I admit it; I’m guilty. I never truly understood it or appreciated it until now.
No infinite number of mommy friends, parenting classes, self-help books or blog posts could have prepared me for what has been the toughest three weeks of my entire life. You see, three weeks ago, I became a mom.
Until then, I was never able to honestly give motherhood the credit it deserves. Yes, the chest snuggles in the wee hours of the morning make it worth it, but they don’t make it any easier when you’ve summersaulted into the insanity that is parenthood for the very first time. So let’s just say that my husband and I have had a very, very rude (albeit beautiful) awakening these last few weeks:
Labor and delivery. Whether you’re going au naturale, having an epidural, or in my case, getting an emergency C-section following 17 hours of labor and three hours of unsuccessful pushing, birthing a tiny human is no stroll on the beach. And don’t even get me started on that whole nine months of pregnancy thing.
Physical recovery. Your first trip to the bathroom resembles a scene out of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it takes weeks for the vaginal bleeding to subside, even if your lady flower is left fully intact. Combine that with not being able to poop for eight days, brutal night sweats that will have you Googling early onset of menopause, and if you go the C-section route (*raises hand*), bouncing back from major abdominal surgery.
Feeding your new child. The struggle is so real, and it’s an around-the-clock battle. My right boob is basically broken due to a 2004 lumpectomy, and it is now one-third the size of my left and produces one-sixth the amount of milk. So yes, I nurse and pump and (gasp!) supplement with formula while trying not to overdose on fenugreek and other lactation-boosting herbs and teas and cookies all in the hopes of keeping my adorable tiny human alive and well.
The baby daddy. My husband doesn’t receive paternity leave, and he had all of five PTO days to take when I went into labor. Half of that time was spent in the hospital, so we were left with a couple of days at home with our newborn son before he had to return to work. So while motherhood can be greatly under-appreciated, fatherhood isn’t always flawlessly respected, either.
Lack of sleep. My girlfriend once compared her infant daughter to a sack of potatoes that did little more than eat, sleep, cry and poop. While my sack of potatoes is really, really friggin’ cute, it generally refuses to sleep between the crucial nighttime hours of 9 p.m. and 4 a.m. Pile the sleep deprivation onto the stress of caring for a newborn and recovering from the aforementioned L&D, and you’ve got a recipe for what could be a postpartum breakdown.
The unsolicited advice and unabashed judgement. From Facebook acquaintances, blog posts, friends, family members, society… even (and especially) from ourselves. When all we really want and crave in these early weeks is a hot meal, maybe a Starbucks latte and to know that we’re truly doing a decent job with what little parenting instructions we’ve been given.
So to all of my mom friends, past and present, I’m sorry that I just never “got it.” If I could do it all over again for you, prior to becoming a mother myself? I would have dropped off a hug, a coffee and a home-cooked meal, offered to watch the baby for two hours while you slept in a dark room far away from the bizarre newborn squeaks and grunts, and then simply left you with the words, “You’re doing a really, really great job.”