When I was pregnant with my first I had no idea what type of mother I would be. Not once did I ever look into the ways that I would possibly evolve. For me, it felt like a dream. I was more focused on surviving the pregnancy and the labour so the reality that I would have to care for a little mini-me never really registered.
In some sense maybe I had missed out on the excitement of wondering. I didn’t have anything planned for what I would do like other moms-to-be had. When my sister was pregnant with her first she spent her time preaching about how she would do things differently than me. She would do the cloth diapering and never ever co-sleep. I even got emails forwarded to me on the merits of kids eating dirt (?) and the benefits of eating an organic diet in relation to breastfeeding. Yes – she was that type of preggo monster and yes, reality sucker-punched her right in the kisser to my delightful concern.
But she was excited. She was looking toward the future and I had been stuck in my pregnant present, drowning the anxiety that swirled around within that. As fucking annoying as she was, she was already in a state (or training) of motherhood. I missed all of that so when it happened, it was not a graceful process to say that least.
When I made it through my traumatic first labour, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had no idea what to do. I had no pre-planning in terms of how to do anything. I remember looking to my then-boyfriend (future husband) with this lump of baby ravaging my virgin nipples and panicking. I think I was just starting to understand that life as we knew it was gone.
And that sounds cliche – we hear it all the time. All new parents say that and while it is definitely true, I think we leave out the most important part of that – it’s not just life that changes, WE change. Perhaps in part biology, perhaps instinct, hormones, societal pressures – new moms and dads undergo such an intense shift in who they are, their personalities.
The ways in which I changed are massive. That first year brought out the worst and the best in myself as it redefined my identity. There were so many sleepless nights and feelings of the most desperate form of helplessness – it is indescribable the levels of rawness that encompasses you. And the highs were so high – the first laugh, the feeling of being needed, and the soft cuddles; knowing that you are someone’s safety.
It is not just with first kids. Even with my second child, I under went another metamorphosis – like another split in my psyche. And if you’ve had more than one kid, you know that every baby is its own different Rubik’s cube to uncover while you hit your head against the wall. I would even go so far as to say the second baby was the biggest struggle for our household. Finding that balance of the sleepless nights vs having to still be awake enough for your toddler was a nightmare while we were figuring it out.
Parenting with a newborn and a toddler was one of the biggest challenges that I have overcome. During that time I was also suffering from a mild case of Postpartum depression & anxiety mixed with an undiagnosed thyroid problem so that just intensified everything. It was a perfect storm that in a way, defined us and cemented a strong foundation for us to build upon. The first year, there was just a consistent feeling of failure and guilt – being split into too many different ways and just still trying to redefine this new normal. And because you’ve already done it once, people assume that you know what you are doing so the outstretched hands that were so eager with number one, weren’t really that enthused with number two.
It was intense, like the a marine bootcamp x100 with no end in sight and you know you are in it for the long haul because you love this little creature and your whole world is upside and you are pretending it is all okay and absorbing/deflecting everyone’s advice and… and… and… then it just happens. You find the groove.
The good news is that once you find your rhythm, the fog lifts. It took a while for me – maybe longer than most – but we found our selves again – different but we were there. I was also lucky that I have a partner that let me lead but provided every ounce of support that I needed (even when I didn’t realize that I was falling apart at the seams). He was my duct tape. And now life is fantastic again – I am not the same as I was before but I like to think I am better. My metamorphosis is far from complete but I have my wings again.
But my point is that it was a marathon that no one gives you a medal for – and that’s okay, because at the end of the day a hug from your beautiful child is enough to fill in any need for validation. And if you still feel wounded and lost, that’s okay too – be kind to yourself.
And if you happen to see a mother with a newborn- with or without another kid trailing behind, give her a smile because the darkness that engulfs her can be blinding and a little bit of light is sometimes all we need to push past it.