There’s a blog post you may have seen about the joys of new motherhood that went viral last week. The writer recalls that when she was pregnant, she was warned about the many hardships of motherhood, but she really should have been “warned” about how amazing it would be.
So amazing, in fact, that sleep didn’t matter–she was thrilled to be up multiple times at night nursing. She also had no need for a break–one hour away from her baby for a leisurely pedicure was too much to bear. The impact on her relationship with her husband was nothing less than positive as they fell evermore in love while gazing into each other’s eyes over the sweet head of their peaceful newborn.
Excuse me while I throw up a little in my mouth.
While I’m not saying she shouldn’t share her story–everyone’s stories are worth sharing–she could use a lesson in humility and empathy in order to do it without rubbing salt in the wounds of those of us who experienced a completely different reality.
It’s a good idea to take into account the new mothers for which an hour-long pedicure could never be enough of an escape.
The ones who had envisioned nothing less than the joy-filled images that are found in abundance on pregnancy websites or friends’ Facebook posts, but then were struck with an alternate brutal reality.
When I had my first baby, it seemed something had gone terribly wrong, like a cruel plot twist in my life story. I was the one dreaming of becoming a mom since I was a little girl, and then the planning and waiting for six years after we got married to make sure we were prepared. We thought we were ready.
If only I had known that this could happen, maybe I could have been partially saved from the misery of feeling so alone in my experience.
I wish someone would have warned me how awful those first several months of motherhood could truly be.
That I might look at my baby and feel nothing but regret.
That although I might get an intense love at first sight feeling when my baby was born, that feeling could fade and it could take me months to actually feel love for him again.
That I might sob endless tears for months on end.
How reading all the cards that arrived with well wishes for my new “bundle of joy” might bring me to tears because the emotions I was feeling were the furthest thing from joy.
That I might shout in my newborn’s face, “Why won’t you stop crying?!”
That I might choose to go to bed at 7:30pm knowing I would be up for the day at 7:30am with only four hours of broken sleep. For weeks.
That I might dread each day, not knowing how I would make it through.
That I might come to understand exactly what triggers someone to shake a baby.
That I might go on a long drive to nowhere just to have a break from the baby, tears streaming down my face because I knew I would have to return home and could never really escape.
That the nursery might end up feeling like a battle zone.
That selling the house where we brought our first baby home from the hospital might feel like a relief because I could leave the memory of those bad feelings behind.
Since no one warned me, I am warning you.
Sharing with others the reality of what could be is not being negative, it is being honest and kind. You need to hear it because it might happen to you too. And if none of it does and you get to experience the joy of new motherhood that I feel I was robbed of? Be happy. Be thrilled. And know that I am happy for you too, even if insanely jealous.
The feeling of drowning, of not knowing what went wrong, of how you can take it back and make it go away is not something I would wish on anyone else.
Hearing each other’s stories is important, but it’s also important to be aware of your tone. If you’re head over heels in love with your new baby and just having the best time of it, great. Tell the world!
But if you were formulating your next status update or blog post openly bragging about your perfect angel baby, adding phrases about how you don’t know what all those negative Nellies were talking about because this is the easiest gig ever, consider that it’s making those of us who had a vastly different experience feel like shit.
Do not reject our voices, writing us off by saying we are only spreading fear and negativity. That’s what will keep women in hiding, afraid to come out and say that they’re struggling to keep their heads above water. It’s dark and closing in around them and they can’t swim their way to the surface. They need to feel safe speaking up and they need to be acknowledged.
I admit there’s a difference between throwing negative comments in someone’s face and sharing your story, just as there is a difference between sharing your joy and bragging. Just know that the storytellers are sharing their truth and if you don’t experience anything you were warned about, you are lucky and you are rare.
The best thing you can do is package up that joy in the form of a helping hand and spread the love to a new mother who is not faring so well. And be thankful it didn’t happen to you.