Friday, April 12, 2013

What I Never Knew

I understand why a lot of women say they love being pregnant.  It's the last time you are truly taken care of and don't have to worry about taking care of someone.  If you have a husband like mine, you are doted upon during your pregnancy like you never have been before.  I literally never had to lift a finger during my pregnancy, even when I wanted to.  He took such great care of me.  And the feeling you have - that you are growing another person.  That you are the incubator for this new life that will come into the world and will be extraordinary in some way.  That there is a person growing inside you who will have thoughts, opinions, talents, strengths and weaknesses... it's all very special and amazing.  You want to meet this person so badly.

And then the moment comes. It's time for them to come into the world.  The moment you've dreamed about for a large chunk of your life if you are like me, or at least for the last 8 months or so, has finally arrived.  And maybe it goes exactly the way you wanted it to go.  And maybe it doesn't.  Either way, when it's over, you have this person in your arms.  And he is beautiful.  He smells like promises.  Even his sweet little baby cry is beautiful, because he is using it to communicate with you!  You think about all the things you've seen on TV about this moment, and all the things you've read about this moment.  You look into his beautiful face.

He opens his tiny mouth and begins to wail like a banshee and you think... what in the world have I done??  And what do I do now?

Welcome to motherhood... sucker!  ;)

If someone is telling you that motherhood is all flowers, butterflies, sweet baby snuggles and lullabies, they are feeding you a spoonful of lies that looks and smells like pureed turkey and vegetables.  Have you ever smelled pureed turkey and vegetables?  It stinks.  Not as much as a dirty diaper, but pretty close.

Want to know the truth about motherhood?  The stuff they gloss over?  It's HARD.  Worth it, certainly.  But REALLY FREAKING HARD.  I know, I know... I'm hardly the first person to tell you that.  But I'm the only person with my particular experience, and since this is my blog, I'm going to share it.  It only took six months for me to feel comfortable doing so.  So I'll share with you the things I never knew about being a mom.

I never knew I wouldn't have time to clean myself during the first few weeks.  Within days, our house had been completely turned upside down.  I had no time to shower, brush my teeth or even brush my hair.  It went into a ponytail the moment I got out of bed every morning.  The only time I even tried to look presentable was when someone had a camera or when someone came over.  Which was actually pretty rare.

I never knew being a mom had a learning curve.  As the days went on and I learned how to do all the things you learn how to do as a new mom, I realized it was, in fact, a learning experience. Nobody just KNOWS how to be a mom.  If they do, they are extraordinary.  You have to learn the things that will calm your baby.  You have to learn his eating and sleeping schedule.  You have to learn how he prefers to be held and what songs he likes you to sing.  The only thing that was instinctive for me was the love I felt for him and the need to protect him from everything.

I never knew breastfeeding was SO HARD.  I took for granted that I would be able to do it.  I wasn't.  We tried a bunch of tricks and tips, I had a lactation consultant in the hospital, but nothing really got my supply where it needed to be.  We ended up supplementing with formula and then going to exclusive formula feeding after about two months.  It was devastating to me, but at the same time, it was a relief.

I never knew three months could be so short.  Maternity leave needs to be longer in this country.  That's all I have to say about that.  Three months was not enough time to spend with him, not enough time to learn everything I needed to learn and to bond the way I wanted to bond.  And then, it was over.  I got a job offer with a company I was really excited about and a job that sounded perfect.  Maternity leave ended three weeks earlier than expected because they wanted me to start right away.  It was probably better that way, actually.  I didn't have time to sit and cry about how my maternity leave was going to end in 3 weeks... 2 weeks... 1 week.  It just ended.  And I started this new job and loved it!

I never knew I would be insanely jealous of the stay at home moms I know.  While still truly enjoying my job and wanting to go to work.  It's crazy, the contradictions being a mom can cause in your own mind.  I enjoy the work I do and I like the people I work with so much.  But still, it feels like leaving part of me behind every morning when I left Nathan at my mom's house.  Every. Single. Day.  I leave my heart behind and go to work.

I never knew I wouldn't care about the things I cared about before.  I lost a lot of who I was before becoming a mom the moment the line showed up on the stick.  I was actively involved in theatre, which takes up a huge amount of time.  There won't be time for that for many years, so I've put it out of my mind for now.  And I don't actually miss it.  I have different priorities now.

I never knew I would miss some of the things I cared about before and don't have time to do now.  Crafts, playing computer games, going out to eat with just my husband.  Having friends.  These are things I miss about my life before Nathan.  I know those things will come back eventually.  Right now, though, it seems like I have no time for anything I want to do.  I mourn that a little.

I never knew I could function on so little sleep.  Yeah, that's something we all learn when we have a new baby.  I go to bed fairly early these days, when he goes to bed.  That way, I have a few hours of sleep before he wakes up hungry.  He did sleep through the night for awhile, but recently we've regressed and are waking up once a night for a bottle.  So now, I feel like I'm constantly pulling "all nighters."  Like I'm back in college, only 10 years older.  Someone pass me the Redbull, please!

I never knew I would suffer from post postpartum depression.  I wasn't diagnosed or anything, but now that I'm climbing my way back to the surface of it, I can look back and see that I really was depressed.  And really still am to a degree.  I'm sure I've been a "joy" to live with these last six months.  I think my personality has even shifted.  I was such an extrovert for so long, and now I'm more a homebody.  Almost antisocial.  It's like I want to be in my little bubble - my home - with just Jon and Nathan.  I don't care too much about seeing other people and I don't seek out social situations anymore.  Part of me feels like I have all I need, right there in that bubble.  While another part of me longs for friends and fellowship.

I never knew I could feel this much love, pride and joy.  Holding him, playing with him, watching him sleep... I feel so much love.  When he reaches a milestone, I'm more excited than I would be if I had reached it myself.  When I felt his first tooth last week, I got tears in my eyes.  He had been working on that thing for so long and there it was!  Being with him fills me with the most complete happiness I've ever felt.  The purest joy.  When I look into his eyes, and I know he's looking back into mine and he KNOWS who I am, it is the most amazing feeling in the world.  I can't even describe it.  When he puts his little hand on my cheek, my eyes well up a little.  When his face lights up with a smile because he sees me after I've been at work all day... it's the sweetest thing in the world.  And now that he's "giving kisses," well... that's just the most awesome thing ever.

I never knew that being a mom was the most life-altering, mind-altering, relationship-altering experience a person can have.  I mean, I knew things would change.  I didn't expect ME to change.  I didn't expect to fall in love with Jon even more because of what a wonderful father he is.  I didn't expect our names to change from Anita and Jon to Mommy and Daddy quite this soon, but they already have.  I didn't expect to be so fiercely protective of my family that I would do anything to protect them.

I never knew how much I didn't know.  How much I hadn't felt.  And how much I still have to learn.  I can't wait to keep learning and growing and becoming this new person I'm becoming.  And I can't wait to see the person Nathan is going to become in the process.  And to love him even more with every passing day, with every milestone, with every smile.

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