Giving Birth is Not the Fairy Tale I Imagined
There is something about giving birth and being a new mom that is so out of the ordinary. The highs and lows of hormones, emotions, pain. And no sleep!
When I first found out I was pregnant thirty years ago, I began fantasizing about how wonderful it would all be. The fantasy bubble burst when I delivered. What was left was a harsh reality and a lot of love. The love was more abundant than I had dreamed, but the reality was still harsh.
Thirty years ago they told us we would forget the pain. Do they still tell you that? They said you will forget the pain because you will love your baby that much. Thirty years later, I love that girl more than even I could ever imagine, but I do remember the pain. Still.
I remember the 24 hours of labor. I remember the enema! (do they do that any more??) I remember the two hours of pushing and I’ll never forget the doctor telling me she had a fever, I had a fever, and both of our heartbeats were dangerously high. And, I remember the disappointment when I learned I was being rushed into surgery.
Thankfully Mark was there. He was brave. And I remember his love. I knew he was scared, too. I recall being so exhausted and so emotional.
And then I remember them handing her to me. I remember the love and tears. Mark’s tears, too. And then my world went quiet.
I think God knew I had enough. I passed out and spent the next several hours in recovery. I remember waking. I was freezing and shaking violently. The warm blankets helped some. What does your body go through that causes such violent shaking?
Mark came to see me in recovery, and with tears in his eyes, he told me she was beautiful. He was such a proud father. He then told me she had a cone-head and hair on her ears, but she was beautiful. We laughed. And, we cried. But I was secretly worried if she would be able to wear her hair in a pony-tail.
Young and naive
I was only 23-years old. I never liked children when I was younger. I never babysat. I didn’t ew and aw when I saw babies until I fell in love with Mark. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a mother. That’s when the dreaming of babies started. I was inexperienced and so young. We both were.
I read What To Expect When You Are Expecting and Dr. Spock’s book over and over the nine long months. I thought I was ready for all of it.
Mark was right—she was beautiful. The cone-head went away and so did the hair on her tiny ears. Those perfect, little ears.
I fell in love immediately. What they say is true. And if you are a mother, you know your world changes when you hold your firstborn. You know you will never love like this again. (Until you hold your second child, and third…)
The reality sets in
When I was in the hospital, all I wanted was to be home. I wanted to see her and take care of her in the nursery we painted and decorated with love. I wanted to try all her little clothes on her. I wanted to play dolls with her, except she wasn’t a doll; she was a real live, crying-peeing-pooping-projectile-vomiting-non-sleeping baby.
Three days later, when we were happily home, I remember crying because I wanted to go back to the hospital. I seriously wanted to be back in my room with the nurses. I couldn’t tell my sweet husband this because he was taking perfect care of us. He was very attentive, but I desperately wanted to return to that cold white room with the safety of the nurses. I remember being in the shower and bawling.
This makes you feel guilty. The baby is perfect. She’s beautiful. I loved her, but I couldn’t stop crying.
At the same time, I remember the days that followed as perfect. We slept, we nursed. I stared. I held. I loved. But yet, getting dressed was a chore.
Where was I? Who was I now?
You dream of being a mother, you play dolls when you’re little, and you anticipate the dreamy stages of motherhood for the entire nine months of pregnancy. But you don’t expect to loose yourself. You don’t expect to be the most tired you have ever been.
And you feel guilty because it isn’t as dreamy as you imagined. It isn’t as magical. Why did I think it would be different?
Thirty years ago, you didn’t talk about postpartum blues. You were weak if you did. Crazy, right?
But crazy was how you would be looked at because postpartum was defined as an extremely crazy woman who hurt her baby. (This is the way we thought thirty years ago!)
That wasn’t me. I never had horrible thoughts like that, thankfully. But I did feel blue. The darkest blue in the ocean where there is no light. When would I see the light?
The light did come
Yes, the light finally emerged, but I would still have flickers of darkness. But everyday got brighter. Every day seemed as if the ocean was more calm, more shallow. Every day, I became a better mother, and she became a better baby: more sleep, more light.
You will experience your level of blue, and you will survive it. Your blue ocean will have its depth. But, you will swim that ocean and survive those waves. You will find yourself again. (It might take 18 years, but she is in there!)
To the new moms
So, to new mothers—realize the new mother period and the newborn period is not a complete dream. There will be some moments where you wish you were back in the hospital, but the love you feel for your little one will change your life for the better.
My advice is to give in. Cry. Talk to your husband about what you are felling. Talk about it with your mother and your girlfriends. Find someone who will listen and not judge.
Journal. Write it down, get it out. Don’t bottle it up, because that will eventually come out somewhere in an explosion.
Smile. Listen to music. Look at that baby. Remember how much you wanted her. The laundry and the house will find its way clean. Rest, enjoy, smile. Because they grow like little weeds and the first few weeks and months are precious.
So, when will you feel like you again???? Soon.
Smile. Think about the blessing you have. Remember all the millions of women who have birthed before you. (Call your mother and tell her you love her!) And then smile again. We all found our way. We survived. And you will, too.
And then, when that sweet baby smiles at you, and only you, you will know. So, smile.