Before I had my daughter, what I knew of the birth experience was the emotional first moments after parents meet their baby that I’ve seen on T.V. and in movies.
The subsequent days are usually shown to be this beautiful sentimental time where mom rocks baby quietly in a darkened room, looking adoringly at this new bundle of joy, singing lullabies and saying how truly in love with this new little person they are.
And this is what I envisioned for myself, an instant love, an instant bond and maternal instinct. And then I had my daughter.
And my world came crashing down around me.
I learned the dirty little secret that no one tells you. I learned what it’s REALLY like. I don’t know why there is this Mom Code. I don’t know if it’s because moms feel it’s a right of passage to be learned the hard way, or because they don’t want to scare their friends away from having children. All I do know is that no one prepared me.
I might have been scared, or I might have said ‘that won’t happen to me, I won’t feel that way,’ but when reality hit and things weren’t as I thought they’d be, at least I would have known that I wasn’t alone and experiencing things and emotions that no one before me ever had.
Because surely, if this was normal, SOMEONE would have given me a heads up. Why would no one warn me? So that’s it.
I’m airing our dirty little secrets.
I’m telling it like it is.
I’m going to break the Mom Code.
Because anyone willing to become a parent deserves to know. And any new moms going through what lots of new moms go through, need to know they’re not alone.
I don’t know why this is such a huge secret. Maybe because it sounds so awful to say, but they really suck. They take and take and take, and don’t even reward you with a cute gummy smile for your efforts. In fact, your efforts tend to result in sporadic sleep and crying.
Not all mommies fall instantly in love when they hold their babies for the first time.
Frankly, these babies are complete strangers, covered in goop, their faces are all swollen from delivery, and they just caused you excruciating pain. That instant connection is just not always there. And you’re not an awful human being if you don’t feel it.
Not every mom bonds with her baby easily.
In fact, it can take weeks or even months, and that’s NORMAL. The fact is there is a new being in your life who has totally taken it over, who has destroyed your body and your sleep, and, as mentioned above, is a stranger.
I cried so many times because I didn’t love my baby weeks into her life. I felt like an awful human being because I loved my niece more than my own daughter.
You will cry.
You might even cry every day for a few weeks post-partum. Your hormones are screwy, you are sleep deprived, and your life has just dramatically changed. It’s normal to cry. You’re not going crazy.
You may, at times, hate your baby.
I realize hate is a strong word, but I stand by it. You might also think you made the biggest mistake in the world. Yes, it’s true.
You may look at your husband and ask why you decided to have kids and suggest that you were much better off before you had them. And that doesn’t make you awful either. You may not get what you signed up for.
You may have an unusually difficult labour/recovery. You may have your baby two months early, or a baby that screams all the time, or have a child with special needs.
You don’t get to choose these things and yes, it’s hard when it happens to you. And yes, I’m sorry, but you have a right to think it sucks and that other people have it better than you.
Sometimes it’s hard in the early days when you’re the one going through it to get perspective that some people have it worse.
Breast feeding is hard.
And not a little bit hard. It can be excruciatingly hard and doesn’t necessarily come naturally to a mother or a baby. And I don’t know who said it’s not supposed to hurt but they lied. It hurts. A LOT! It can take a long time for it to feel comfortable.
I know women have been doing it for centuries. I’ve heard that a million times. We get it. It’s ‘natural.’ That doesn’t change the fact that for some women, MANY women, it is one of the hardest things that they will ever try to master.
You will feel incompetent.
You will have no clue what your baby wants most of the time, and will find it hard to digest that they likely don’t know what they want either. The mommy instinct doesn’t kick in right away with everyone. Sometimes it takes a while, a long while.
You will end up throwing out the window many of the naïve comments you made before the baby was born.
You don’t get to choose a baby who will nap when and where you want them to, who will be able to sleep in a noisy house, who will learn to be held and fed by everyone and anyone, who will sleep through the night from the get-go because you will work hard to make it happen.
You will learn very quickly that these little beings have their own minds, and that if you want them to sleep, and you want to get some sleep of your own, you may have to throw in the towel and bring them into your bed, even though was on that list of things you swore you would never do.
I don’t care what people tell you, you do NOT get used to sleep deprivation.
Maybe your body runs on adrenaline or denial of what you’re doing to it, but nobody can survive on 45 minute increments of sleep forever.
Being the mom of a newborn is one of the hardest roles you will ever have. It’s not easy, and it’s not always the way you see it on T.V. But it does get easier with time.
Soon, they start to smile and coo and interact. And just wait until they start reaching out their arms for you to pick them, or hold them out for you to hug, or say ‘mama.’
It might not be easy, but nothing will ever be more rewarding.
Nothing will ever be more worth it.
Leslie lives in Toronto with her husband, her 2 and a half year old daughter and 5 month old son. She is presently on maternity leave and enjoying the hectic and harried life with two young children.
Image courtesy of suphakit73