I gave birth to my first (and probably only) child exactly one year, 1 month, and 3 weeks ago. Being a first-time mother slapped me in the face hard. Like, really, really, hard.
My ovaries didn’t begin to ache until my husband and I were handing out candy to little kids on Halloween. My thought process was “awww, look at these adorable kids in their adorable outfits! They are too cute…hey, we should have a kid!” The whole baby phase didn’t exist in my dream of motherhood.
Needless to say, the infant stage was a reality check of massive proportion. The breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, worry, obsessive googling of all things new-born, doctor appointments, figuring out how to get the baby into the car seat/stroller, figuring out how to grocery shop, etc, etc. It was like starting life over again – but was THIS the life I really wanted? I was like, wait, “so, about that trick-or-treating…?? WHEN does THAT happen, ’cause that’s what I’m ready for…?? Anyone?? Oh, that doesn’t happen until 2 or 3 years from now? Ummm…shit.
The feeling that struck me the most with a newborn was the loneliness. So, let’s discuss the loneliness.
As a military spouse, we were living in Yokosuka, Japan at the time. We lived off-base about a 30 minute ride away from the installation. As sad as it sounds, our life pretty much revolved around the military base. We had our friends there, our pediatrician, the gym, the commissary, etc. So, living out in town where we really didn’t have friends nearby, or a community of people to communicate with was hard. Getting the baby out of the house for a 30 minute drive to and from base was excruciatingly long since she hated the car (what’s up with that, anyway? I thought babies LOVED car rides…B.S.)!
All I wanted in those early months was to commiserate with other mothers. I wanted to connect with people going through what I was going through. I wanted to know I wasn’t alone. Even with family around, motherhood can be SO lonely in those first months and weeks. If you are reading this while bouncing your baby to sleep, or breastfeeding, or trapped under a sleeping baby, know you aren’t alone. This is a phase, just repeat that until you believe it.
The first weekend as a mother got so real when I realized that my weekends were no longer fun-fests and binge watching movies late into the night. Weekends no longer had a meaning. No binging on any number of Friday night indulgences with the luxury of sleeping-in ’til 10 and grabbing brunch when we felt like it. My birthday (which was around the 2 month mark), was another aha-moment. Ohh…so, this isn’t about me anymore. Shit.
I found solace and understanding from other new and seasoned mothers, and most importantly, for me…in a Podcast. I would take long walks with E in her baby carrier and listen to The Longest Shortest Time Podcast with Hilary Frank. I found comfort and joy in her stories of motherhood. I still listen to this podcast, and the opening jingle always brings me right back to those long walks in Japan with my newborn. Listen to this, you will love it, I promise. I hope her stories can save you, like they saved me.
As the months drew on, things slowly got better. Small leaps of independence occur, which loosen the reigns of anxiety bit by bit. I can’t tell you how many times I Googled “When do babies get easier?” Some said 3 months, others 9 months…in my experience, it got easier when she slept through the night. It was like a switch for me. Suddenly, the haze was gone, and I felt more like ‘me’ again.
At just over a year ‘in,’ I feel incredibly lucky to say that the past year has been the hardest and most loved-filled year of my life. I feel like my heart could burst with my love for her, which is a new and wonderful feeling. Her father absolutely feels the same. To know that all the other mothers and fathers out there in the world have raised children and feel that fierce love for their offspring makes me feel so good, and so hopeful.
I feel like I’m a part of something new – like a new secret cult of parenthood I had no idea about before. I feel suddenly connected to everyone I pass with kids or a stroller. I feel like I need to give The Nod to them. I know how hard and wonderful what they’re doing is. Solidarity, parents!
What I wish I knew then is that the new-born stage is temporary, and that everything is a phase. Fussiness, night wakings, and breastfeeding or bottle feeding won’t last forever. But thank God, those smiles are here to stay. Slowly, their personality emerges, and you can begin to see glimpses of a person. Slowly, you will come out of the haze and reclaim yourself again. The newborn phase is all about your precious little baby: a selflessness which is difficult understand until you are in it.
I’m still waiting around for our first big Trick-or-Treating adventure, but I’ve realized that she will only be small for a very, very, short time. I am trying my best to live in the moment and cherish who she is now, although it is hard to hold back the “I can’t wait ’til’s…”
For me, a big part of this blog is reclaiming something that is mine. And damn, it feels great!
How was new motherhood/fatherhood for you? What was your biggest struggle? Tell me everything, I would love to hear from you and lift you up.