Yesterday I was looking out the window on an unseasonably warm December afternoon. The way it looked outside, with sun shining brightly and snow melting into little patches surrounded by grass reminded me of late Spring. It reminded me of the way the air felt when I was in my final weeks of pregnancy, and it reminded me of how it felt around my daughter’s first birthday.
Because I started blogging almost a year ago, I have my memories written out. And I’m here to tell you, I may have forgotten what those times really felt like. Now, twenty months past giving birth to my first child, I can remember some of those hard moments, but if I didn’t have them written, it would be pretty darn easy to gloss over those hard times with a big paintbrush and pretend they barely happened.
So when I ask myself, why do I still feel an irresistible pull to write about the tough times in those early months – this is it. Because I know that with time these memories will fade, and I will be tempted to tell other mothers that I miss the newborn stage. I will be tempted to spout off the easy clichés about motherhood. I will be tempted to shut off memory of those early months and pretend they were as picture perfect as they look in my photo albums. I am given a finite time with these memories, to fill a page up with those little details that with time are slipping away. And I’m going to use it.
Why do I keep going on and on about how hard parenting is? Why do I do it despite the pushback I sometimes receive?
Because now I can still remember how I longed for one single woman to look at me and say “its so hard, isn’t it?” instead of requesting that I tell them how wonderful being a new mom is.
How I longed for one woman to look me in the eye and promise me it would get better instead of telling me how much I would miss this.
How I ached for one woman to say to me, I’ve been there, I’ve felt this, you are not alone.
How amazing it would have been if one woman had held my hand and told me I could cry and she wouldn’t judge me or make me reassure her how much I loved my baby.
And now I’m far enough out, I know for sure it does get better, and that I will feel like myself again (although it’s a sort of new self). Now that I am actually thinking I could do it again, I see how it works. I see how memories become softer and rosier and less intense and how you look back with warmth and awwwwes and ‘we were so young’s! How your memory glosses over the nights you sat and cried because you were just. So. Tired. The days you felt like a shell of your former self, where you felt trapped or suffocated or like you really, truly weren’t cut out to be a mother because nobody around you had anything but wonderful things to say about being a new mom.
Because nobody around you had anything but wonderful things to say about being a new mom.
It can feel awfully lonely out there to not recognize yourself in a single other mother. Mothers like to bond over their experience of being a mom. But I’m afraid that those who have had less dazzling introductions into motherhood may feel silenced, shamed, alone.
I have wonderful friends and family who are supportive and non-judgmental and who welcome me expressing my honest feelings about motherhood. But it doesn’t mean they ever felt the same way. It doesn’t mean that sometimes when I am talking in a group of women that I can’t feel their discomfort at me being honest about that time in my life. That I can’t feel the stiffening when I don’t jump on the train of gushing about how incredible it is to have a baby.
It is incredible, you know. At least it is now, for me. Incredible in a different way than I expected, in a way that is hard to explain rationally. Incredible but in the ‘this is the hardest thing I have ever, ever done’ way. Incredible because slowly over the course of many days, weeks, months, you see that those hard days, weeks, months were completely worth it. But I can’t gush, at least not about the beginning, because it wasn’t that way for me. And the reason I write, the reason I am committed to being honest and transparent about my experience is because I know I’m not alone.
I cannot tell you the incredible relief I felt at reading the experiences of other women that were similar to mine. I cannot overemphasize how incredibly therapeutic it is to hear “me too.” I can’t. I can’t emphasize the power of those two little words enough.
I think being a mom is f***ing hard.
I felt completely trapped by breastfeeding.
I didn’t know what to DO with an infant all day.
I didn’t recognize myself anymore.
I missed parts of my pre-baby life.
I was so scared all the time that I would do something wrong, and I just wanted something to tell me the 100% “right” way to take care of my baby.
Sometimes I felt like becoming a mom made me a crappy friend, employee, wife, and general human being.
I looked at the “go with the flow, happy-go-lucky” mothers with rage. Because I wanted to be them but knew I couldn’t be.
I felt like I couldn’t share any of this out loud or people would accuse me of being a bad person, ungrateful, selfish, or the ultimate insult – a bad mom.
I know the power of ‘me too’. But there is no ‘me too’ if nobody ever speaks up, if we all keep silent because we are afraid our story is “too much” or “not enough”. So that’s it. That’s why I’ll keep writing about those hard months, even though many of the toughest are behind me. I’m writing for that one mama out there who needs to hear those two beautiful words: me too.