Inside Edition: Motherhood Year One
When a mother of a newborn or eensy-weensy infant cheerfully says that she is “having the time of her life” and has “loved every minute” of motherhood, part of me is jealous of her (and her means to employ a staff of maids, nannies, night nurses and round-the-clock-caregivers) and the other part of me rolls my eyes in disbelief. While I have loved my precious baby every minute, I did not love love love every minute of our first weeks and months together. I could go on and on about the good stuff, but allow me a moment to reflect on the realities of this motherhood gig that don’t make the Lo-Fi-filtered Instagram photos and the warm and fuzzy Facebook status updates.
The first month of motherhood was particularly hard. I knew my life would change but I didn’t know how much. Finally she was here, and no books or baby shower or Bradley class could prepare me for what to expect when the one I was expecting arrived. In those first few weeks I felt immense joy and gratitude for the blessing of a healthy, beautiful baby girl. I also felt…tired. And emotional. Totally par for the postpartum course. I loved Harper like crazy from day one, but figuring out the complex Sudoku puzzle of a newborn baby is serious business, especially for first-timers. The haze of hormones and exhaustion had me convinced that that the rest of my life would be lived in three hour cycles and at best, my nights would consist of a string of two-hour naps. And I know I’m going to get fined for saying this, but I sort of most definitely missed my old life. I had it really good.
My outlook improved once the hormones left my system around week two or three, but I still wouldn’t have used the word “fun” to describe my day-to-day scenario. I was eager to reclaim some sense of order to our days and sleep to our nights. Sorry hippies, but I was not okay with breastfeeding on-demand a zillion times a day and throughout the night. Though I have always thought of myself as a go-with-the-flow kind of gal, having my baby on an eating and sleeping schedule became the Holy Grail. I heard rumors of 8-week-old babies who slept 12 hours at night and I was desperate to have my baby be one of them. I envied those babies’ mothers with the same awe and wonder I’d previously directed towards gorgeous houses with fine furnishings, my sister’s perennial tan, and Italians with 42 days of paid vacation. Harper’s consistent daytime and nighttime sleep was a priority to me – for her sake and for mine. But mostly for mine. I asked my mom friends a zillion questions, read books and blogs on the subject, and trusted my instincts. I got down to business when she was just a few weeks old, and soon enough that baby got her AMs and PMs sorted out. The first time she slept till 7am we threw a parade in her honor. The first time she till 8am we decided to keep her. Soon her naps became consistent and I was actually able to know when to plan things based on her eating and sleeping schedule. What a luxury it was to be able to tell a friend a time to come over for a visit when my shirt would be on!
That’s a perfect segue to the next topic. Before we dive in, I encourage the two men who read my blog to kindly reroute to ESPN dot com. It is about to get national geographic graphic up in here.
Ladies, circle up and let’s talk about it. Breastfeeding. These days the pressure is on to do it and love every minute. Otherwise, there’s a hundred percent chance that your child will be an obese biting asthmatic bed wetter forever in the slow reading group. I went to the classes and read the books and was delighted when things clicked and Harper was a good eater from the beginning. But breastfeeding is hard, even when it’s working well. Nursing is, at the very least, incredibly time consuming. In the early days that baby was eating at least 8 times a day, 30 minutes a feeding. That adds up to a whole lot of time spent topless. For some mothers breastfeeding can also be painful and frustrating if the logistics aren’t panning out and there are latch and flow issues. To be physically needed by your baby is both beautiful and incredibly intense. I was the only one who could meet her needs. Sure I could have someone else give her a bottle, but I would still have to pump it. And pumping is a whole other level of awkwardness and pain that can be filed under “the things we do for our children” and “the things that repulse and confuse our husbands.” Breastfeeding can also be pretty isolating for those of us who don’t feel totally comfortable baring it all in front of friends, fathers-in-law, dinner guests, and mall patrons.
On the plus side, I had breasts Real Housewives pay big money for. Double D’s y’all. But on the minus side, they were achy and purely utilitarian. You know your relationship has turned a corner when your man comes home from work to see his woman is sitting topless on the sofa and he doesn’t even bat an eye or do a double-take. In the old days that would have been an invitation to get frisky, but not this time. Carrying on regular how was your day, traffic was terrible, what’s for dinner, do we need anything from the store conversation while one of us was half nude takes it all to another level.
Despite my occasional gripes and constant questions, (is she getting enough? Does she have reflux? Should I cut out dairy? Will I pop a button if I wear this shirt?) there were certainly moments of sepia-toned wonder where I felt like a winged radiant earth mother. It is amazing to be able to provide all the nourishment your baby needs. And holding a drowsy milked-up baby is pure pleasure.
I (mostly) happily nursed Harper for a grand total of seven months. In conclusion: Glad I did it. Glad I’m not doing it anymore. I’d definitely do it again.
Fortunately, those memories of the hard and less glamorous parts our first few weeks and months together are all but forgotten, tucked away with memories of the physical pain of the whole event, and upstaged by sweet thoughts of holding that tiny baby in my arms and becoming a family. Nonetheless, aspects of motherhood can be (and will likely continue to be) confusing and isolating and disorienting and exhausting. But those feelings have been in short-supply compared to the deep feelings of joy and pride and purpose and grace that I have felt this year. Life is different now, but I can say with complete certainty that it is even better than it was before. So much better. I love being a mother and not a day goes by that I take the gift of my little girl for granted. Watching Harper grow and change and learn every day has been incredible. And watching My Man take to fatherhood so naturally has made me have an even bigger crush on him. No one in the world loves Harper as much as we do and we are obsessed. Sharing her and loving her together is the very best. We freaked out (and continue to do so) with every new development. She grabbed a toy! She rolled over! She babbled! She climbed up the stairs! She walked! It’s all gravy. I am caught somewhere between wanting to freeze time so she stays this little and chubby and adorable forever and anticipating the excitement of the next stage. Talking! Hair!
Before I go to sleep, I sometimes quietly open the door to Harper’s nursery to sneak a peek at my sleeping baby. There is nothing in the world sweeter. In that short 15 seconds of my day, I feel a deeper sense of pure resounding joy than I have ever felt in my life. There are no words for that kind of love.
So to you new mothers of newborn babies, perhaps reading this post by the light of your iPhone during a 3am feeding: I am here to assure you that it not only gets better, it gets fun. Right now you are in the trenches. Running on adrenaline—surviving and making sure your little Giga Pet is fed, watered, swaddled and rested. You may have seen glimpses of the good stuff, but it is headed your way in buckets. One day oh so soon you will catch yourself laughing at and loving your little bitty human and wonder how on earth you got so lucky.