Rude Awakenings

What I am about to say will likely either resonate with you or really piss you off.  Either way, I have to say it:

Right now, I do not like being a mother.

This makes me feel terrible – not only because it seems as if I should love it from the beginning but also because I went through so much to get here.  I’m not a 16 year old who got knocked up by accident.  I pursued motherhood the way many people approach climbing Mt. Everest. How could I go through so much to get something and then not want it when I got it?

Unfortunately,  I never spent much time while we were trying to get and stay pregnant thinking about the details of what would happen if we actually had a child.  I mean, it just seemed so distant, so alien, so … not going to ever happen that I did not want to torture myself with thoughts of what we would do with an infant.  Then, once I was pregnant this last time and it looked like it was actually going to stick, I didn’t want to jinx myself by thinking about the future for fear that something terrible would happen.

So I was seriously unprepared for the utter shock and awe of the introduction of a newborn into the household.  I knew that there would be disruption and sleep deprivation, but I didn’t know that taking care of an infant day in and day out would be such a soul-sucking endeavor.  Because, right now I have a baby that does what any almost 4-week old does: eats, cries, sleeps, poops, pees, and repeats.  No smiles, no giggles, no cooing.  It’s just not in the developmental milestones yet.  Which means that I am a janitor, waitress, chef, and nanny all rolled into one with not even a little smile to break the monotony.

There is at least one moment, each day, when I want my old life back or when I fantasize about getting a full-time nanny to whom I can give him whenever he cries or when I want to sleep.  Whenever I get out of the house by myself, I feel as if I am on parole but still required to return to the prison after a few hours.  Everyone tells me that it will get better, but that was like telling me that I would eventually get pregnant when we were dealing with infertility – it did nothing to help me at the time. I’m also afraid that these feelings mean that my dad was right all along: I’m too selfish to be a mother because I do want my time, my sleep and my freedom, still.

That being said, I am slowly accepting that this is my new life.  And, I still look forward to those little milestones – longer sleep, the first smile, the first day we can put him in daycare.  I’m also trying to find some enjoyment in this period – I don’t want to look back and regret that I didn’t enjoy it more.

27 thoughts on “Rude Awakenings

  1. I know how you feel. The first couple of months are just rough and there is no way to prepare yourself for such a dramatic shift in lifestyle. It is exhausting, all consuming and seems like there is no reward. But the thing that is different about people saying “it will get better” than w/r/t infertility? Your child WILL smile at you one day. No one could promise you that you would eventually bring home a living, breathing child, but I can tell you with 99.99999999999% certainty that your child will smile at you at some point. And your heart will skip a beat.

    For me, it all started with that first smile. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made. And then as time goes on, they get more interactive and more fun. I won’t lie and tell you it all becomes rainbows from thereon out. It doesn’t. I still have moments every week (not necessarily every day anymore) where I wish I had more time to myself, my old life back, or a full-time nanny (come on Powerball!). But they are further between than they used to be and there is much more joy in between. I think any parent who tells you every moment is a joy is lying. It doesn’t matter what it took for you to get here. The newborn stage is just as hard. You just have to hang in there and get through it and soon, you will see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  2. Oh oh oh, does this ever RESONATE with me! The plain truth about raising babies — truth that no one ever seems to say out loud is this: it can be hella boring. And tedious. And repetitive. And annoying. And time-consuming, except that all your time is being sucked into repetitive boring annoying activities, plus you suddenly lose the ability to do anything that takes two hands! I remember the first time I stuffed Squeaker into a sling (and he was willing to stay there for a little while, which was a whole ‘nother battle) — it was as if I had suddenly been liberated after years of prison … except that all the things I had to do, now that I had both hands free, were equally boring and mundane — scrubbing bottles, washing spit-up-encrusted bibs, trying to clean my incredibly filthy apartment … and then you add sleep deprivation to it all — it’s a wonder more women don’t become clinically depressed after having a baby.

    And I’ll go out on another limb and let you know that this feeling continues for some/many of us even after the child is fun and interactive and playful. And that’s okay!! It doesn’t mean that we’re selfish or sucky moms or should never have had kids. It means that we are intelligent human beings who find a one-sided life to be uncomfortably lopsided. With time, you’ll figure out how to make it work for you, but in the meantime, please don’t kick yourself.

    One last piece of assvice: I wish that I’d done two things at the beginning. (1) Ask for help. Friends, relatives, neighbors, whoever. Ask them to hold the baby for awhile so you can do whatever it is that you need to do to feel like yourself. Which leads to (2): I wish I’d made time to do things I wanted to do, things that made me feel like an individual, that took me out of the difficult mommy space much much earlier — as it is, I waited too long, and our household got into habits that were hard to break, that we’re still working on breaking so that mommy doesn’t go insane. I feel better when I take the time to go for a run or (gasp!) shave my legs or see my girlfriends or go to work on time even though we’re having a hard morning in toddler-land. And when I feel better about my life, I’m a better mommy and can truly enjoy the time that I spend with my son. And that’s the goal in the long run, isn’t it?

  3. We all go through this! No one likes to talk about it, though. It is not all sunshine and roses. That little one will suck the life right out of you if you let it. I felt exactly the same way after the birth of my child. My mother was really freaked out because it was like I was just not there, and only going through the motions. One thing which was comforting for me was the knowledge that feeling this way is perfectly normal. Where you run into trouble is if the feelings gets in the way of you caring for your baby.

    “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving the First Year of Motherhood” was really helpful for me. Especially her chapter on postpartum depression. She feels like everyone gets postpartum depression in some form or another. It is normal, and it will pass. Having a baby is a major life change, and some sad feelings about your previous life are normal.

    Try to get out to a mother’s group, if possible. I know it is sort of freaky to try attending one after all it took to get here, but it does help. I love our local Mother’s and More group. They focus more on the mental health and well being of the mother. It makes for a nice change of focus from “all baby all the time.” And that is what it feels like for a quite a while.

    Take it one day at a time, and get rest while you can.
    I know you do not want to hear it, but I have to say it: Hang in there!

  4. a story told to me many times by my mother, presumably meant as instructive for the very moment you are in:

    (backstory: i am an only child; my mother is the oldest of 8. i know myself to be very much a wanted child (clomid baby here) and have never had legitimate reason to imagine i am not much loved. the following conversation took place when i was a small child.)

    players: my MAMA, her THERAPIST

    MAMA: I know this is terrible, but I just don’t like children as much before they can talk.

    THERAPIST: Are you kidding? I don’t really like them until they can curl up in the corner with a book.

    both of these women love/d me, i’ve no doubt, and i certainly suffered no neglect, even in infancy. but babies just aren’t as great as kids, imho. which is lucky, as children get older, not younger.

  5. I think this is something many people feel but most are not willing to admit. Personally, I was too tired to think about whether I was enjoying anything, but I do remember that fighting with my husband was my side job – which means that I was overtired, cranky, stressed, and unable to deal with any more irritation. I didn’t attribute it to motherhood, because the baby was the only bright spot in the whole mess.

    On the other hand, some people love infants – tiny, helpless, dependent. Some people love toddlers – developing personalities, brains expanding every second, silliness a prerequisite. Some people love older children – real conversations, shaping their minds and values, companionship. Some people love teenagers – craziness and drama 24/7. This may just be a stage that you have to get through. I don’t love 3.5, let me tell you – every day is a challenge. But my girl will eventually get through this (perhaps by the time she’s 25?), and in the meantime, I try to find something about her that makes me laugh every day.

    I guess my point is – don’t doubt yourself . It’s hard work, and we all would prefer things to be easy all the time.

  6. Thank you for being honest that early baby motherhood isn’t always sunshine and roses and unicorns with big rainbows and sparkles flying out their rear ends.

    You can do this.

    (And talk to your doctor if these feelings continue; I’m no expert but it almost sounds like you could be on the verge of PPD. Maybe. Or else you are just in culture-shock and it will pass. See, no expertise here.)

    Hugs, anyway.

  7. Amen, sister. Hell, yes, it’s hard and life sucking and tedious, but it most certainly gets better. The first smiles, the first signs of personality, the belly laughs. I worried so much at the beginning because Dr. Google indicated that my child should be smiling and cooing and reciting poetry right off the bat (Note to self: a three week old child does not say “Ma Ma” and does not smile unless gaseous). You’re very astute to point out that a lot of us infertiles don’t ever get around to thinking about having an actual baby, it’s almost tempting fate to do so and then when they come… My advice is get some help, take some time to yourself, even if it’s just sleeping. You may now be a mother, but first you were an individual. I subscribe to the theory that a happy individual makes a better mother.

  8. What you are feeling is normal. I hate the newborn phase, but I love my child dearly. It was at about week 6 that I started feeling attached to my child and happy being a mother. And not so coincidentally, that also happened to be the time he started sleeping for 4-5 hours a night at a stretch. It’s amazing how a few hours a sleep will make you feel.

  9. first, sending big hugs your way. those first weeks are rough beyond measure. it’s impossible to truly be prepared for the havoc a newborn brings. all you can do is take it one moment at a time – its survival mode only.

    second, let me echo the first commenter. it *WILL* get better. in the next few weeks, he’ll start smiling at you and sleeping longer stretches (which does wonders for your outlook on life!) within a few months, he’ll play independantly when you put him in a bouncer or on the floor – those little things make you feel independant again too. i know you said these promises dont help, but unlike the promises of pregnancy (which no one can guarantee), your boy *will* grow and this newborn craziness will end.

    until that happens, do you have friends or family around who can come help out on occassion? my SIL came over a few times a week in the mornings just so i could shower, it made a world of difference just to have that time to wash my hair, cut my nails, etc :~)

    hang in there. ((()))

  10. Hugs, hugs, hugs to you, dear. I’ve been there. I’ve lived that. I’ve sat crying at 3 AM by a fucking breastpump and a spilled vial of milk and wondering why for the love of all that is sacred I had decided to go through with this. I remember the excitement of being able to do laundry, the thrill of that first drive by myself to the grocery store postpartum. Seriously, I realized that the excitement I felt was like a prisoner getting out on parole.

    The beginning really, really sucks. No one tells you that, not really, because they can’t. You have such a lively mind and are used to engaging full throttle in various intellectual and professional and life adventures… and now you’re a milkmaid who buttles. No wonder you feel like you hate the job!

    Both gradually and all of a sudden, things get better. You have a person, not a blob. The lights come on for both of you. Love begins, not just basic biology. I hit that point right around 12 weeks. The smiles started, and some cool vocalizations that were communicative. Then the laughter comes. You can put the dude down for a bit, or have someone else watch him. You can regain enough of your self and life to feel human.

    Is there any help you can get? A nanny for a couple hours a week? Can family come and help out? Can Mr. X man Fort Baby while you get an hour to do something you like? Can friends come over to keep you company? Hell, even some decent DVDs and some chocolate helped during the first dull, demanding days…

  11. Hi there,
    I just wanted to chime in and say that the thing no one ever told me was that babies have such different personalities too. After my failed IVF’s, I was so elated to be pregnant that I never thought about the possibility that my baby would be extremely high maintenance. For example, I would take her to mommy groups and my baby would be so fussy (like she always is), and all the other little babies there are so sedate and calm in their mommy’s arms, I felt like a huge failure since NOTHING ever seemed to calm my baby except by being on the breast. But after talking to many other moms I have come to the conclusion that some babies are just higher need (like Dr. Sears talks about in his book) and I truly feel that if every baby was this way, no one would be having more. I know every baby is by nature a needy thing, just saying some are a little extra needy! And that seemed to have gotten a tiny bit better now that she is 5 months, but she is still very very alert, very sensitive to her surroundings, never mastered naps that last longer than 45 minutes (sleeps good at night though, what a blessing – if it weren’t for that, I’d be in the loony bin) – I just keep telling myself she’ll be a wonderfully sensitive and intelligent person in a few years. Something has to keep me going!

  12. I completely agree with everyone above. We adopted our daughter, so there was not a lot of “body” preparation for us to go through. After she came home, there were times when I was exhausted to the point where I would cry in the hallway because I was so tired, so scared, and not sure if I could push any further. But I did. And you will, too. You’ll get a routine in place, and you’ll stick to it. You’ll have Dad (and any other willing responsible person) watch the baby while you sleep with earplugs in. And then when he smiles – really smiles – at you, in response to you, and in acknowledgment of you and what you do for him, it all melts away. I was lucky enough to catch my daughter’s first real smile on camera, and it still brings tears to my eyes. And just wait for the first real laugh – even better!

    But don’t be hard on yourself right now. So many moms go through what you are facing. You worked so hard to get to this point, and just when you think it will go downhill after the birth, the hill gets steeper and higher. As so many above this comment have said – ask for help. I’m sure there are a lot of people willing to step in for a few hours so you can sleep, or go have “you” time. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.

  13. My son is 13 months old and I still dream of my old life having a job (I left my career to be home with him), going out with my friends, going to dinner with my husband or just going to a store without packing for a trek through the wilderness. Being a mom is great (it does get better, soooo hard to believe right now – and confession I NEVER want another newborn in my house again – my son will be an only child) but it is very draining and life force sucking, but it is worth it when he runs to me saying mamamamama… and hugs me.

    You aren’t alone. Hand him off to anyone how offers and go take a nap while they feed him a bottle, or just lie on the couch while they hold him and change diapers.

  14. Hi. Farmwife’s cousin again. I soooo relate to what you are saying. And though moms rarely talk about it, those feelings are soooo normal. I imagine that they are compounded for you for the very reason you stated – that planning ahead was just too risky, too painful. If your shoes had been mine, I would have done exactly the same thing.

    I’ll be hoping along with you that an adorable smile comes your way soon, that the feeling of delight and enjoyment steals up on you unawares, and that you are truly able to enjoy times of respite where you get to be just a girl all.by.yourself.

    As I’m recovering from surgery at my folks home in the States, I find myself enjoying my little one even more than my mom enjoys him (and more than she enjoys me, but that’s another story). But I also find myself wishing that someone would let me just be a woman recovering from surgery, and that babycare could be done by someone else so that I can focus only on myself and healing. Sometimes it’s like “where do I go to step back into my solitary life for a day or three?”, so I will be thinking of you as you balance those feelings with the feelings of finally having what you worked and longed for and dreamed about.

  15. You’re not too selfish to be a mom – you’re totally normal. My husband and I both quickly came to the conclusion that babies, particularly newborns, are over rated. And even if you have a good idea of what parenting a newborn entails, there’s no way to understand how parenting a newborn actually feels until you’re in the trenches living the experience. Babies are brilliantly designed for a reason – just when you’re ready to put them out on the street with a ‘free to a good home’ sign, they do something engaging and endearing.

  16. Oh sweetie. I can very much relate to these words. When I had my son, I was equal parts scared and hesitant. I remember thinking “what have I done?” so many of those first nights.

    Looking back, I am sure that much of my problem was the hormone imbalance after birth. There were nights I would sit on the front step of my house while S. attended to D. feeling like I couldn’t catch my breath.

    Please advise your doctor, but in the meantime. Enlist someone/anyone to allow you some alone time. Even if it’s a 30 minute walk outside ALONE.

    That was the hardest thing no one ever told me (it certainly wasn’t in the baby books). You need a break now and then.

    And of course, it does get better with time. You’ll look back on this a year from now and feel a whole heck of a lot like yourself again. It will come, trust in that.

    Be kind to yourself, my friend. Above all.

  17. No personal experiences to share, but I think what you’re going through is totally normal. Moreover, I think this period may be even harder for those of us who have dealt with infertility — you’ve been through so much to get this baby & get to this point, you don’t feel “entitled” to vent as other moms who conceived without probelm might. (((hugs)))

  18. Please, please sell your jewels or something and get someone else to clean the house. #2, All those people who said they would help, don’t, so call or email them and schedule a visit. I found the daytime to be particularly hard because everyone was at work and I was so lonely, I’d talk to anyone. Luckily I have to go out every day with the dog. Food and wine are better than vague offers of babysitting if you ask me. If you are breastfeeding, perhaps a supplemental bottle every now and then so hubby can help? We used to call the Precious Mr. Miserable for the first couple of months cause he spent his time looking dour and demanding food every couple of hours.

    If things don’t get better in 2 weeks, please make an appt with your doc, post partum depression is not an expression of your reluctance to be a mother, it’s a hormonal imbalance that deserves to be taken seriously.

  19. I believe my post was entitled “It does Get Better, Doesn’t it?”

    And it does.

    When those first smiles come — when you can leave him with hubby for a few hours — when you open up to the possibilities of mobility with him — there is still a complete and total overhaul of your life as you knew it…but it will be amazing.

    I second Deathstar — no one visits, not really — and very few actually help out — if you can have someone in your life stay with you to help you at least get a shower each day — I felt that even asking G to stay for ten extra minutes in the morning when I could be alone in the bathroom — that helped immensely.

    It does get better.

    I promise.

    Hang in there.

    XO

    Pam

  20. Like so many others who’ve already commented, I can totally relate to what you write here. Nothing can prepare you for the intensity of those first few weeks. I can well remember pacing the floor night after night with a colicky baby, crying with pain after an emergency c-section, thinking ‘what the hell have I done? I just want my life back’.

    But it does get better, I promise. He will gradually sleep for longer periods, and will start to communicate with you in all sorts of ways – smiling, vocalising. And you will find ways to claw back some time for yourself.

    But in the meantime, take what help is offered you. You need to take care of yourself as much as you need to take care of your little one.

    Thinking of you. xxx

  21. When M was about six weeks old, I wrote a long entry in her journal about this very topic. Nothing in the world could have prepared me for the sheer unrelenting nature of parenting a newborn. As I recall, what frustrated me the most was that no one thing that I was doing was hard in itself — rather, it was the aggregate nature of the frillion little tasks, coupled with the feeling that they would NEVER, EVER end, that made life difficult.

    I know hearing that it will get better offers you little to no comfort now, so I won’t belabor that point. I really just want to say please, please do not be too hard on yourself. New parenthood is disorienting and difficult (someone once told me that the first three months pretty much suck for everyone). There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that difficulty. It does not make you a bad or selfish parent.

    That said, one bit of assvice — if you truly feel as if there is no joy to be had right now, or that there are no flashes of “ooh, this is what makes the rest of it worthwhile!”, please consider talking to someone. You could be suffering from PPD. I had a mild (self-diagnosed and untreated, of course) case of it when E was born, but it’s only in retrospect that I can see it clearly. At the very least, it’s worth checking out.

    In the meantime, good luck. I hope that you (and the baby) turn a corner soon and that things start to get a little easier.

  22. Hey Mrs X – I’m on the third go ’round and I STILL feel that way during the first time period where that little baby is just a blob that still sucks your will to live in one way or another…and the downer is that after the birth you actually HAVE to acknowledge the cries, the dirty diapers, the hunger…

    I do know that in my case, it did get better…and now our almost 4-year-old son, and our 2-year-old daughter are amazing and so much fun to watch and interact with. It’s truly a joy…

    I’m with the others who mentioned the PPD…don’t let it go…talk to your doc and see what they have to say…it could be nothing, it could be something, but at least you’ll know.

    In the meantime, start experimenting with some of the things you gave up during your pregnancy (mine was caffeine) and see if that helps your mood a bit…you know, a small glass of wine, or an extra cup of coffee. Have good talks with Mr. X to let him know how you’re feeling, and always, always, ASK for help. Let him help out with some of the diapers or rocking when he’s home…ask him to help with the housework, or to just let you have that extra 15 minutes of sleep while he goes and gets the baby and changes the diaper before you feed him.

    I’ll also say it gets easier in the sense that you adjust to the fact that you are suddenly last on your list. You get the hang of it, the baby will sleep longer and better, and WILL smile at you. Do make time for yourself as you can, to get your hair cut, or 15 minutes to read a book, grab a snooze or a shower…

    Lots of hugs as you adjust to the new normal that seems to change every 6 weeks or so.

  23. Thanks for being honest. I think that when you’ve come through infertility and gone through so much to have the baby that you feel SO MUCH added pressure to love every minute of it. I mean, after all, you jumped through 230482394203 hoops to get here and isn’t this where you wanted to be? I’ve certainly felt the pressure not to complain too much about this pregnancy for those reasons.

    I also think there are a lot of people who hate one or more stage of development with their kids. I have several friends who would love to have more kids, but have no interest in having more infants. And a few who love babies and older kids but it’s all they can do to merely survive the toddler stage, etc.

    I hope you get a real smile soon.

  24. I remember days sitting in bed crying because I just didn’t want to mother anymore. Infants are exhausting & all they do is take. If you had some short, bald, loud, smelly, nonverbal person move into your home, demand to be waited on hand & foot, scream at you incessantly, burn through your hard earned money like there’s no tomorrow, make you clean up after them in the grossest of ways, and never really give you a clue as to why they’re so P.O.ed all the time, no one would expect you to be happy about it.

    Infants are masters at making you feel completely unprepared, stupid, and slightly crazy…I think there’s a very good reason they’re cute.

    I know hearing that it gets better doesn’t really help right now, but it’s true. As trite as it may sound, this too shall pass….and then you’ll miss it.

  25. Oh! One more bit of assvice: Baby carrier. Get Mr. X an Ergo or Bjorn or whatever and send him on walks. That saved me for the first month or two.

    Long walks.

    Really long walks.

  26. Mrs. X, I have been where you are. It is exactly as everyone says, it is exhausting, it is thankless, and it is temporary. Yes, you will miss these days later on, but that is no consolation while you are going through it. Be gentle with yourself, you are a great mother, and the feelings you have are completely normal. Do not be shy in asking for help when you need it. You are doing a great job!

  27. you certainly aren’t alone, i know exactly how you feel as do many many other women. it’s a cruel joke when you struggle so hard to get pregnant and then get slammed with ppd. of course i knew about ppd but i never thought i would have it after all we went through, WRONG! i’m hoping that my treatments work and i hope the hormone therapy helps you very soon, don’t be afraid to use anti-depressants if need be, you don’t have to be on them forever..

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