She said my life would never be the same once the baby came. She also told me, close to his birth, that I would see God’s work in my baby’s tiny hands, tiny feet, and tiny face, and that every nail would be perfect. She demanded in the kind, non-offensive way that grandmothers do, that the baby must sleep in my room for the first year of their life, as that was the way motherhood was done. In passing, she mentioned that she had never had postpartum depression, but that apparently that was a thing that happened to some mothers. But her overarching message was that I would love my baby and worry about him/her for the rest of my life.
She was partially right. My life was never the same after Colin was born in April 2014. But I didn’t see God’s work in his tiny hands, tiny feet, and tiny face. And I was way too scared to cut his nails after a midwife told me that if I cut too close to the skin, he could end up with an infection and have to go to the hospital. And get an IV. So I just ignored his nails and pretended they weren’t growing for a while.
In those first few weeks, I did wonder why my grandmother hadn’t told me that I’d be praying to any God who would listen for some sleep. All I wanted was one full night of sleep so that I could have a chance to recuperate from my 32-hour birth. Secretly, I wanted to know why she hadn’t mentioned that sleep deprivation was like torture, except worse, as you had to keep the baby alive, and well, and not burn the house down in the process.
She told me that C-sections were the best. She, like her mother, also told me that having a baby changes everything, but that I should continue to do everything I had been doing pre-baby. As my due date came and went, she scolded me for waiting until 42 weeks for an induction, as she believed that was harmful to my baby. When meeting Colin for the first time, she brought me a belly girdle that my grandmother had sent and told me that wearing it would help my get my pre-baby body back.
But, she never warned me that after 30 hours of labor, I wouldn’t care whether I had a C-section or a Natural Birth; I would just want the baby out. (Mostly, so I could sleep). She also never mentioned that doing everything I had been doing pre-baby would be close to impossible, as I would have to take some time to transition into my new identity as a mama.
After her short visit to meet Colin, I wondered why she had brought me a belly girdle, but couldn’t mention that it was okay if my body was different, and that not knowing how to take care of it for the first months, or heck years, was okay too. It would have been helpful for someone to look me in the eyes and say that croissants, chocolates, and coffee was a reasonable diet for a new mama.
None of my other Shes’ told me that having a child puts a strain on a marriage, and so for six months, I believed that I was going to end up as a single mother. I was tired. My husband was tired. We had a baby that refused to sleep. When Colin was about six months old, I typed “marriage after children,” and breathed a sigh of relief when the internet told me that marriage could be difficult after children and that women could feel dissatisfied. Check and Check.
I was at a loss as to why no one in my circle talked about the darker sides of motherhood.
Like sleep deprivation, your post-baby body, and hating your partner (occasionally). Was it shame? Was it fear? Was it society’s expectations that mothers had to be grateful 247?
I don’t have the answers to any of my questions, and that’s okay. But now that Colin is about to turn two, I am wiser, (still tired), and older. So I want to tell that naive mama-to-be that a thing or two about motherhood.
You will be so tired after your baby is born that you won’t know left from right. That’s okay. Sleep is amazing and you have every right to crave it with your whole being during those first few months (and years!)
Your body will look like a foreign object, and you’ll wonder if that stretchy skin on your boobs will disappear one day. It probably won’t, but one day, it won’t look so bad. You’ll also look at your tummy post-birth and be like: will you tuck yourself back into place? And your tummy will be like: Sorry Mama, I made a life, and I have a right to be here, so please focus on more important things, like your toddler’s smile, and after a while, you will.
As for the man that helped you bring your baby into this world, you will grow closer together, and marvel at the fact that you made a human, almost daily. This, however, does not mean that you’ll ever stop bartering with your partner for an hour or two of extra sleep a week.
Lastly, know that I love you and that I will always hold your vulnerable, beautiful heart in the palm of my hand. You’ve got this.
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