But today I wanted to post something I wrote last week, last Thursday, on a very frustrating afternoon. I really debated whether or not I actually wanted to publish this post, and it has taken me a week to get up the nerve to do so. This post contains things that I don't usually talk about but I think they should be documented, too - for me, for other new moms, maybe even for Ellie as a new mom someday. So, here we go:
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Since Ellie has been born, for various reasons, I have felt a lot of pressure to only show the good side of life with a baby. And don't get me wrong, Ellie is amazing and sweet and funny and happy and perfect - but sometimes, things can get rough. That's just life with a newborn. There's a lot going on for both mother and baby, and it's a lot to deal with. And so babies cry, and sometimes mommies cry, too and things can be hard. But I have felt this pressure to keep the harder times under wraps, to talk only about Ellie's smiles and never her cries, to share only the good times and never the struggles. And as I have thought about that lately, I don't think that's fair. It's not fair to Ellie, who deserves to have her life documented truthfully and completely, and it's not fair to me, who deserves the opportunity to vent and seek out support. So the sugar-coating stops here.
I love motherhood. I really do. Every time Ellie smiles at me, my heart explodes into a million trillion pieces. She is so cute I sometimes feel that I could just eat her up with a spoon. I love nothing more than to just watch her sleep, to watch her mouth move in sweet sleepy expressions and her eyes twitch as she dreams. I love the fluff of her hair, the curve of her cheeks, her long eyelashes and her sweet baby breath. She is perfection. And I love that I am able to spend all day every day at home with her.
Lately I've been feeling isolated, and it's tough. We don't have any family nearby, and we don't have any friends with babies. Eric leaves work as early as he can whenever possible, but sometimes he does have to work long hours. So it's just Ellie and me, all day, day in and day out. That was okay for a while, as we would pass the time with long walks along the waterfront, or would run errands to Target or the mall or wherever. But then I started to crave some adult human interaction. I spend a lot of time seeking out that interaction electronically, through Skype sessions with my mom or constant text messages and emails with friends and family. I have found places to look for that socialization in "real life," too - new mom's support groups, breastfeeding support groups, a mama spirit circle with other new moms. And they are all great. I love coming together with other moms, with women who understand and have advice and can commiserate and offer support. These meetings are always good for my soul and I feel so refreshed and encouraged in those moments. I highly recommend that every new mom check out groups like these.
However, I go to all these groups not only for support but also camaraderie. I want to make new friends, to meet moms with babies with whom I hopefully can spend more time with for playdates, walks, lunch, etc. in the future. But lately Ellie is just having none of it. She'll be as happy as can be all day long until I leave the house for one of these social outings, and then she just falls apart. I can usually get her to sleep for a while and/or feed her, but then she just melts down, which makes it hard for me to really meet new people and talk to them. By the end of any of the aforementioned meetings, she's a total mess, and instead of making small talk with people, I'm trying to soothe her or just get out of there as fast as we can. Her meltdown usually continues until we get home, and then she's all smiles. It leaves me feeling frustrated and lonely. Why does this child not want me to make new friends?! She'll be so happy and delightful at home, so why the struggles in social situations? It just doesn't make sense and leaves me so frustrated.
I guess I've just sort of been struggling with the transition to motherhood lately. Sometimes, I am not sure I really know who I am anymore. I don't feel anything like my old self, and I can't do the things I used to enjoy, even such simple things like doing my hair. There just isn't time, unless I happen to find a moment during Ellie's nap, but I usually use that time for housework, playing catch-up, or napping myself. I don't look like my old self and I don't feel like my old self. Of course I knew my life would change, and that things would be so different, but I guess I never really thought about coping with a change in my identity to "mother." I always thought I would still just be Meghan, but with a baby, but now I'm finding I have to figure out how "mother" fits with "Meghan." It has just been harder than I expected.
I've also been dealing with the changes in my body. I have lost almost all of my pregnancy weight, but I feel like I still look so different. I'm still lumpy, my hips are wider, and the stretch marks...oh, the stretch marks. Of course, I know I am only 12 weeks postpartum and these things take time. But I'm just in this weird in-between stage where I don't fit into most of my maternity clothes anymore, but I also don't fit into most of my pre-pregnancy clothes, either. Things fit me differently and I'm trying to figure out how to dress this body that is so different, and still changing. So I mostly just feel frumpy and awkward.
Not only that, I'm still trying to make peace with the birth story. It really started to hit me around the time Ellie turned two months old and I was working on putting the birth story into a photobook as a keepsake. When I think back, I just can't believe that things really happened the way they did. I touch the raised bump of my c-section scar and just can't believe that's how it ended up. When I think about it, I feel like I was betrayed by my body. I worked so hard and did everything I could to get through labor unmedicated for a natural birth, but my body didn't hold up its end of the bargain. It didn't dilate fast enough. My water didn't break. It developed HELLP syndrome. I approached labor and birth like a physical challenge that I was so excited to overcome. I wanted to battle my way through labor to eventually cross that finish line of giving birth, but I never made it to the finish line. My body would not let me get there. I don't know what it feels like to have the urge to push. I don't know what it feels like to push your baby out. I don't know what it feels like to have your baby put right on your chest and to look down at her and see her take her first breaths. I hate that I don't know these things and I feel cheated out of that experience.
And, as a parent, I worry more than I should about being judged. It seems everyone has an opinion about what the right method of parenting is, about how Ellie should be acting, about how I should be handling her. I think that is why I try to share only the good times, because I don't want people to think I'm incompetent or in over my head, or that Ellie is some demon child who only cries and makes my life miserable. Because she's not, she's just a baby. And I'm not an unfit mother, just a new one. Ellie and I are both trying to figure out this mother-daughter thing as we go along. Do I welcome advice? Of course. So many other people have walked these paths before me, and there is much to be gained from that experience. Do I want regular critiques about my chosen methods? No, I don't. Every parent is different, every baby is different. What works for us may not work for others and vice versa. So as long as my baby is healthy, happy and growing well, criticism is not needed. And I know that what other people think doesn't matter so long as we're doing okay as a family, but like I said, I worry about it more than I should. This post is a big step in enabling me to let go of that self-consciousness. I'm just putting it out there - yes, sometimes my baby cries. Sometimes I don't know what she wants. Sometimes I cry along with her. These are all normal things and we are doing okay.
I feel like this post has been long and rambling (and probably whiny) but also long overdue. Maybe I'm being a big dramatic crybaby, but these are all things that are going through my head lately, at 12 weeks postpartum, and I thought they should be recorded just like the happy times. This is my reality and it has helped me just to write it all out.
And now, my sweet sleepy little girl is waking up with a smile, so it's time to set the hard stuff aside and go savor these moments that melt my heart. Welcome to motherhood, right?