The anticipation is overwhelming. You have no idea what to expect, but you know that everyone is excited for you. Everyone is happy. Everyone is smiling.
Then the baby comes. Everyone is still happy. Everyone is still smiling. Everyone is congratulating. And, then you get home by yourself at last with this new little baby that is supposed to make your world go ’round.
But, you…new mommy…you are not smiling. After all the excitement dies down and turns to reality, and the last of the well-wishers go back to their lives, there you are. Holding a baby you have no idea how to please. Staring at the clock wondering how you are going to will the next 12 hours to pass quickly, only to face the next 12 hours alone in the darkness while the world around you sleeps peacefully, as does your husband. And, then it starts all over. Each and every day.
Maybe some of you don’t relate. Some of you flew high on cloud nine when you had your first baby. You are the ones I longed to be during that long first year of my first son’s life. I wanted to be that mother who embraced motherhood, it was what I had always wanted to do after all. I wanted to gaze lovingly into my baby’s eyes and feel that magical bond.
That didn’t happen.
I remember crying the whole way home from a newborn class at my pediatrician’s office. I thought, this is supposed to be the best thing that has ever happened to me, but right now, it feels like the worst. What is wrong with me!?
That first year seemed to drag on. Looking back now, it all seems like a blur. And, I know there were good times. I have the pictures to prove it. But, mostly, I remember a lot of crying…both my son’s and mine. I remember feeling overwhelmed…with everything.
I remember missing my job. I missed my students. I missed my co-workers. I missed my life of going to work, and then coming home to relax.
I remember the power going out in the dead of winter while home alone with the baby. I remember the dog getting sprayed by a skunk at midnight. I remember lots of spit up. I remember a hernia surgery at 11 weeks old. I remember feeling very alone.
I remember the feeling of being a first-time parent…a feeling that I never want to feel again.
I remembered that my former boss mentioned something about his wife doing some things with a mom’s group. I called him and got her number. I called her, even though I didn’t know her. I didn’t even know where to start. I introduced myself, and let her know I just had a baby, and that was all I said. And, she began to speak. Her words brought tears to my eyes because she understood. She was going on and on and telling me all the things that I was going through at that very moment. How does she know?
Talking with that woman that day was the turning point for me. She took me to a play group with her. I remember it well. I wanted to cry while I was there (are you sensing a theme?). I looked around me and just couldn’t believe this was my life now. Forever. Baby toys, baby bottles, baby drool, kids running around, moms looking frazzled, disjointed conversation. Ah, it was all too much to take in that day. But, from that point on, I sought out other moms like me. G and I searched for a church and finally found one with lots of great people in the same place in life as us.
That woman probably doesn’t even remember that conversation we had that day on the phone, but she helped more than she could ever know. She validated me. She encouraged me. She gave me good solid advice. And though we haven’t seen each other now in a long time, she made a huge impact on my life as a mom.
That house I went to that day feeling so overwhelmed by it all is now my house. I have arrived at that place that I never really wanted to be that day. Nice things replaced by toys. Furniture starting to show its age. Paint hanging onto the walls by just a thread. And, the evidence of babies and kids everywhere you look.
But, now, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I now know my son. He is not a baby anymore. He can go to the bathroom, get dressed, eat, walk, clean up, brush teeth, all on his own now. He can carry on quite a good conversation, he is learning to read and write, and he loves building legos. I think he is darn right fun to be around 95% of the time. And, he has 3 other little people now who have joined him and add to the chaos and the fun.
I currently have a 7 month old baby. And, as much as the baby stage is still not my favorite stage, I think back to when my first was 7 months old, and what a difference. Those first 7 months felt like an eternity. There were also other factors in our life at that time that made life overwhelming. But, with baby girl, these 7 months have truly flown by. Yes, there is still lack of sleep and there are still tears, but I am actually enjoying this time. I used to hate that dreaded “Enjoy every minute!” comment from strangers everywhere I went. I wanted to scream at them…”You are welcome to come enjoy every minute in the middle of the night anytime you want!” But, now I just shake it off. And, I even sort of get why they say that.
So, to any of you first-time moms out there wondering what on earth all the hype is about when it comes to having babies…you are not alone. Boy are you not alone. I feel you. Whenever I hear of a new mom having a tough time with her first baby, I literally feel with her. It is all so new. It is all so hard. And it all seems like it will never end or even get better.
But, it does. Do whatever you need to do to survive. The cloud will lift in time. The weight will never go away, because that is motherhood. That is just life caring for another human being and growing a baby into a fully functioning person. But, you learn to deal with the bad days. You learn to enjoy the good days. It begins to feel normal…eventually.
My one piece of advice to those of you feeling hopeless…ask for help. That is really true in life in general, not just motherhood. But, reach out to someone, anyone who has been there before. Reach out to a friend, your mother, or someone you don’t even know. But, ask for help.
I am so glad that I did.