Dark Side of the Mom - #MomGuilt
I have been wracking my brain all day trying to think of the PERFECT subject for my first post. You know, THE post. The perfect, first ONE. I was hoping it would magically reveal itself to me today, somewhere between picking the boys up from school, looking like an idiot trying to mail something "certified" or calling the bank about depositing checks for our daughter because she and I have different last names.
To my dismay, no glaring signs; no burning bushes of wisdom or answers written in the sky. I had to push forward and come up with something. Anything. How do I put anything about new motherhood into words? I have been attempting to start a blog for years but always stopped somewhere around this exact point because one day, I would just KNOW what to write. Obviously, it doesn't happen that way. Procrastination and excuses at their finest. So here's to combating my lifelong habit, together.
I've been replaying my four months of motherhood over and over in my head and it quickly occurred to me that my chest was tightening, I couldn't get a deep breath and I cringed a little. I promised transparency to you, folks, so here is the first nugget of bitter truth and honesty. People used to tell me that once she was here, earth side and out of my warm, safe cocoon of a belly, that I would never be able to fathom how I ever did life without her. Perusing popular instagrams or "mom-stagrams" as I have penned them, Pinterest and TV, I ate this sentiment up like, well, appropriately, a very pregnant lady in front of a cake. Four months later, if you were to ask me if this has proved to be true, I would tell you no.
Cue the mom guilt. And right on cue with the mom guilt, enters an extra large side order of guilt's best friends; shame & embarrassment.
OF COURSE I can fathom how I did life without her. One day, I was taking a shower at my leisure, able to wash my hair AND shave my legs. I was catching regular sleep for lengthy periods of time. I was able to enjoy a hot meal with Mike and was not in constant fear of a screaming baby, well, everywhere. Then, in a hurricane of contractions and pushes, that all changed. And you are kidding yourself if you cannot admit that suddenly having this small human is not a crazy hard adjustment. We are expected to acclimate to this adjustment in less time than it probably took to make this little one. If we're being honest.
You can absolutely fathom what life was like without her. You can certainly fathom not feeling like a literal cow when you have two bottles pumping milk out of your ta-tas. You can 100% fathom leaving the house alone for a few hours, or visiting with friends not checking the watch in quiet, anxious anticipation of the impending nursing session. You can definitely imagine not feeling intensely alone, terrified and lost. I distinctly recall a feeling of panic each night as the darkness set in. Infants can strip the humanity from you and it is one of the scariest realities there is.
I look over the last four months and I distinctly remember, some days, feeling utterly dehumanized. That word actually came out of my mouth like razor blades; spoken with hesitant shame to my mother, but not to Mike, as if it were wrong to admit that my basic human needs were not being met. Y’all, let me clear this up right here and right now. It is NOT wrong. I quickly learned that the "mom guilt" was stronger and scarier when I was so burned out, exhausted & overwhelmed. This guilt made me feel as though I was not truly present for my daughter. Being honest with myself about these realities of being a new parent, though - that's what has made me a better mom.
Every day, this guilt thing creeps into our lives. As soon as I say "Yeah! Woohoo! Alright, alright, alright! Mama is really getting the hang of this..." Wrong again, Erin. I will say this. Parenthood is nothing, if not humbling. Never has such a tiny person been able to make me feel so raw and vulnerable. When I am trying to shower and she has a leaky diaper, or when, like tonight, I kept her up for 20 minutes too late to decorate the Christmas Tree and she fell asleep sitting up on my lap in drool soaked jammies. Or when I forget the nipple to the bottle when we are an hour away from home, or eat something that causes her bad pain in her sweet, untainted belly. Or when I have one more glass of wine than I should. Or when I go to the nail salon. Or when I pray for a gift card to my hair salon to appear in my mailbox. Or when I just need 10 minutes to myself. Or, or, or....always an "or."
It's a constant cycle of guilt. It's as if I am not allowed to ever want to be me, separate from my baby. The reality of the situation is this; if something goes wrong with her, it is my fault. I am responsible for every need she has, which, if you STOP and THINK about that for a few minutes, is a TON of pressure. We moms are told in so many words we have to be perfect. Statistically impossible, ladies. There will be leaky diapers, and forgotten nipples, and super sleepy babies. There will be grocery store fits, non-nutritious meals & stolen minutes locked in the bathroom for mom. There has to be.
It is a funny thing that as I am writing this, I am thinking of all the things people will think about me as they read this. I can only imagine. Think what you will. But I spend large parts of my day feeling like I am failing my daughter with every cry and refused nap. I spend the rest of the day trying to forgive myself and I can only be truthful about that. We are not perfect human beings and we cannot be perfect parents. Frankly, "perfection" and "parenting" are such opposites that they should be in different dictionaries. But moms and dads - it is okay. It is okay. Tell that to yourself ten, twenty or thirty times. However long it takes to believe it.
Our babies forgive us. I know Everly sure does. Each morning, without fail, I peer over at her sweet face and she smiles so big, it's as if her face will explode with sunbeams. She looks at me as if I could never do anything wrong. I am her sunshine. I am her moon and her stars. She is my beating heart sitting outside of my chest. I want to weep with joy each day at her sweetness.
I think we should stop telling expectant moms that they will never be able to imagine living life without their babies. That takes away from who the mother has been her whole life; what has led her to become a mother; what will enable her to be a good mother. It makes mom a failure before she even starts. The moment she feels anything less than happy and comfortable, we have told her she has failed.
It is not with cruel intent that we say this, but I think some revision is in order. I think what people mean and what they should say is this: when you get those ten minutes to yourself, go to the nail salon, go out shopping with a friend, or in my case, when she has been in bed for a few hours, you will miss her like you are missing a limb. You will feel that her presence is missing so deeply, your heart will ache. You will want to squeeze her, kiss her, snuggle her, rock her - and these feelings will be so strong, they consume you. Then you will feel grateful. Grateful for this blessing. All of the tearful moments, the overwhelming times, the moments where you don't know what to do - they fade. And then you will feel proud, because you are surviving. Maybe you can do this, after all.
While imagining life before your little is definitely possible; when asked, I don't know a single mother who would choose to go backwards and live life without her child.
I promise to never tell a soon-to-be mom that she will never be able to imagine how she lived life without her child. This is what I will tell her - you will mess up, you will cry, and you will feel so much guilt that sometimes you are sure it will kill you. But your baby will forgive you. Work on trying to forgive yourself. You will never be able to imagine how much you will desperately and irrevocably love without question. You will never be able to imagine how much you will be in awe of this sweet creation. It's okay to admit if you aren't feeling okay. It is okay to admit if you need help, or need ten minutes, or a shower, or a meal. Ask for it, demand it and while I can tell you until I am blue in the face to not feel guilty, you will. You will never feel as if you are doing it right, but I promise, you are.
So, keep on, mamas and may the odds be ever in your favor.
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