I really wanted a natural childbirth. We took hypnobirthing classes. We went to midwives. I watched all the right documentaries. No early cord cutting for me! No pitocin! Definitely no epidural. No painkillers! I am woman – I can do this!
Then my son pooped all over himself in the womb, went into distress, his heart rate dropped — DRAMATICALLY — and I ended up with an emergency C-section. I know a lot of women who end up with C-sections, heck, a lot of women even opt for them. But I wasn’t prepared for how horribly I would react to it. I wasn’t prepared for having to recover from a major surgery. In fact, I wasn’t prepared for anything less than what I had imagined would be my perfect birth. I wasn’t ready for how I would feel after my first child was born.
A couple of days after the birth, the obligatory congratulations started pouring in. From my friends without kids, the responses were benign enough: “Congratulations!” “Good job Momma!” “Way to go!” The responses from my friends with kids went something like this:
“Did you ever think you could love something so much?”
“You’ll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow!”
“Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life!”
Huh? Why didn’t I feel this way? What was wrong with me? Was I like one of those animals in the wild who eats their young? After years of trying to become pregnant, was I actually not maternal?
Looking into my son’s eyes, all I saw was a little creature who I wasn’t sure liked me, who I couldn’t seem to satisfy, and who I was going to be responsible for keeping happy for a loooong time. And – he was ruining my boobs. What the hell? I started crying. And crying. Pretty much every day. This was definitely not how it was supposed to be. I had always wanted a child. Why wasn’t I happy?
A few weeks after the birth, the fog cleared, I stopped crying every day, and eventually slipped out of my depression. When I talked to mothers about what I had experienced, many of them said they had felt the same exact way after the birth of their children. The first thing I thought was, “Why?” Why hadn’t anyone warned me it might happen? I didn’t realized that not everyone was blissfully happy after having a child. Some women are really overwhelmed. And that is normal. What a revelation.
There only seems to exist two stories for a new mom: she’s a glowingly happy maternal queen who can fancy a Moby Wrap into an origami swan, or she’s a danger to herself and her baby. But there are so many shades of gray in between. Expecting mothers should be told about those! I mean, I get it – pregnant women are overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified – nobody wants to scare the shit out of them. We treat a pregnant lady with kid gloves, but guess what- a new mom is still overly sensitive, hormonal, petrified – and now she has a little being depending on her for ALL OF IT’S EARTHLY NEEDS. I think it would help all of us to practice a little honesty toward expecting moms. Tell them what they’re in for! For the sisterhood!
“Go the the movies. I haven’t been to a movie theater since my son was born. Go out to dinner with your husband. Oh, and sleep – a lot. Like 18 hours a day, or more if you can. Start using lotion on your nipples now, because after about 24 hours of breastfeeding they are going to be chapped and cracking. Get a pedicure. A manicure. A haircut. Have sex, for sure, because you won’t be doing that for a LONG time. Do you have a picture of your belly, pre-pregnancy? I hope so because from now on you’re going to have this little extra flap of skin that you’ll have no idea what to do with. Yea, it’s gross. Watch a lot of TV – and swear constantly. You won’t be able to do either of these things after the baby’s born for fear it will cause irreparable damage to baby’s brain and temperament. Have your husband touch your boobs – a lot. You’re not going to want him to go near them after your child’s been feeding off them for a year. Oh, and no one’s gonna get up for you on the subway anymore, so you should just ride it for a few hours – maybe to Queens?”
Oh Jesus. Maybe that’s not the solution either.
But we can be a little more forthcoming about what it is to be a new mom. It’s terrifying, isolating, and also great. It’s confusing and totally worth it.
If you are a brand new mom reading this post – go easy on yourself. You made a person! Good job! Way to go! Did you ever think you could love something so much? You’ll never believe this love you are experiencing will just continue to grow and grow! Welcome to the most incredible ride of your life.
Related post: The 15 Things I Hope For New Parents