I was always surprised to hear new moms exclaim, “I didn’t know how hard this would be!” I mean, who thinks infants are easy? Had they never been around a baby? They cry, they don’t sleep when you want them to, they can’t talk or do anything for themselves. Everyone knew that, right?
Then, I became a mom. I quickly discovered that, yes, it’s hard, but not the brand of hard I assumed everyone tells moms-to-be.
Not sleeping through the night is hard, carrying around a child all day is hard, but what’s harder are the emotions that come with motherhood. The ones mothers don’t tell you about because they can’t put them into words. It’s a kind of hard that has to be lived to understand.
The first thing I struggled with was not having a plan. I am a planner through and through. As an endurance runner, I was used to following a training plan to get me where I wanted to go. Want to run a marathon? Run this many miles on these days and in three months you can run 26.2 miles.
I read a number of baby books and glimpsed baby schedules with tips and tricks floating around the Internet, so I thought I’d be able to follow some semblance of a plan. HA!
When what I read didn’t work, when Owen went “off-script,” I felt lost! It was a new feeling that I still experience, albeit less often but just as intense.
Getting used to having a loose plan, and not being completely thrown when what you’ve been doing for weeks suddenly stops working for no discernible reason, takes patience.
You will be able to bounce back quicker than those early months, but embracing it can be hard.
Another feeling that surprised me was all the second-guessing. All my life I’d heard of the elusive Mother’s Instinct and I assumed it would arrive in full force with the birth of my son. Instead, I spent months trying to figure out what this little person needed.
So many times, the baby would be crying and my husband would ask, “What is it? Is he hungry?” and I would throw my hands in the air, “I don’t know! Maybe?!” It was frustrating and defeating not knowing if I was doing the right thing.
When my parents visited in the first few weeks, I’d ask my mom about basic routine things.
“Should I change him now or wait until I feed him?”
“Think he needs a hat?”
“I just fed him, maybe he’s still hungry?”
“Should he be sleeping now?”
The only thing that slows rampant second-guessing of everything is time. Especially after six months, I started gaining confidence.
There is always guesswork involved, and it does not mean you lack Motherly Instinct. It’s all trial and error, and you’ll rarely get immediate feedback that you made the right choice. It’s hard not to be reassured you’re doing the right thing, day in and day out.
Around two months in, I was in a bit of a funk but couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Sure, the middle of the night feedings weren’t helping, but it was a larger more indistinct blah feeling.
I took a long walk with the baby strapped to my chest, and found clarity. When I got home, I brought it up with my husband.
“There’s been this huge change and we’re both experiencing it in totally different ways.”
It’s like there was a disconnect between us, which I don’t think he felt as strongly as I did, and it made me feel isolated at times.
His day was half back to normal by going into work, and his body certainly felt the same as it always did. I, on the other hand, was thrown into the deep end with caring for this newborn for nine hours alone, in a body that was still healing from pregnancy and a Cesarean.
It may take longer than you expect to feel like a team again. What I found helps, is being open about what you need from your partner, and to share these big feelings that pop up around your new identity as a mom.
The other hard fascinates me. There are so many times a day that I feel two opposing and deep emotions At. The. Same. Time.
Enveloping my teething toddler, I want nothing more than to make his pain go away, but I also cannot wait for him to go to bed so I can be alone with no one touching me.
The recipe for this amalgamation of emotions is ever changing. You’ll feel like you’re on a rollercoaster, toggling between deep love, annoyance, overwhelm, awe, and a million feelings you’ve never encountered. It’s as confusing as it is amazing, and hard at times to find that middle ground.
Motherhood is hard. It’s a hard you’ve never encountered before, but also opens you to joy you’ve never experienced.