Nothing tests you more than parenthood, in my opinion. But, since the ability for some women (who either can and/or choose) to become a mom is nothing new and a bazillion past generations have seemed to pull it off, we seldom admit that motherhood can suck. Being a mom to a newborn can be a really weird, really frustrating and really exhausting time, and even though newborns can be wonderful and precious and adorable and all those great things, there are also things about newborns new moms don't want to admit to noticing or thinking or feeling.
There were some thoughts I had about my new baby that horrified me, mostly because I never heard anyone else express them openly and honestly and without apology. I’m hoping now, with more moms like me sharing the less-than-amazing sides of motherhood, parents will feel relieved to know that what they’re thinking and feeling is pretty normal. Of course, that is not to discount the severity of thoughts that have to do with self-harm or anything that would jeopardize the infant’s safety. It is imperative to seek help if those thoughts do consume you.
It may make me feel bad to think of my baby in any way but perfect and adorable, but that doesn’t mean I’m a bad mom. It just means I’m getting to know this new little being and maybe she isn’t making the greatest first impression, with the fussing and the crying and the constantly needing me at all hours of the day and night. When things don’t feel great and you're not thinking the greatest of things, it is ok to say so. I mean, it's perfectly fine to stop perpetuating the myth that motherhood is incomparably wonderful to any other aspect of being a human.
So for everyone who’s maybe thinking these things but not necessarily confessing them, I’ll just come out and say it: you're not alone. Here are 11 things about newborns I, as a new mom, didn’t want to admit to thinking:
“What a beautiful baby!” Stop lying to me. With her mottled skin, bug eyes, and disproportionately long fingers, I know she looks more like a plucked chicken than a human infant. A face only a mother could love is not just a thing we say. Luckily, kids grows out of the horrifying “new baby” look in a couple of weeks. At that point, I think it's perfectly acceptable to tell a new mom that her baby looks just like her. But, you know, until then? Nope. Just all the nope.
The explosive bowels. The spontaneous spit-up. So much grossness. The first few weeks of parenthood is like living an episode of Fear Factor. Plus, they're so tiny we tend to think that they're one mistake away from breaking into the tiniest of pieces. I, for one, was constantly afraid I was going to somehow hurt my baby if I held her the wrong way or picked her up the wrong way or just did something the wrong way. But, you know, I didn't, and chances are, you won't either.
Discounting sports and trigonometry, there were few things I totally sucked at before becoming a mom. Once I had kids, I seemed to fail at everything. Diaper changes, getting them to latch on, swaddling them without waking them. It could have been soul-crushing, but I think that’s why (just at the breaking point of six weeks) babies develop the ability to smile. One toothless grin, and all my self-doubt evaporated. They loved me even though I got their head stuck in the onesie, every damn time.
For the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, I was convinced we had given her the wrong name. “We should have gone with Juliette,” I’d whisper to myself, scanning her face for any sign that would convince me her given name was the right choice. The thing is, I probably would have felt that way about any name. It takes a little while to get used to things, like a name, or a new 7-pound roommate you just brought home!
And, in the end, I was glad not to have gone with Juliette. Two friends subsequently named their daughters that!
It was cool that everyone wanted to come see the new baby but, if I'm being honest, it stung that they didn’t want to see me. I get it; there’s a brand new, adorable human they can cuddle and coo at, and I’m just me, with leaky boobs and no food in my house to offer guests.
Why is she crying? Is she wet? Hungry? Over-stimulated? Under-stimulated? Is it too noisy? Not noisy enough? What does this baby want??
Ok, maybe it’s the postpartum stew of hormones wreaking havoc on our emotions, but sometimes, just looking at my newborn’s little face would trigger a crying outburst previously reserved for such heart-wrenching events as getting dumped or having my favorite ice cream flavor discontinued. It’s freaky to lose control like that, but it comes from a place of deep love (and exhaustion).
Not every mom forms that maternal bond upon delivery. There are a lot of feelings to sort through, and a ton of physical and emotional adjustments you have to make when, in an instant, you’ve become someone’s mother. I wasn’t seized by the feeling of being bonded to this baby immediately. In fact, I kind of didn’t recognize myself for a while. A mother? Me?
Everyone assumes that the baby is born and it’s an instant love-fest. We need the conversation about motherhood to include the notion that the mom-baby bond may take some time, and that mothers may need some help to form it. There is a huge stigma attached to the idea of not being in love with your baby the second it emerges but, it happens, and moms need to know they’re not alone.
Once the maternal instinct kicked in, I suddenly needed to kiss my baby’s feet all the time. It’s one of life’s many mysteries.
A doll talked and a chair vibrated and one of the mobiles played music, and none of it mattered to my kid. But would I dare share that with the generous souls who gifted us with all these things that I had never registered for? Of course not.
Behind every new mom’s beaming grin in that photo she just posted of her newborn, is fear. We may play it cool for Facebook, but don’t think for a second we aren’t thinking of the eight million ways our new baby might die. It is the most fragile item we’ve ever cared for and though most of us know, deep down, we are the right woman for the job, it doesn’t stop us from being gripped with worry.
Then, after you’ve made it through the first day, the first week, the first month and the baby graduates to the next clothing size and you might, maybe be sleeping for more than three consecutive hours, fear relaxes its grip on you. Some confidence might even start to take root. You think, “I’ve got this.” Trust me when I say: enjoy that feeling. I can tell you from experience, it probably won't stick around for very long.