Reality bites?

Our culture, our society, the media, our peers and basically everything that surrounds us in the day to day of our little lives teaches us that babies are a happy thing. Babies are a miraculous event we should all be grateful for and everything associated with this is meant to be positive. I’m not here to disagree with all of this. After all, there’s something unprecedented about having a baby and realizing that there’s a little human being now alive because of you.

But I’m writing this post because I need to point out that not everything is peaches and cream when a baby is born. I want to say this because, in light of what appears to be a baby boom where many people I know are having children right around the same time I did, I was forced to come to terms with the fact that my instant reaction to having a baby didn’t quite mirror theirs. Theirs being the reaction we “expect,” the reaction we’ve seen and the reaction we’ve been taught: sincere happiness, marvel and wonder, immediate bonding and acceptance of all that surrounds the new bundle.

Sweet mother-newborn moment. Photo via Lifepregnancy.com

Woe is me. Photo via Television Trope
As mentioned in previous posts, I did a whole lot of reading during my pregnancy in order to “prepare” for what was “expected.” Every good pregnancy book will have a chapter on “Baby Blues” and postpartum depression. Bored, I skipped over those chapters. In fact, I incorrectly thought that postpartum depression was triggered because the mother “missed” being pregnant and I was certain that wouldn’t be the case with me since the last few weeks of my pygmy hippo-ness was chalk full of aches and pains. I figured, I’ve never been a truly depressive person (minus the abyss of eternal despair I’d throw myself into post break ups in the past) and the idea of being depressed, in every sense of the word, just didn’t register with me. Those weren’t the experiences I had heard about and it wasn’t something that ANYONE I knew even remotely hinted about. That type of thing happened to lonely, depressive, crazy cat women, who fell into loveless marriages at a young age.

Um, except it DID happen to me and let me just say, it was UUUUUUUGLY. Now, before your imagination starts running wild, I wasn’t psycho depressed, a la wanting to hurt my baby type of thing. No way, no how. I guess that now that I know how desperate things can seem, I am grateful that that extreme kind of postpartum depression (PPD) didn’t affect me. But it was bad enough that I began to question my own sanity and I wondered if I’d ever smile or laugh again and feel truly happy about anything. Perhaps this sounds dramatic and unnecessary and to that I say, F off!!! You have no idea what it’s like to have a baby and not feel motherly about it. Quite the contrary, in fact: feel as if it’s the end of the world as you know it.

I know that this doesn’t totally make sense. After all, you might say “hey, you were preggo for nine months and had nine whole months to get used to the fact that you were going to be a mom and have to worry 24/7 about this baby.” Except I’m here to REPEAT that no amount of time, studying, reflecting, reading or investigating actually prepares you for life with a baby. The before and after are so close together, it’s almost a mind f*ck to remember that just the OTHER DAY, you could come and go as you pleased and didn’t have to worry about a crying baby next to you.

I would cry every single day and wonder what was wrong with me. I couldn’t feel happy about the baby because I felt as if it was a little stranger and, even worse, that I was a stranger to my own self! Who was this person who now had to worry about breastfeeding and diaper changes and crying babies and color of poop (hers, not mine)? In a sense, it was as if I was in mourning and “what” I was mourning was my former life and my former self. That person, in a sense, had “died” when my new role as mom was appointed to me. Add to the fact that no one tells you that how lonely the first few weeks can truly be. Yeah, people come by and visit you and that’s always appreciated, but in my case I just felt like they were visiting me in prison and I envied their freedom. It depressed me that I couldn’t go out, not even with the baby because of the cold weather. If you’re not used to being home 24/7 with the sole responsibility of taking care of a newborn, then all of a sudden doing so becomes your own personal hell realized. I felt lonely – as if I was truly the only person I knew walking through the strange land of being a new mom (at that point, I was.)

What society would do to me (in my head) for not embracing momdom. Photo via pinealeye.com
Adding insult to injury is the guilt you feel for not embracing motherhood the way it seems that everyone else embraces motherhood. Facebook might tell a million lies via happy pictures that everyone (incl myself) upload to their pages but it was exactly those pictures I recalled of smiling moms with their newborns in my Facebook feed that made me feel like I was the worst woman – worst MOM – in the world. I was certain that if we lived several hundred years back, I’d be burned at the stake like the witch I was for not reacting “properly” to the birth of my daughter or not wholeheartedly embracing my new role as a parent.

Yeah, those were some tough times that I don’t wish upon anyone. I know it sounds weird… after all, society makes us question “how can a new mom not instantly love her baby?” As I said, I’m thankful my PPD wasn’t as extreme as it could have been and I was by NO MEANS near reaching the horror of Andrea Yates. But I was sad and I was scared. I felt lonely and overwhelmed and I felt that if anyone besides my family and G knew, that I’d be horribly judged.

So then … can I tickle you pink with a story of a happy ending? Part of the reason as to why I waited this long to write about my experience post my daughter’s birth is so that I could genuinely give you hope for yourself as a future mom who may go through something similar … everyone said this to me and I didn’t believe it at the time, but now I can jump on the bandwagon and tell you – remind myself – that IT GETS BETTER!! In my case, the first step was putting aside the fear of judgement (my own and by others) and merely recognizing that I wasn’t feeling what I wanted to feel or reacting how I wanted to react. I had to trust others, namely my doctor and my husband, and accept help in all of the required forms (there are many options that a medical professional can explain). I also had to help myself and though it was hard, I’m now writing from a position where I can look at my daughter and want to hug her and kiss her, just as I always imagined I’d do. Of course the passing of time helps immensely – now I can go out with her! We run errands, go out to lunch, get our Starbucks fix, etc, etc all with baby in tow. It’s how it should be. I’ve also returned to my pre-baby routines at home, something we all take for granted but something vital I had put aside unknowingly when I was in the midst of the PPD.

With the passage of time and with the help of my doctor and husband, things got better. Things are GETTING better (to the tune of baby sleeping longer stretches and for me, learning the ropes – yay!) and I’m happy to say that I’m closer to my former self than I’ve felt since my little 9-pound human was born. Pretty soon, I’ll be going back to work and though I’m sure it will be another hard transition, I’m very much looking forward to it: A return to a role I recognize from my “former” life.

At the end of they day I feel that I went through hell and back when I became a mom, but I reached the light at the end of the tunnel. While it’s hard work and still somewhat overwhelming, I embrace the fact that since going through this, I’ve been empowered to get through ANYTHING – and just in time as I head back to the corporate world (don’t mess with the bull, you’ll get the horns!)

So to answer my own question, does reality bite? THANK F*CKING GOODNESS, NO, REALITY DOESN’T BITE. Not anymore.

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9 Comments

  1. says:

    25 June, 2012 at 8:42 pm

    Awesome post and I admire you for opening up like this to the whole world.
    Yes, the first days/weeks suck terribly.
    Sorry, no heavenly angels playing their harps as unicorns frolic in the nearby fields when baby is born. No, it’s a constant drowsy lack of sleep zombie state that revolves around cleaning bottles, changing diapers without a break.. ever.
    And it does take some getting used to not having a life anymore or going out as you please.
    BUT yes, it does get better, gradually, very gradually.
    Our boys are the best things to have happened to us and make those shitty first weeks well worth the while.

    • says:

      25 June, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Rob, no it’s certainly no unicorn-filled picnic in the beginning and to be honest, I would never ask for those days and weeks back! I’m enjoying her more as each day passes but it goes hand in hand with 1) getting the hang of things on my end and 2) reaching milestones on her end (i.e. sleeping through the night, which btw she still doesn’t do!) I wanted to write about this because as I mentioned, NO ONE talks about the other side of the first few days/weeks as a mom. I ask myself, of all the women I know as moms, did NO ONE go through this? How can I be the only one? Maybe I’m not… we’ll see if this post inspires others to say “hey, I went through that too” because honestly, it can be a lonely feeling. Oh, and thanks for the RT on Twitter!!

  2. says:

    26 June, 2012 at 8:16 am

    Wow!!!I used to follow your blog and then had my own baby in November and seriously have not had the time to be reading blogs and writing my own :( But it was so great to log on and see this post because I totally felt the same after having my daughter. A huge shock to the system that nobody can prepare you for. I cried everyday for the first month just with the sleep deprivation, the emotion, the insecurity of not knowing this little person as well as you’d like. It really was so difficult, but after a few months, once you get to know them that bit better, it does get easier. I’m so glad that you’ve had the support you needed from your husband and doctor because it’s SOOOO IMPORTANT!!!!

  3. says:

    26 June, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    I feel like the only two images the media portrays of women with newborns is either the happy gushy stuff or a picture of a frazzled, stressed out woman who hasn’t slept which is meant to be funny. I’m glad you are able to be so honest, and even MORE glad that things are getting better. I have to admit I like the pictures of her you post on your facebook. She’s a cutie!

  4. says:

    5 July, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Great to hear that you are doing better. Motherhood (or so I’ve heard) is bloody hard and there really is no manual that can prepare you for what you feel or for how you will cope with it all. The downsides to parenting are never spoken about (no one admits to struggling – heaven forbid!) so your honest account is a breath of fresh air. I am so glad you shared with us.

  5. KMinNYC says:

    9 July, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    i loved this post. my very good friend had a baby right around when your little bundle was born and she shared with me recently how f-ing horrendous it was for her. she was depressed and didn’t know why. then she couldn’t breast feed. like no leche, zilch, zero, nada. i didn’t realize how big of a deal this can be—that there’s all this crap in books and in mom-to-be circles about how breast feeding is a must and if you can’t do it, well, somehow your child is doomed. of course that’s not true, but try telling that to my friend who most definitely had PPD (luckily not anymore- 2.5 months after birth it was all gone- woo hoo!), was exhausted bc, well, she was a new mom and couldn’t give any milk. she sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. and i felt so sad for her hearing the story bc one thing is clear: you relaly dont have any clue what it’s going to be like until you have a kid yourself. but anyways, the point is that a) PPD — at least short term — seems to be fairly common b) apparently problems breastfeeding is fairly common c) the media and soon-to-be mommy literature puts a TREMENDOUS amount of pressure on new moms — telling them how they should feel or should react. that’s all a bunch of BS, as you’ve so generously shared in your story. i’m happy to read stuff like this as i start to think about the next step. it’s important that this information is shared. besos from nyc

  6. Rachel says:

    22 August, 2012 at 12:54 am

    I think I mentioned this way back on one of your still-pregnant posts, but I am terrified I will not be a good mother. At least not to an infant. I don’t like crying, I don’t think newborns are cute, and I’m already a selfish person whose life revolves around my career. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself, or maybe I’m trying to soften the potential blow of one day going through PPD myself, but I am genuinely surprised to read you had no idea this was coming (such that you skipped the PPD sections of the book)!

    Am I a pessimist of the worst kind to assume I will go through what you’ve just described as hell? Am I complete bitch for assuming that most career women are lying about the adoration of an infant they feel post birth? Or that the only women who are elated by breast feeding simply have nothing else to one day “return to”?

    Of course I am a childless, inexperienced asshole, but c’mon. Newborns aren’t fun for anybody.

  7. Jessica says:

    5 September, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    I found you in cyberspace. I was looking for other mother’s in Chile. And though our situations are very different, I find that I really relate to this post. No one tells you how hard it is to be a Mom. No one tells you that there are parts of it you will hate and it is soooo much harder than you thought. This was refreshing to read and I was just looking for other mom’s in Chile. I have two little girls (4 and 3) and think this is exactly what I would have written back when they were newborns. Thanks for keeping it real.

  8. Latin Mama says:

    9 October, 2012 at 12:19 am

    Look at them as Gifts first….

    Babies or Children are here to teach us all to be more unselfish…

    Yes big adjustment but well worth it for any one.

    So simply Enjoy!

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