The Ugly Truth: Breaking the Mom Code

11:43 am |

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.confidential

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.

Newborns suck.

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


Category: General Parenting

Comments (21)

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  1. Kristin says:

    YES!!! Thank you for putting it out there! This is so true. I don’t know why nobody ever talks about it, because they should. We should prepare other parents for reality!

  2. Lyndsay says:

    A million times AGREE! Perfectly put!

  3. Dax says:

    Thank you! I just wish I had read this before my traumatic delivery experience and the subsequent 36 days before my (first) child was discharged from the hospital. I thought many times that I was losing my mind. And the first times I had to face inconsolable crying while my husband was at work, I bawled too and felt more isolated than I ever felt in my life. Hard to talk about these things without wondering if someone thinks that you’re postpartemly depressed. I started to cry just ONCE at my LO’s hospital bedside (he was asleep) and learned quickly that it wasn’t a great idea… All is well now (son is thriving, I’m not feeling incompetent) but I would have loved to read a post like yours months ago. Much appreciated!

  4. Emily says:

    This is so awesome! Something every woman should read!!! Thank you for writing this. I plan to pass it on to the expectant and new mothers in my life.

  5. Michelle says:

    OMG thank you!! Totally raw and honest. I cried so much and felt so alone at times when my daughter was a newborn. NOTHING was like it was “supposed” to be. Nothing is better than motherhood but sometimes, it is the pits!!

  6. Marcia says:

    Thank you so much for this. I can completely relate to most things on your list. And I felt so horrible and that maybe I shoudn’t be a mom beacause of them. I still have times when I think my 18 month old deserves a better mom, and I still beat myself up sometimes because I am not the “perfect” mom portrayed everywhere. I have felt SO alone so many times. THANK YOU again for being so honest and saying what so many moms (at least that I have talked to) have wanted to say for so long!

  7. Melissa says:

    I’m with you all on this! The first month I was in survival mode, just trying to get through it. My marriage was taking a beating. I was a walking zombie. My baby cried. A lot. I felt like my body wasn’t my own anymore; I was a milk machine. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The most selfless.

  8. Julie says:

    So true! I think the Mom code comes from generations of mothers looking back on their days th a newborn with fondness. Our minds have this amazing ability to forget the bad and remember only the good parts as time passes. Thank goodness for that, in a way, but it doesn’t help mothers who are new to the role to feel like they are even remotely normal. I always hated when people said things to me like “enjoy every minute, they grow up so fast”. I prayed that that was true, and concluded that I must be a horrible mother for feeling all of the things that you mentioned above!

  9. Amber says:

    Yes… but can we talk about the other months that are hard? 🙂 your blog makes it seem like once they’re not newborns anymore it all gets easier.. Uh.. Not the case in many ways for us yet.. 9 months later, still coming to terms with it not being “like we thought it would”

  10. admin says:

    Amber – yes, for many of us the other months are also hard 🙂 All our blog contributors have older, ‘high need’ babies, so most of the posts bring that perspective as well. Some of us are still coming to terms with things not being like they ‘should’ be…and my son is almost 5 🙂

  11. FirstTimeMommyinPhx says:

    Thank you SO much for being this honest! I was feeling like a terrible mother to my 5 month old son. I’m a single mother with a high needs baby. He had colic, and acid reflux, on top of being a high needs baby. I felt so guilty when I wasn’t having “motherly” thoughts about my son. I wanted a child so bad, but when circumstances changed with his dad after I had my son, and facing all of these challenges alone (not to mention returning to a full time job with absolute sleep deprivation) I felt hopeless. On top of that- I feel guilty that I now look forward to coming to work so that I can get a break from my fussy/crying son. I love him to pieces, and still feel conflicted. Sometimes I love being a mommy, and sometimes I wonder what I got myself into! I try not to take it out on my son, because it’s not his fault, but sometimes it seems I lose my cool, and then cry and feel upset about losing my cool. I’m just glad to know that I’m not going crazy! I hear that things tend to get a bit easier as time goes on. It’s not easy being a mother, but the few happy/giggly moments that he has seem to outweigh the months, and months of struggles.

  12. Salome says:

    Oh thank you for being honest… I want to share this with all my friends about to have babies.

    I would even add in there that the…

    ‘Hospital stay is more terrifying than the birth in some cases’.

    I had my baby girl 2 weeks ago and fortunately the birth was alright…. BUT.. being in the hospital ALONE with this culture shocked and morphine drugged (from the labour) miniature human relying on me for comfort and a bunch of nurses that kept giving me conflicting and often patronising advice at 3am in the morning was the most distressing part. Some of them are REALLY cranky and others are just trying to get through their shift and get back to their own mad lives. A few were just wonderful and they were the young graduates.

    I have never felt more isolated, immature and stupid in my life than in those 72 hours. I just wanted to be home with my Husband and my mum and dad- people who know and love me and in my own bed.

    • Shantess says:

      Yes, I agree. My delivery was ok but my 4 day hospital stay was awful, too. If there’s ever a second child in my future, I’m going with a midwife for the sole reason that the hospital stay is much, much shorter!

  13. Emily Cunningham says:

    I LOVE this post! I have a 20 month old and this was me in every way when he was born. And I was honest about how difficult it was and I had friends who just gawked at me when I vocalized it! It made me feel like I was being ungrateful. But I realized some mothers just put on the “brave face” because they think that is what they are supposed to do! Personally, I appreciate the honesty! Give it to me straight! That way if my baby isn’t as hard in some areas, I can appreciate him more!

  14. Foxy says:

    We welcomed our son 6 weeks ago, following years of treatment for infertility. All I’ve ever wanted is to be a mother and while I am beyond grateful for every single second of this experience, ohmygawd, it is SO hard. and he cries SO much. I know that it can take time to bond and to fall in love with this little guy and I am along for the ride. However it is so reassuring to read this post and to know that I am not alone in the struggle, in the waiting to discover that love,

  15. Hannah says:

    Thank you so much for this!!! I have a son who just turned 7 weeks and has just started truly smiling, but the last two months have been extremely rough and I am constantly sleep deprived. So deprived at this point that I can’t sleep!!!

  16. Sarah says:

    Thank you! I’m having a weepy day today, and reading this made me feel better! I have to go back to work in a week, so the anxiety is ramping up over that as well. Thank you to all the other commenters- it’s so affirming and comforting to know there are others out there who are wonderful moms, but have these challenges to overcome also. And it’s so nice to finally have someone say “out loud” that just because it’s a particularly hard day, it’s not necessarily PPD.

  17. Shereen says:

    lol….love love love!!! I am so with all you moms out there who can relate to this article. I have lived through severe colic once (may daughter is now 11) then thought there is no way the universe would give me another high needs baby the second time around. lol…I was so wrong. Thanks for the laugh and for shining the light of truth on how it really is!! I have lived through one crazy baby time and will do it again but it’s so nice to have a really good to know that your not alone! One day we will all be able to look back and laugh but for now keep on going and may you have more good days than bad!! 🙂

    • Shereen says:

      hahaha…i am laready laughing at my messed up sentences and grammar. 🙂

  18. Tasneem Imam says:

    AHHHHH!!!! I love you for writing this! YES YES AND YES!!! It’s SO cathartic to know that it’s okay to feel these feelings OMG! I didnt start to enjoy motherhood literally until my daughter smiled back at me, and even then I was a bawling, depressed mess! She’s 4 months old and only NOW am I starting to accept things for what they are. THANK YOU!

  19. Jen says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! And thank you.