Overcoming The Biggest Challenge Of New Motherhood

by Ainsley Swed
Originally Published: 
thedanw / Pixabay

It dawned on me one night when my husband and I were finally able to watch some TV in peace. Although the volume was turned down low so as to not wake the baby, we were silent because we needed to be. We needed to just “be” for a minute. No baby giggling. No baby crying. No bickering about the right way to hold or change the baby. No discussion about baby poop. Nothing. Silence, finally.

We felt like our old selves for a minute. I looked at my husband and asked, “Do you ever just miss the old days of just being…us?” “Yes,” he answered, more quickly than I had anticipated. But there it was, the unspoken message between us. Confirmation of my own secret shame. In that moment, and often in the dark nights of endless rocking and wishing for sleep, I regretted having my son.

It’s been a particularly hard fucking month. The baby hit his sleep regression around Thanksgiving, making it almost four weeks of completely broken sleep — some nights worse than when he was a newborn. I now understand why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I am beyond tired. I am mentally exhausted. I am physically exhausted. I don’t have it in me to be angry at him anymore. I don’t feel anything. I am broken.

Truly, though, he is a beautiful boy, the most handsome baby I’ve ever seen (yes, I know all parents say this). The days are mostly blissful, his delightfully chubby cheeks just begging to be eaten up. I don’t even mind getting peed or shit on, he’s that cute. Metaphorically, he saves his biggest shitting-on for the midnight hours. He doesn’t sleep. We don’t sleep.

Footsteps echo repeatedly down the hallway, back and forth, back and forth — like a big cat pacing his pitiful enclosure at the zoo. I swear there is a worn path in the carpet now. My nipples are sore and pink. He is an insatiable pit of need: food, love, and physical contact.

But it’s more than the sleep. It’s everything. I don’t have time for my husband. I don’t have time for myself. I plan my entire day around the feeding, changing, and sleep patterns of another human being. I don’t go out. My social life consists mostly of text messages or trolling Facebook until the tendon in my thumb hurts; it’s the only finger readily available while breastfeeding. I don’t paint. I don’t exercise. What’s left of my disintegrating muscle structure is laughable.

The biggest hurdle has been, and still is, losing myself in motherhood.

At first I rejoiced in my changed status. Motherhood felt like the greatest thing that has ever happened to me.

Months later, it’s changed. I’ve changed. I’ve seen how my life has changed. It’s the most drastic thing that has ever happened to me.

Talking to other moms has really helped me from falling off the ledge. Some days I feel like I’m losing my fucking mind. But they do too. Life is so different. It’s isolating. It’s joyful. It’s lonely. It’s the greatest love. It’s the greatest pain. It’s the most impactful thing that has ever happened to me.

In the end, it’s not my son I regret, but the death of my old life. It’s hard to let go of something, and someone, you’ve been for the last decade. Every behavior and thought pattern changed. Once the immediate and blind bliss of taking care of a newborn wore off, there was a new life staring me in the face. The unknown is scary. The unknown with a child when you’re tired as fuck and feeling about the same level of alone is frightening as all hell.

Now the nights are sometimes improved. Sometimes not. I try to keep in mind that he is still a baby — so young, so small, and still so helpless. He needs me and depends on me. I am his food. I am his comfort. I am his warmth. I am his safety. I am his everything.

Even though the mourning phase for my previous life is just about over, the dawn of my new life breaks. I realize it’s impossible to regret him. I can’t regret him, because he is now my everything too.

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