Note: Every pregnancy and every woman are different. This is written based off MY own personal experience. I know a lot of women cannot relate, but I know a lot also can.
For your whole life, especially if you are a female, you have been drilled with the notion that babies are hard. Our mothers and aunts wanted to scare us into being sexually smart, and it usually works. Once we are married or out on our own it is still drilled into us so as to curb our desires for children until we are 100% for certain that we are ready. Nothing wrong with that thinking, but I’m glad to say babies are not hard.
Now before you read further keep in mind when I reference Baby, I am referencing a healthy infant. My first son had so many digestive issues that were not resolved until after his first 4 months of life. Believe me, baby was excruciatingly hard.
So… Now for the bombshell. Babies are not hard, motherhood is.
A healthy baby will sleep the majority of the first few months. They will eat and poop and just want your touch. The late-night feedings are the closest thing to hard they will be. You will be tired and groggy and wonder why that thing is still crying, you just held it for at least 20 minutes! During the day they will sleep, you will go about your chores, budget your bills, do the laundry, only now your stopping to feed, play, hold, and rock baby. I see that as you now have a mandatory sit down break every 2-4 hours.
So where is the negative? Why not just pop out kids to your hearts content?
Because motherhood is hard.
I am sad to I was never able to deliver vaginally, I cannot speak on the behalf of those who have. I can only offer them an envious glare. Both my boys were cesarean sections. Maybe I am weak, though I have always had a good tolerance to pain or illness, but both surgeries where nearly unbearable.
I was fortunate enough the first go-round to pass out from the combination of an epidural (I was trying to go for vaginal.) and the surgery meds. My second delivery I was only given the spinal. I did not fully go numb and when the doctor began cutting, I screamed. I do not remember the majority of this, thank Yahweh! After my outburst on the table, I was given a sedative that sent my mind on a drug induced adventure that lead me from my home to a delivery table in a strange futuristic sci-fi laboratory. My mind really screwed with me there. I woke up 20 minutes later thinking I had been out for days.
Once the recovery room stopped spinning and I realized my husband was not reading my mind and that I was in fact actually using my mouth to talk, I started to worry. I thought I had been out for days, and I needed to know where my baby was. However, it would be nearly 24 hours before I ever laid my eyes on him.
I couldn’t feel my legs for the next hour and would not be allowed to walk till the next day. Standing up felt like my guts would fall out the hole in my lower abdomen. I vomited almost immediately after the feeling had come back and the pain… oh the pain! Surgery also causes trapped gasses to move around in you. I don’t mean “just fart it out” gas, I mean holding my shoulders because they are the only thing more painful than a toothache and earache combination.
You deal with the gas for a few days to a week then you deal with the incision another 6 weeks. The first 3-4 weeks I couldn’t laugh, cough, sneeze, gag, strain, yell, nothing! I am on week 5 as I write and still have to hold my incision to cough and brace myself for pain when I sneeze. Your doctor also forbids you to drive at least the first two weeks.
Delivery is hard.
From the moment you get off the delivery table those invisible chemicals of destruction set on fire. You think the pregnancy hormones were bad, HA! Now, if your bundle of joy comes out all pink and snuggly, these hormones will bring you tears of joy and elation. Those tears, however, can easily turn into worry, panic, and the realization of what you have just gotten yourself into.
If your bundle of joy comes out and is in distress or unprepared those hormones can send you into panic. As if having a sick child isn’t scary enough, they make your mind feel like it is suffocating under the overwhelming negative thoughts of “what if?” When I first saw my second son, hooked to wires and tubes, I had a brief moment of “I can finally lay eyes on my child” followed by a 2-week long worry of “Why is this happening to my innocent child?”
I began to think “What I had done wrong?” blaming myself for trying to induce labor by walking, having sex, getting a pedicure. Nurses and family assured me that nothing would have made him come unless he was ready, it didn’t help. I was discharged and sent home, while leaving my new baby at the hospital under the watchful and caring eyes of the NICU doctors and staff; leaving the hospital with a diaper bag where tiny outfits, blankets and socks, were all still neatly folded in the bottom.
After coming home, without the celebration of baby, I recall being so angry at myself and my body. My first pregnancy lead to me going into early labor at only 28 weeks. I was put on meds and full bed rest to wait out the rest of my weeks. The memory of that failed attempt at a healthy pregnancy and the premature baby laying at the hospital led me to hate my body for not being able to correctly do what a woman is supposed to do. I kept asking myself why, of all things on earth, the most natural of them, I could not do right. That kind of anger will eat away at you.
I began pumping my breast the first day in the hospital, though I could not feed my baby at the breast it did offer me pride and comfort in knowing I was providing for him with the best there was to offer. My supply came in early and plentiful. I continued to pump the entire 13 days of his stay. Driving 2-3 times a day to see my boy and deliver his milk. I remember the pride I felt when the nurses jokingly told me “Please, no more, we have plenty as we are running out of freezer space.” A few days before his discharge he performed a perfect latch. After a failed attempt at breast feeding my first, I just knew this time I had it.
This glory was short lived. After working with a lactation consultant doing pre and post feeding weigh-ins, we discovered he was what they refer to as a lazy sucker. He could latch but couldn’t suck enough out to constitute a meal. It was a downer, but I was okay; I had a great supply and could pump away. I figured I would continue to let him try at the breast, then offer a bottle of reserved milk, and finish off with pumping out another 3-6 ounces. This feeding process took well over an hour to accomplish, but the site of a freezer and fridge full of milk kept me going.
Less than 3 days after he came home things changed. I was pumping less and less each session. My abundance was dwindling. I switched pumps, let him latch more, took herbal supplements, drank herbal teas, even gave beer a try. I talked with multiple consultants and nurses and researched every breast-feeding site and forum I could find. His appetite was growing faster than I was pumping. It took a little over a week for him to burn through my reserves and catch up to my pumping. We had no choice but to drop the “F” bomb… formula.
Now I am not judging anybody who uses formula and there are many reasons why somebody would do so, but it is not for my liking. My first son’s constant digestive issues were only worsened with each formula we tried. I wanted to avoid it like the plague. Sure enough, within 2 days of supplementing with baby number two he went from happy and content to much more frequent crying and wanting to be held. Within the last 3 days I have all but completely run out. He has lost all interest in even latching on. Hormones saw this coming a week ago and crept back in.
That same hate I felt for my body only 2-3 weeks earlier hit me like a semi-truck. The 2 most natural things for a woman to do and provide, I had failed. I wondered why, if I couldn’t do the things that are required of a mother, God would allow me to be a mother. My mind imagined what if? What if he can’t stomach formula? What if a time came I could not access formula? What if? What if? What if? I continued to struggle with the pump in hopes that more sessions and longer session times would increase my supply. I continued to let him latch for as long as he could before becoming exhausted and wanting the bottle. It felt like I was always in my rocking chair with suction on my nipple. I convinced myself it was better for me to stress about providing for my healthy baby than stressing because he was sick without it.
I broke down. I sat in my bath tub, allowing my breast to soak in the hottest water I could stand, massaging and placing them directly in front of the water jets, anything to promote a better flow. All the while crying, beating myself up for failing, remembering the words of the nurse who told me “I really admire you, most give up.” I was feeling as though I would not only be failing my child, but I would be seen as a quitter by my fellow pro-milk moms.
Hormones, they made the worst of a bad situation. All the breast-feeding pages and groups I had joined online were now a constant reminder of my failure. One by one I removed each of them as the constant photos of smiling babies on the breast made me angry with envy. My nursing cover, that laid gently across the back of my glider rocker, now lies in a crumpled mess in the bedroom floor.
Hormones are hard.
I have never considered myself Miss America, but I am instilled with a healthy level of confidence. I can embrace my tiny chin, large forehead, thin hair, pale complexion, and I love it all.
I wish I could say your body has settings like the personalized driver settings in a car. When baby comes out it doesn’t recognize the non-pregnant mom and adjust to her original setting. There is extra everywhere. That adorable belly is now a sagging piece of skin. In some cases, what was once silky smooth now looks like purple and pink claw marks. People will tell you they are battle scars and be proud of them. I’m no idiot; they make you feel ugly. Your hair, though fixable, will sit in a mess on your head because you are too tired to try, or your recovery makes reaching any higher than your nose painful. You haven’t been able to reach your legs, much less your crotch, for weeks and you will hate to see what they look like. After a C-section you will catch a glimpse of your no longer bandaged incision and feel like Frankenstein. The clothes you wore before you were pregnant are still much too small and your maternity clothes are much too large.
It’s one thing to know you look a hot mess, but it’s completely different to feel ugly. When you feel a hot mess, you can dress it up and paint it on. When you feel ugly, no amount of makeup or clothes will take it away. Those same hormones will only add to your already low tolerance for the mirror. The first time I stood up completely naked from my tub, I had no choice but to be face to face with a mirror with full view of the damage. Once again, I cried. Be prepared it happens a lot after baby.
All women want to feel wanted. They want to feel sexy. You see this often in “loose” women; we say they are seeking attention for their low self-esteem. Married women are no different. There have been days of recent I just wanted my husband to touch me. I have gotten internally angry with him after days have gone by with nothing more than a good-bye kiss in the morning. I painted my face, squeezed into the most decent clothes I could fit in. Why does he not want me?! Am I not sexy in his eyes anymore? What am I doing wrong?
Then he tried. He attempted to touch me in a sensual way, and I swatted him away. WHY! Here he was doing what I had been wanting all this time, and I swatted his advances away. In that moment, when his hand brushed against me, I suddenly felt every insecurity I had experienced in the past weeks. “I am gross”, is all I could think. I know I have stretch marks where he use to only feel smooth skin. I know I haven’t been able to take care of my nether regions. I know there is an overhanging belly hiding a crooked and red still healing scar. I know my breast will probably leak on him. I know if I allow him to study my skin and face closely, he’ll see the dry skin, the stress induced acne, the overgrown eye brows. I know I am still limited in my physical activity, and he will think he is hurting me by even the slightest movements.
It is a vicious cycle. Why would he even attempt to make advances if I only push him away? Why do I feel this overwhelming need for his attention to feel better about myself but feeling worse when I get it? Why am I crying to be held but disgusted to be touched?
Self-Esteem is hard.
Pride and Paranoia.
Don’t lie. We have all judged that friend who asks for a weekend baby sitter more than once in a 2-month period. We say, “She needs to be home with her kids anyway!”. What do we know? She may be with her kids sun up to sun down Sunday through Friday, maybe her friends have finally asked her out again for a kid free night.
We say we don’t care what people think of us, but the moment a stranger compliments your parenting skills, you will change your mind. Nobody wants to be considered a bad parent. We are already paranoid that we aren’t good enough. To be called a bad mother would probably be the biggest injury to my pride. I am paranoid that any slip up will lead me to looking like that girl we are all silently and not-so-silently judging on our news feed.
We get prideful. We are scared to ask for help. The whole time you are pregnant you hear, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.” which should be true but isn’t. If you want to remain prideful, you have to suck it up and deal with it. It shouldn’t be this way. Every parent needs a break, maybe not every weekend but at least once a month would be nice. The minute people hear you’ve left your kids for the second time in 3 months with a relative you become considered a selfish parent.
Like I said, I am guilty too. I think my judgement comes from another place, however. I am jealous. I am jealous that I do not have family closer. I am jealous that I cannot leave my kids without a good cause without immense guilt. Jealous that I feel it is unfair to leave my kids with other people. Feeling these things doesn’t make them all true but you can’t help how you feel. My pride is often too scared to ask for help.
I am paranoid. Scared I will wear out my “help me” card. This fear left me in a quite an odd position recently. My step daughter had been staying with us to help with the new baby. I felt I was asking for her help much too often. I have every reason to need help. Telling somebody else to feed your baby while you cook supper for the family seems ok but still feels wrong. So, when she decided to sleep in one morning, I didn’t want to bother her. She had been helping enough already, and I was worried she would get tired of it. Then the urge to go to the bathroom hit me. After a C-section, straining is incredibly difficult, so when the need to go hits you, you take it and take it fast. It just so happened to come during feeding time. In my prideful and paranoid state, I let her sleep. 10 minutes later I found myself in the tiny alcove in my bathroom, only large enough to hold one toilet and one person. There I sat with an infant in my lap, holding a bottle in my only free hand, a toddler, in true toddler fashion, at my side shoving an empty sippy cup in my face and dangerously close to my infant’s head. With the toddler came his entourage of my small hairless dog and his dad’s 70lb American bully. There the 5 of us were in this tiny alcove when I realized, how am I going to wipe my own butt?
Don’t worry, I made it out with a clean butt and with the realization that I had to overcome my fear of asking for help and just wake the girl up next time.
Pride and paranoia are hard.
Leaving the House.
Baby, like I said, is easy. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Love. His things are not easy. Your infant will only weigh a few lbs., but those lbs. become tons when you are trying to pack him everywhere. So, you have to heave around the bulky complicated stroller or invest in a sling that will make you think you are killing your kid everytime you put them in it. The infant carrier, or car seat, will make your 7lb baby now feel like a awkwardly shaped 40lb burden. I relate hauling around a car seat to carrying a very wide bucket full of water while being sure not to spill a drop.
The diaper bag, you will always over pack it and yet always forget one important thing you need. If you leave it in the car, you will most definitely need it. If you pack it around with you, you won’t need it at all. You will eventually no longer carry a purse period because seriously, who has that many hands.
On long drives you will be ever so cautious constantly checking the back seat, of which you can’t see your child because he is turned backward. When driving alone without a fancy backseat mirror you will pull over just to check they are positioned ok. You will stop to feed your baby much like you stop to feed yourself, because baby is easy.
So this precious few lbs. of easy to maneuver human being is the least of the problem. It is the 800 lbs. of equipment that will make you wish to never leave home again.
Leaving the house is hard.
The Culmination of all this.
After the baby is home, the routine is set, and the new normal sets in, it can become anything but. I am sure if you have made it this far that it is no secret I am suffering from post-partum. There is no shame in it and recognizing it for what it is helps to understand that all these things I feel are not as real as they seem. They are only my hormones playing against me.
I consider myself blessed this go around. After my first pregnancy I spiraled completely out of control. I said things to my infant that a mother should never say to a child of any age. I wrongfully blamed him for all my problems. I did not abuse my child, but I can never take back the way I felt about him. I can never escape the guilt of my lack of affection for him. He was beautiful and precious and perfect, and I couldn’t see it. You never get that time back.
I have but one regret in my entire life; I regret not getting the help I needed sooner. When he was just crawling, I was so busy wrapped up in house work and errands that he wasn’t getting any attention. He started to cry and follow me around the house. In hindsight it was precious. He was crawling all over our big old house following me like a puppy just wanting love. I couldn’t see it. This was the day that I will never forget.
Had I been in a healthy frame of mind it still would have been stressful, but the culmination of all things listed above created the perfect storm. He was right at my heels, crying to be picked up and I snapped. I, an adult, standing feet above him, began yelling. Not just the yell an angry mom does, but the scream of a seriously sick individual. I just screamed, “What! What do you want?! Why can’t you leave me alone!” along with things I can’t even remember. Things I do not wish to ever remember. He stopped. He froze. The look of terror I put on his face will always haunt me. It was a look that caused me to freeze as well. I just stopped. I scooped him up and cried like a baby, apologizing to this tiny child for reasons he couldn’t even understand.
I called my mom as soon as I could catch my breath, “Come now, I am scared, and you need to get Paxton.” I just knew from that moment on that he would hate me, fear me, run from me. I cried for days after the incident. My husband couldn’t understand why, but I couldn’t and still will never be able to express how violently my words came out or how scared, a child that had never experienced fear before this point, looked.
My mom did come, right away. She knew exactly what I meant when I said I was scared. No, I wasn’t afraid I would physically assault my child by any means. I was afraid I would do permanent damage to our relationship. I was afraid I would hurt myself out of guilt. I was just all around scared of being a mother.
I am very happy to say that I did eventually get help. My son had been over a year old before we ever bonded. I have very few photos of us even together though I was with him every day. Now, you would never in a million years have ever thought any differently. He is my world and though he will always be a daddy’s boy he has mommy’s heart as well.
Even if you don’t suffer post-partum, the stress or excitement of baby alone can wear on your marriage. Be prepared. Prepared to be exhausted and snappy with your husband. He is only human and eventually he will snap back. You are both tired, while you suffer from those hormones, he is stressing about providing for a growing family. Dealing with a stressed-out husband can be as bad, if not worse than dealing with a crying baby. Men have needs too and men can become depressed just like women. Keep him in mind they carry their stress much differently.
The Culmination of all this is hard.
So, now you see why I say babies are easy. They are the least complicated piece of a very large and complicated puzzle. Dealing with yourself will be the hardest part of raising your baby. You are creating a person and a life, but you are creating a mother first.
Creating a mother is hard.