Motherhood in Messages
There’s a scene in the docuseries, ‘Expecting Amy’ when someone asks Amy Schumer if she resents being pregnant. She replies saying, “I don’t resent being pregnant, I resent everyone who hasn’t been honest. I resent the culture and how much women have to suck it the f*ck up and act like everything’s fine.”
I’ve been hesitant to share this post because that exact culture has permeated my brain. As a mom, it’s widely conceived that even when things feel really dark, you’ll cherish and love the moment. That expectation left me wondering if I was sick or missing something when my reality seemed much different.
As I sink deeper into my postpartum journey, I am even more eager to articulate and accurately depict the inner world of new mothers. The only way I feel I can do this is by sharing the words that have been exchanged between myself and other moms. With everyone’s permission, I invite you behind the scenes. Behind the veil of perfection, family photoshoots, and sweeping reports of ‘doing well’. Behind closed doors, there is often a more complex story unfolding. Simultaneously, scattered amongst the hard times, are moments of incredible joy and welcomed comic relief.
In no particular order, welcome to the first months of motherhood…
“Those first 7 days home were HARD for me, even when I knew and did all the readings on how hard it would be. Lots of emotions and hormone shifts, plus recovery and learning breastfeeding if you’re choosing that.”
“I’m right there with you on how hard the beginning is. Nothing can prepare you for the hormones and emotions. I needed a solid three days just to process the experience of labour and birth. It was so intense. And then at the same time, being so swollen and sore. Watching my husband go through his own process too has been emotional and transformative. Let’s just say, all three of us take turns to cry throughout the day.”
2:30am “Oh hi there. Baby has been up for 35 mins crying on and off. So figured I would text you to see if I had a buddy awake right now as I watch her monitor and hope she falls back to sleep!”
“The second night was so challenging. I was a human pacifier for 7 hours and I thought my nipples were going to fall off.
“Baby land is the same over here — feed, sleep, diapers, cry, repeat. For both the baby and I”
“We’re doing okay. It’s been a hard series of nights and to be honest, I’m not feeling great mentally. I’m crying each day and each night. Feeling like I’m failing because he won’t sleep for longer than 30 mins on his own and he’s writhing around in what seems like pain. I’m exhausted and irritable which isn’t helping my relationship with my husband. I hate that I’m in a negative space. It’s not how I want to be during this time. It’s so hard to even share this with you because I have such high expectations for myself and this is falling short of that.”
1:50am “Hi friend. These 50 million wake ups all night are really getting old. Feeling angry and sick of this… talked to my friend today whose babe was the same due date as my baby. She’s super chill about his sleep and he just naps “whenever” and just goes with the flow. Her babe is already sleeping through the night completely. So frustrating. Can’t help but compare and be like “well, f*ck”. I know “comparison is the thief of joy” but seriously, I feel like I’m overthinking this or legit giving too many cuddles cause now she always wants to be on me. Never thought I’d say that but at this point, enough is enough. Thanks for reading my sleep-deprived rant...”
“I find the last few days I’m waking up with a sense of f*ck…here we go again..same old…I hope she’s happy and stimulated enough…so it’s definitely loneliness at the root of it. Anyway, I know there’s no huge solution or huge light at the end of the covid tunnel yet. Just feels good to talk about.”
“I’m having a rough day mentally. I just wanted to reach out instead of burying it. I’ve talked it out with my husband but I wanted to talk to another mom.
A lot of what I’m feeling is irrational because the baby is doing really well. I worry about him is relentless though. I can barely sleep when he’s sleeping because I’m nervous. The nights feel a little isolating and my husband and I are trying things in shifts which means he sleeps on the couch. I’m finding myself so sad about the shift in our relationship. I miss him so much. Obviously, I don’t have to tell you that this is all alongside so much love and joy. And still, I feel like I have to say that because I also feel really guilty about my tears.”
“First of all, you never have to remind me about the love and joy. It’s a given but that doesn’t mean this isn’t f*cking hard. You’re still in the weeds but it DOES get better. In the meantime, everything you’re feeling is normal. I suffered from PPA when the baby was first born and I think I still do to a certain extent. I would have crazy irrational thoughts about all of the various ways she might die and it was paralyzing. I’ve gotten better as she’s grown older and more robust but it’s still hard some days. What helped me was just reminding myself that I was doing everything right — I was following all of the safe sleep guidelines and that’s all anyone can do. You need to rest up so you can be the best version of yourself when he’s awake. Truly the hardest part for me were the nights as well. It felt SO ISOLATING. I started getting anxiety when the sun went down every day because I was dreading the night. I thought I was the only one and then I talked to a friend and it turns out it’s really common.”
“For me, the days are so lonely. They endlessly drag on while I just stare at the clock waiting for my partner to come home from work at 5. I wish we could all live in communes and raise these babies with like-minded mamas and papas.”
“When she was tiny she would need to be aggressively bounced to fall asleep. Haha. I would turn on Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and basically do a step class with her horizontal in my arms. Or we would sit on an ab ball and bounce with her.”
3:30am “Hey! Just listening to my little raccoon whine. Blaming this wake up on the full moon!”
“Hanging by a thread today…These notes are literally my LIFE force right now. I don’t know why… but I’m convinced that her waking up like this is not “normal” and something is wrong with her... like medically? I also wonder if she is hungry which stresses me out. Even though she will nurse for one minute in the night when I have more to offer. So I think it’s a lot of comfort nursing and snacking. Holy moly.”
“Yup. The resentment is POTENT. When the days and nights bleed into each other and you might get a small break at their convenience. But the break gets filled with necessary things like a shower or a chance to brush your teeth. I used to bring the baby’s playmat into the bathroom and would shower with the curtain open a bit so that I could watch him. Does your husband sleep all night in the other room or does he ever come in to help? My husband would sleep the whole night in the other room. And I felt like I wanted to burst through the door and drag him out most nights. Because yes, we are the main source of food and comfort, but what about every nighttime diaper change or the minutes and hours spent bouncing or shushing or whatever? They do have to function at work but we have to function with an infant.”
2:00am “The bit about resentment…This is me right now. That day in and day out, I carry the bulk of the burden and responsibility for her comfort and existence. And feel like I break myself to ensure it. Zero self-care here these days. While you are on the sidelines essentially continuing your regular life and enjoying the usual pleasures and comforts. I struggle with this the most I think. One hour of sleep so far. F*ckkkkkkkkkkk.”
“This evening feels really rough and I just cried my eyes out and I hate to admit it, but when I see this picture of your son all big and grown I can’t help but feel excited to be at that moment. I feel guilty saying that and I do adore this stage but it’s also really hard with the not napping well (even though I’m doing everything by the book)… it’s all beautiful and I try to be “here and now”. But damn, I’m also excited for the future, to be honest…”
“I find myself wishing away this newborn time to fast track our way to that 6-ish month mark. I cried big fat juicy tears today about drinking only cold coffee for 3 weeks and was fully mad about it. LOL Then got seriously guilty about feeling that way. Wowzers what a trip this momhood journey is. Right there with you in its entirety.”
“My nips are okay. No more bites…thank god. But he is working on shaking his head no and sometimes chooses nursing time as practice for that. So similar to your son’s distracted nursing, he will shake his head and all I can think is shoot, these nips just grew another millimeter and it ain’t cute.”
“I could say it gets better and that somehow you end up forgetting the intricacies of the newborn phase, but I never felt like hearing that was much help to me in the beginning. I just want to validate you and reassure you that you’re normal. And you don’t deserve to feel guilty. Motherhood is the most all-consuming giving of oneself. Your body, your sleep, your energy, independence, all of it. It’s just not possible to fathom until it’s happening and as much as being with your newborn is magical, in that you’re falling in love with your new human, you’re right in thinking that these older months are a bit more rewarding and balanced. I feel like I’m finally coming up for air and seeing glimpses of myself again. The first few months are mostly hard, sprinkled with moments of joy. Then there’s a big flip where it’s mostly joy and fun and exploration, sprinkled with trying times, reminiscent of the early days.”
“Oh gosh girl, I’m in a tough space. Lots of crying and feeling hopeless. The baby got the tongue tie snipped yesterday and not much improvement yet of course because she has to “relearn” how to suck. And they said no pacifier for days to help reprogram her sucking but she ONLY falls asleep to sucking so I’m now bouncing on a ball with her on my nipple and literally my back and neck are crumbling in pain. I’m just heartbroken that I don’t like breastfeeding…it’s mentally killing me and I just need it to get better.”
“Um just brushed my hair, pulled out enough from my hairbrush for a full wig.”
“You should have seen how I woke up the other night hahaha. COVERED in milk. Shirt and sheets soaked. And my boobs were like bowling balls because my bod was so used to feeding every 2 hours at night.”
“In so many ways, this re-socializing will be our first real decision as parents. Such a big one. It’s fantastic practice but wowee, not an easy one to be hit with. I am also torn about the bubble expansion thing and don’t entirely understand it. In my mind, I’m not just exposing us to 10 more people, it’s 10 more people PLUS everyone and all of the places that they are then also exposed to. It feels far more complicated than just being able to hug and kiss loved ones again. On the flip side, as you know, we did bring my sister into our bubble. I remember the first couple days of watching her hold him and feeling a slight sense of unease. I think it’s going to feel that way whether it’s now or in 1–2 months. We get to decide if we can handle that unease or if we need more time. There isn’t a right or wrong answer — it’s just too personal. The instinct to protect these little guys is FIERCE. And it’s painful to have to be the gatekeeper sometimes when it may disappoint the ones we love. But this is it girl! This is us settling into our roles as mama bears and calling the shots for what we feel is best for our children. Major identify shift! We’re completely allowed to speak up and not worry about anyone else’s feelings. Pretty liberating and when I think about it, seemingly the first time I’ve ever really felt the full power to act that way.”
Perhaps it’s because of the pandemic surging around us, or simply the isolating nature of new motherhood, but my lifeline over the last several months has undoubtedly been texting with other mothers. Waking up to messages, receiving an update throughout the day, or getting a reply at 3am has a way of shifting a night that feels like the loneliest in the world. I found that the most jarring part of new motherhood was the blatant sense of duality at all times. How can you embrace such opposing feelings at once? Genuine discomfort and joy exist at the forefront of the experience in a way that I never knew was possible. I am endlessly grateful for the mamas in my community. If you know a new mom, check in and let her know she’s not alone.