**Reader Discretion is Advised: I know this is going to be a long blog post, but I believe that it is important for me to write it. And, if you are faithful to the end you will find baby pictures!**
There’s been a lot of talk on the Mom-Blogosphere lately about how expectations don’t necessarily meet the reality of being a Mom. Some Mom’s go so far to say that they were lied to. Others wonder how women can be so naive to the realities of that motherhood brings. It is important to mention that many (but not all) of these mothers who fall into the first category are suffering with Postpartum Depression and/or Postpartum Anxiety.
I know two things about PPD/A: 1. This is a reality for many women and 2. It is not a reality for me, so all I can do is support women suffering with PPD/A, but I cannot speak from experience.
I want to speak about my realities as a mother. It is easy for me to sit back and talk about how great it is but I think it is also important to speak honestly, about both the good and the not-so-good.
So, I am going to take this opportunity to speak about my expectations before motherhood and the realities that I have been faced with. Let me be clear – every experience is unique, and I know that I have been blessed with an incredibly good baby. Cameron rarely cries. He goes to bed relatively well. He hardly ever spits up and the rare bout of vomiting that comes with hiccups have seemed to stop. He doesn’t have colic or acid reflux. He nurses well and takes a bottle well. Cameron is easy to take care of. But sometimes being a Mom isn’t so easy.
Before I got pregnant, I looked at babies with desire. I wanted one. First of all, they were ridiculously cute! It is hard not to love a baby. How I longed to snuggle with a precious little being, watch him sleep peacefully like an angel. I was so excited to provide life, nourishment and love to someone who needed me. I couldn’t wait to see the perfect smile, hear the words “Mama”, or even “I love you”. I won’t lie. Having a baby would be like having a puppy – a puppy that you put in a purse and carry around like your favorite new accessory.
It is easy to think like this when having a baby isn’t a near-term reality.
Then, I got pregnant. Having a baby was actually real. (Cue reality check. Cue fear). My reality changed. My life changed. I now had a responsibility to this little being growing inside of me – a responsibility that would last a lifetime. My social life changed (not as drastically as it changed post-baby) and we slowly started to hang around with people in the same situation as us. I was exhausted. Life changed.
Reality Check: Soon, the little life inside of me was the size of a cantaloupe. I was clearly looking pregnant. I realized that at some point this baby would have to come out, and let me tell you, I certainly don’t have any openings the size of a cantaloupe.
When I was pregnant, my expectations definitely changed. In fact, I was a little scared to have a baby. I had no idea how I would juggle diaper changes, sleepless nights and incessant crying. My worst nightmare was that Cameron wouldn’t be able to breastfeed or that I wouldn’t be able to provide enough milk for him. And then, if I thought taking care of a helpless newborn would be hard, what was going to happen when he grew up to be an independent, hormones-raging, mother-hating teenager. OH MY GOSH – What had I gotten myself into?
Bigger Reality Check: Eventually the baby inside of me was the size of an 8lb 7oz watermelon. And he was ready to come out.
Expectation: When I was born, my Mom had a relatively quick and easy active labour. In fact, it was so quick that they missed the opportunity to give her an epi. I was sure that my labour and delivery would follow suit.
Huge Friggen Reality Check: Oh my goodness. 37 hours and many stitches later…
… I had my baby. He was beautiful. Oh my goodness was he beautiful!
Expectation: I wanted skin to skin contact as soon as this baby was born. I was so excited to see his face and meet him and fall madly in love with him. I was so worried about the possibility of having a c-section because I knew it would just break my heart to not get to hold my baby right away.
Reality: I had just worked the hardest I ever had in my entire life. I was physically exhausted, mentally exhausted and emotionally exhausted. I was in pain. I didn’t get immediate skin to skin contact with Cameron because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. They whisked him away and it didn’t bother me. I needed a break. I had nothing left in me, even to give this baby right off. I was thankful for the little bit of time I was given before getting to see my baby.
Finally, they gave Cameron to me to snuggle and to hold until they were done with me, at which point I could try to nurse him. I have a hard time remembering anything more than the pain, but I do know that it was so fabulous to hold my baby. Finally it came time to nurse him.
Expectation: Let me explain something to you. I dreamed about nursing my baby. I wanted so badly to have the beautiful experience of bonding with my baby in this special and unique way. BUT I had also heard horror stories about women who had trouble nursing or couldn’t. I was worried that this might be my story.
Reality: Cameron latched on immediately. He had a great latch and my milk came in. But, it wasn’t everything that I had imagined. Breastfeeding is (or at least can be) painful for the first little while. Lactation consultants will tell you that if it is painful then you’re doing it wrong, but from what I could tell, I was doing it right, and there was still pain. Cameron had a good latch, but he would sometimes pull his head away without unlatching causing terrible pain that lasted. It took a few weeks for nursing to be enjoyable. This was a huge blow to my perfect image of me nursing my baby. It was way harder than I expected.
We got home from the hospital and I was still in a lot of pain. This wasn’t a huge surprise to me. When talking about what we were most concerned about during our prenatal class, I said that I was most concerned about the recovery process after having a baby. (I will say, that I was feeling much better around the two week mark).
Crappy Reality: What I didn’t expect when I first got home was the emotions that I felt. I don’t know what I expected, but I certainly didn’t expect to be reduced to tears so often. Just looking at my baby made me cry, and I didn’t know how to explain it or why it was happening. I also angry that my Mom wasn’t around like I wanted her to be, and I was even angrier that my Mother-in-law was there instead. Getting to know my baby took time, and although I loved him, it took work to try to understand what he needed and what he wanted. That first week felt like it took forever to get through.
The following weeks got easier and we started to get to know our son a little more. My emotions started to level out and the connection I felt to my son grew and grew. I will say that for me, the hardest time was the first few weeks. Since then things have been much better.
Expectation: People have been taking care of babies for centuries – it can’t be that tough. If he’d cry I would soothe him. If he would wake up, I would put him to sleep. If he was hungry, I would feed him. If he was dirty, I would change him.
Reality: It is incredible how easy it is to loose patience when you know it has been months since you have slept a full night. Cameron used to get really fussy between 9 and 11pm. Two hours – that was all I had to deal with. It felt like an eternity. Some nights, I didn’t know how I would get through it.
If it is bedtime and Cameron won’t go to sleep, I’ll sit beside his bed and wait it out. But I had no idea how quick and easy it is to get frustrated. I can’t imagine how tough this would be if Cameron had sleep troubles or cried a lot.
Here’s the thing. Motherhood is the hardest thing that I have ever done. But it also comes so naturally and offers so many of rewards. I have so much respect for my Mother and for every other mother I meet. And I would recommend Motherhood to anyone.
Speaking of fun times with babies, here are a few photos of Cam from today.