When I was newly pregnant with my first son, I bought every pregnancy book I could get my hands on. I read everything. I was the most well-prepared pregnant person to every walk the face of the planet. If there had been a quiz, I would have aced it. I knew the size of my growing baby each week (hello, little bean!), the difference between the signs of actual labour vs. Braxton Hicks , and how many onesies I would need. The car seat, crib, and stroller were all well researched before a decision was made.
What I didn’t do was read up on what to do once my baby actually got here. Rookie mistake.
In my head it was all very soft focus. Peaceful moments rocking him in my arms while singing lullabies as he grasped my finger, and I gazed lovingly upon his sweet face. It didn’t phase me that I knew no words to any lullabies. It would magically come to me once I had squeezed this ginormous being from my body, right?
While he slept I would fit in my post partum exercise routine between loads of laundry. Becoming a mother was the most natural thing in the world. I would know exactly what I was supposed to do and when to do it. There would be long walks in the park, coffee with girlfriends, shopping for new clothes while he napped in his carrier snuggled next to my body, and hot dinners prepared nightly.
Oh wait, that was a movie.
The reality was, I was completely blind-sided. Someone may as well have smacked me upside the head with a very large ham, then told me to take care of it for the rest of my life. In my defense, I had never been around any babies when I grew up so everything I knew was from movies and sitcoms. I didn’t even hold a baby until I was in my mid-20s.
My son was born in December so there were no long walks in the park, I was housebound thanks to one of the worst winters on record. My friends were still out at clubs and having couples dinners. Any new clothes I purchased were to accommodate my completely unrecognizable post pregnancy body, all boobs and backside.
I was confused, uncertain, sleep deprived and wondering why this baby didn’t come with an owner’s manual.
Also, why the hell wouldn’t he sleep? Everyone told me babies did nothing but sleep. What was with all the screaming and crying and bellowing? And more importantly, why didn’t anyone warn me my stomach would look like a Shar Pei puppy.
I had come home from the hospital only eight pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. A month later, that number moved up to fifteen because I had eaten every chocolate within a ten mile radius of our house.
I cried. A lot. My husband walked on egg shells, never knowing who he would get when he walked through the door after working all day. Most days what he got was a baby shoved into his arms so I could go shower.
I was so tired there were times I prayed to any entity who would listen for five hours of uninterrupted sleep. In a moment of desperation I may have contemplated a pentagram and candles.
I didn’t feel that instantaneous, I love you at first sight, connection with my baby.
I felt ashamed.
In my head I was a terrible mom. What kind of person doesn’t bond immediately with her child?
I mean, it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that my vagina felt like it had gone through a meat grinder and hormones were running through my body like college co-eds during frosh week.
I felt like everyone else had their shit together and I was the only who sucked at this parenting thing.
So if you too are feeling this way, I just want to tell you:
It’s hard being a new mom. Sleep deprivation can kill your soul. Hormones are the devil. And if you feel like you suck, you need to know we all struggle at one point or another. Every single one of us.
Even those mothers who have a baby that sleeps through the night from day one or who can toilet train their toddler in a week. We all pay our dues at some point.
The only thing harder than being a new mom is being a new mom who feels like she’s the only one struggling.
Almost 16 years later and I still sometimes struggle. But I also know babies don’t remember anywhere as much as you do, and they will turn out just fine.
You’ve got this.