I love being a mother, I adore my children, but new motherhood didn’t come easily to me. I didn’t enjoy pregnancy and I struggled through being a nursing, working mom of an infant.
Before I go any further, it’s important I acknowledge what a tremendous blessing it is to bear children and to have three healthy, beautiful children and an awesome husband. We are wildly lucky. Growing your family can be fraught with heartache, sorrow and disappointment. I can only speak to my own journey, and that’s what I’ll be doing here. However, dear reader, if your journey is one of the tough ones, my heart is with you.
Over the past year, a few friends have become new moms and have bravely, quietly shared with me similar struggles cloaked in shame. “I should be enjoying this,” they share. “I mean, I love the baby, and everyone keeps telling me how much I’ll miss this. But, I’m not enjoying it the way I think I should.”
I was 28 years old when I had my first child, and up until that point, I had a pretty awesome adulthood. My life was filled with travel, social events, higher education, professional pursuits, and an immense amount of fun. I was busy and happy, and I wanted a family.
So, I was taken by surprise when I grieved the life I’d lost when I became a mother. I was surprised it took me more than a few days to fully bond with the beautiful baby in my arms. I wasn’t prepared for the way my mind and body would react each time my baby cried.
New motherhood with any infant, but particularly with your first, is riddled with major life transitions. Traveling, working, showering, running a simple errand all become riddled with logistical challenges. The things you once did to recharge are now off the table, either due to your lack of time or your lack of energy. Meanwhile, your infant tirelessly demands for more.
Your body is a mess. You’re squishy, stripey and sore, your hormones are rogue, and you’re desperate for rest. Your relationships are changing. Some of your friends without kids begin to disappear, and your spouse is now an exhausted co-parent.
New motherhood is brutal, but like most brutal things, you become stronger. You become the mom your child needs over that first tough year. You realize you can survive on less. You learn to manage more.
Expecting yourself to enjoy the early days of motherhood is like expecting tulips to rise out of freshly planted bulbs, the cold soil still rough from being turned. It takes time and patience as, slowly, the winter lifts and the first signs of spring reveal themselves. And then, you get that first gummy grin and it’s like the clouds of winter part for just a moment and the sunshine hits your face.
These days, I enjoy each of those former babies immensely. Their distinct personalities, senses of humor, their sweet pudgy arms that wrap so tightly around my neck, their darling drawings and even their messes.
Right in this moment, I’m only just scratching the surface on the ridiculous joy these girls will bring me for every day of the rest of my life. I’m deeply grateful to that squishy, exhausted, anxious self for putting in the hard work that brought me to this moment. Gently, I whisper to her, and all of us, “Go easy on yourself, mama. You can blink, and you don’t have to savor every single moment. But... keep your eyes peeled for the sunshine, because there’s much more to come.”