Early Motherhood is Very Unusual

My son is two months old and beautiful, and the whole thing is ridiculously hard. I have so much support and means, and it is still ridiculously hard. Yes, I know it’s hard for everyone – though I’m starting to get the sense it isn’t this hard for everyone. I keep scoring as depressed on the post-partum visit questionnaires. The words that keep running through my head are “Nothing is worth this level of discomfort and exhaustion.” Also: “I miss my life. I miss myself.”

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A shadowy part of me wishes I had never met Abraham, so I wouldn’t miss him if he disappeared. And I share that difficult truth intentionally, for the sake of the many new parents who feel it and respond with horror and shame to their thoughts. I too feel terribly guilty for thinking it, but my therapist pointed out that it actually is a perfectly normal response to being a new mom. I’ll repeat that. My therapist said that wishing you had never met your new baby is an ok, normal reaction among the many of becoming a parent.

Here’s why: Early motherhood is a legitimately bizarre state, a completely unusual human experience compared to the rest of our lives. For instance, my body has spent 35 years prioritizing its own health and wellbeing and survival, and then about eleven months ago it abruptly stopped, and shifted its attention to someone it had never before met. These days I will catapult over my own basic needs to meet Abraham’s, but that started on a biochemical level during pregnancy. My body was anemic because the baby was getting so much of my iron. If I had been low on calcium, my body would have leached calcium from my own bones to give to the baby. I guess it makes sense that parts of me are feeling a little left out.

My therapist guided me to tell those parts of myself: “Yes, I am indeed prioritizing Abraham’s needs over mine, and I know that is hard for you. I know you would like me to be relaxing in a spa and sleeping 10 hours every night. But this chapter of life is not that. However! I have good news for you: Abraham is growing strong, and gradually we will be able to prioritize ourselves again in many moments.”

I have been beating myself up for not loving Abraham – what? Enough? In the right way? I realized today that what I feel towards him is love for sure – it’s just a qualitatively different love from anything I have felt before. It is strange, and terrible, and awe-inspiring. Some days it feels like he grabbed my heart in his tiny fist on his way out of me and pulled me inside out, so that raw flesh is on the outside of my body. Put another way, I am rapturously in love with him and it hurts like hell. Honestly, I had expected a higher ratio of pleasure to pain.

My mother asked me in the first few weeks of his life “Would you throw yourself in front of a bus for him?” The way I see it, I pretty much have. I have thrown myself in front of the bus of sleeplessness and missed meals, aching arms, high anxiety, and complete overturn of my life and identity as I knew it. I am doing all that for this baby I just met who carries my heart in his tiny fragile body. Evolution knew what was up when babies became this cute and bonding this strong - if it were all about my ego and needs I would probably have thrown the baby in front of a bus!

I am very grateful to say that the pleasurable moments are getting more frequent and memorable. Last night was so precious. He was swaddled and in the crook of my arm in bed, sucking on his binky. I read I Love You As Big As The World and Goodnight Moon to him. He fell asleep there and slept soundly for a few hours. I felt so much contentment with him nestled next to me. It was astounding.

His face now lights up when he sees me in the morning. He also lights up when I sing.