things…please leave a comment or direct them here to leave a comment sharing their story. Dads need to hear this, too.
With that out of the way..
We are taught, as women, that when you have a baby your life will change forever. This is true. Unequivocally. That is about the only thing true that is said that is true. After that there are a lot of grey areas. A spectrum, if you will. I fell on the lower end of the spectrum. I know a lot of other moms do too.
So, how did I feel after having my son? Alone. Very alone. I felt ill-equipped. I felt I made a mistake. I would sit in a haze on my couch with my son in my arms wondering what the hell did I sign up for. I felt like I Could. Not. Do. This. The first year of my son’s life is a blur. There are times I look at some pictures of him from when he was an infant and I don’t recognize him. I felt like I needed to leave. I started making plans in my head about how I could leave my husband and my son and they would be ok.
I did NOT feel an overwhelming love for my son when he was born. I felt protective and possessive, but not love. That would finally happen months later. All I wanted was to sleep and rest and my baby didn’t know the meaning of the word sleep.
Now, I will say here that my husband is amazing. He was amazing then too. He took care of our son from day one and never complained. He was laid off from work that first month and my mother was there too in the beginning, so it isn’t like I was physically alone. I had help. I think that is the only thing that got me by and kept me getting up day after day. I had help, and I still felt this way.
When I told people how I felt, they laughed at me. You know the laugh. The one where someone is basically telling you to suck it up cupcake. I wasn’t taken seriously. It was something all women went through and you had to deal with it. No sympathy. No empathy. Just the thought that “well you wanted kids, this is what it is”.
I was 800 miles away from my family. I was alone. I was tired. I couldn’t sleep. I was plagued with anxiety. Like most new moms I had to have the baby monitor next to his face so I could hear him breathing in the other room. It sounds silly to non-parents…but that is what we do, isn’t it? In our anxiety about being a good mom. Then of course, the little things happen to make you feel worse. I was told to let my son “cry it out” (what a load of bullshit). So, one day I did. After a while I went in to see why he was still crying and his leg was trapped in between the bars of the crib (he had fat little legs). I swore I would never let him cry it out again. I mean, look what happened! He could have died! The time when he was crawling and managed to find the one nail in the couch with his head that stuck out that we didn’t know was even there. He had a puncture on his head. I can’t leave him alone! Look what happened! He could have died!
My saving grace was my husband. We talked. A lot. I told him how I felt. He told me how he felt (basically the same way I felt). We consoled each other. Let the other know we felt the other was a great parent and that we would get through this. Together. And we did.
For a few years our marriage suffered, though. Not so much because of my son, but because I was terrified of getting pregnant again. I couldn’t get close to hubs. I couldn’t take the chance of getting pregnant again. The fear was crippling. I would stress about him coming home and wanting intimate time and I would start to have a panic attack. It wasn’t because of him, or even sex. It was the possibility of getting pregnant again. Even that little tiny less than 1% chance while using the Pill and condoms. I couldn’t risk it. I could NOT go through it again.
It went like this for almost 2 years. I slowly came back to some semblance of center. My son still wasn’t sleeping through the night, but we managed a way for everyone to get sleep. The anxiety started to fade, the depression too, though neither went completely away.
Then I had a conversation with someone about having more kids. DH and I were pretty much against it, but the person said that her husband was an only child and hated it. He always loved her family because there were so many, yet he was always sad that he didn’t have any brothers or sisters to visit with.
This got me to thinking about another baby and DH and I discussed it for a while. There was one caveat. If we didn’t do it now, it wasn’t getting done and I was going to take permanent action. After about a year or so we decided to leave it up to fate. All birth control was stopped and what happened happened.
When I got pregnant with my daughter, the old feelings didn’t come back as much as new anxiety did. Could I be a good mother to two kids? How could I possibly love anyone as much as I loved my son? What if those old feelings came back? What if I couldn’t handle it like last time? What if…?
Before my daughter was born, I decided I was not going to repeat myself. I was going to find a therapist ASAP and see him/her as soon after my daughter was born as I could. I talked to a friend who referred me to an excellent therapist. I told her my past and how I didn’t want it to end up the same way. I told her about my marriage and how I wanted to make things better, not worse after another baby.
I had plans in place for help as DH would not be able to take the time off that he had when my son was born. I decided to damn the house, if the kids were asleep I was gonna sleep too. I learned a lot from my rough start with my son. It made life with my son AND my daughter easier.
After she was born, it was like night and day. Delivery was easy (I had another c-section, but it was planned so no disappointments like the first time!). I knew what to expect post-partum. We included my son in taking care of his little sister and made a big deal about him being a big brother. He loved his sister from the get go. She was an amazing sleeper and all around happy baby. The Gods had thrown me a bone this time around.
I guess I had paid my dues.
I saw my therapist for about a year after that…once a month or so. She helped me through the highs and lows and the uncertainty. She helped me deal with feelings and emotions that sabotaged my marriage and helped get that back on track. I still call her now and again when I am feeling overwhelmed.
The funny thing is, while no one admitted it at the time, now when I talk about my experiences someone always says, “why didn’t you say something!”. I want to scream at them that I did say something, but was laughed at. At one point I was telling someone how I had felt all those years ago and she looked at me in horror…I told her that no one really understood how bad it was and how it hurt that they would laugh at me or call me selfish or say things like “how hard is it to take care of a baby?”
Now, 10 years after the birth of my son, 6 years after the birth of my daughter, I make a point of letting new moms know that whatever they feel it is ok. I have been there.
Not in love with your baby? It’s ok. It took me a while, too.
Feeling overwhelmed? It’s ok. Just take it one day at a time.
Feeling like a failure? It’s ok. As long as your baby is alive and you are alive you are doing pretty damn good. Baby isn’t going to remember that you put the diaper on backwards.
Do you feel alone? It’s ok, but you are not. Seek out those who you can talk to.
We have all been there. Lean on us for support.
You are normal. Your feelings are normal. Hang in there.
My story now told, I would like to offer advice.
1. Seek out those who will support you. If all they can say is “I never felt that way” then find someone else. A message board, support group, friend, therapist. Whatever you have to do. Don’t give up. Someone is out there that wants to help you.
2. The sucky times to not define you as a parent or a person. Don’t take it personally. Yell PLOT TWIST! and move on.
3. Selfishness can be a good thing. Don’t feel bad if you need a few hours or a day by yourself. That’s what babysitters are for. If you aren’t taking care of your own needs, emotionally and physically, you can’t take care of anyone else’s. Think of the oxygen masks on a plane. Put the mask on yourself before you put it on someone else. It’s ok. Really.
4. If someone come over and wants to help with the kids. tell them no. You don’t want help with the kids. You want help with the laundry. And the dishes. And scrubbing the bathroom. If they help, awesome! If they decide to leave…well you didn’t need to entertain them anyway. You have enough to deal with than dealing with people who feel entitled.
5. Yoga. Seriously. It’s easiest when the kids are babies, but find some time anyway. Get a DVD and shut the blinds and do some sun salutes. I never felt as good as when I was doing my yoga during a stressful day. Just remember to breath properly.
6. Don’t micromanage Dad. He may not do it the same way you do, but he will find out the hard way what works. He can’t be a good dad unless you let him be. Hubs found out the hard way why we had to make sure the ruffles on the diapers were pulled out around their legs. 😉
7. Love yourself. You brought a new life into the world. A little person with thoughts and feelings and attitude. It isn’t going to be sunshiney all the time, especially when they get older (Lord, trust me I know!!). It’s ok. You did, and are doing, an amazing job. They are going to hate you sometimes. They are going to be little brats sometimes. Appointments ARE going to be late. Meals WILL be cold. It’s all good. It has nothing to do with you, personally. You deserve a little self love and self recognition. So just go ahead and do it.
8. Don’t apologize. If someone has an issue with how you are doing things. that is their problem, not yours.
Because I am not the only one who feels the truth needs to be told:
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Some of the comments below are from a previous incarnation of this page. I left them because they are still relevant. Feel free to add your own advice, your own experience, or just let someone know something that you wish someone had told you.