After 2 years of parenthood, I still align with Socrates: "The more I know, the more I realize I know nothing." Most days, I'm puttering along on coffee fumes and intuition. Going into parenthood, we talk ourselves up to the task. We gather the information we need to not only survive but also thrive. We speak well-meaning affirmations to convince ourselves and jump on in.
When considering the role and expectations of managing a new human in this world, I was on the fence for nearly three decades. On the occasion that I would admit to my plans for motherhood, I would hear things like, "It's the best," and "Motherhood is such a blessing." And I aspire to align with the level of optimism of these strong women. Hopefully, I'll grow up to be like them one day.
In the meantime, I'm convinced that I was catfished. When I share my candid vulnerability with other moms, we instantly discover mutual ground. We help each other see the "light." But, that honest support only comes after I spill the tea. What we face in the beginning days of parenthood can probably be labeled by a clinical psychologist as post-traumatic stress. Or in other words, postpartum depression. Afterbirth is the time when aspirations of motherhood morph into survivalism.
Leading up to the birth, those same mothers who told me what blessing motherhood would be also warned me about the initiation party. "It's going to be so painful." "It was the worst pain of my life." They were not lying! But honestly, regardless of how painful (or beautiful) the initiation into the Mom Mafia is, it's only the kick-off party. Don't get me wrong. Pushing out my firstborn was no party. It was filled with the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced. After I finished the twelve-hour marathon, a tiny screaming human popped out. This was my reward for winning? I was literally "high on life" for 4 hours straight. The hormones were insane! The nurses kept asking, "Aren't you tired yet?" I agreed with them. I should have been tired. But I wasn't... I was some sort of twilight zone. I did it! I made it through the painful part! Now we can live happily ever after. Right!? Not quite...
You see, what I didn't understand soon became loud and clear. Crying is every baby's favorite pastime. At least the first 6 months. There were fleeting moments of peace. When my little love bug took a break from destroying my eardrums. Sometimes that silence was inspired by a bottle or a diaper change. Other times, she simply passed out from exhaustion. I still remember when she first gave me a directive without a single word. My little one looked up at me with a fiery passion and silently said, "You're going to get my dinner right now or I'm going to scream your head off." I complied immediately.
Honestly, I believe that we can do more to help new mothers prepare for the coming doom and gloom. Without a stigma attached! It's an utter loss of identity and 4 straight weeks of verbal abuse by a foreign invader. And while every single mother warned me about the labor, it would have been more valuable to help me prepare for the endless obstacle course. There's no way you can expect a certain behavior or plan for all the potential contingencies. So when new moms say, I can plan meetings around my perfectly timed feedings. We can say, sorry Mama, Think again! Some mothers deserve purple hearts and active combat badges for sleep deprivation, tender nipples, and sacrificing everything. Somebody has to do it!
And with how many people have told me they wouldn't have done it I merely have developed a new phrase. "Regardless of how she did, she made a great sacrifice by bringing you into this world."
It sucks sometimes, not being able to be the same person and show up as I did before I stepped into the new title of mother. But I have a human attached to me (at least figuratively) for the foreseeable future. My future focus is on becoming more fluid and understanding of the daily Rhythm of motherhood. I'm trying to create some sense of normalcy and it's damn near impossible. Before my mama-reality smacked me in the face, I thought it was ME who wouldn't change. I would still be the same person I was before I became a mother. In some ways, I am. But in others, I realize how naïve I was to have thought that. I'm sure other mothers were laughing at me while I discussed planning calls around breastfeeding. I can still laugh out loud at myself at the thought of how asinine it was to think such things. Mom-hood is the biggest mafia too. They hide the truth from each other and then celebrate when another mom starts off on her face. Just like they did. It's not a very nice culture and I feel called to change that.
Motherhood is all about sacrificing everything for the good of our new boss. And have you ever done that for a job that paid in kisses and hugs? How do you feel about your mom today? Was she bitter or blessed by gifting your life?