Baby scent and tiny, chunky legs will imprint themselves on your memory forever. Later, “I love you mommy” and tiny hands clasping your shoulders, reverently you hope, (definitely obsessively) will be the incense of your days. Motherhood is an irreplaceable snuggle you can’t believe you get to have. Parenthood is a life changer for both mom and dad. The smiling photos on the web consolidate that. The sweet little items of clothing in photos perfectly arranged for the little one who will change your life.
It’s been a long minute I know. I’ve been swamped by deadlines but I decided to make this post because I needed two seconds to come up for air and I think someone may need to have this space…
I get that. Children are marvelous gifts. Still, I’ve heard women around me, (including me), discover in dismay, over and over that this experience is not the Magic Kingdom it is made out to be. More often than not, the glory is exaggerated for the internet and sometimes for gratification. Perhaps, and rightly so, moms pat themselves and their community on the back and keep going. But there is so much that we are not privy to, growing up, while floundering about in the carefree, innocent arena of childhood. It’s like a PG-13 movie a lot of us wait eagerly to watch when we are old enough, then discover that it’s actually MA in content. When we step into this wild experience of being a mama, we ask ourselves often: why did no one tell us this?
Would we have listened? Everyone knows that a baby changes your life. But I don’t think we realise how much until one is staring you dead in the face with its wonderfully lucid eyes. You don’t get to keep him/her for a few hours then send them back to the workshop in the heavenly realm. You don’t get to return them. Babies are not play things. They are entire human beings you must take responsibility for, for quite a long time. I don’t mean to scare you (although realistically it can be scary.) I often think we did not discover the weight of it because we wouldn’t understand. I mean, why would our parents be struggling to hold it together when we were shining examples of their effort? We were given everything we needed. We had their best. Sometimes they could be cranky but most times we felt whatever variation of love they had to offer. In the most ideal parenting setups anyway…
I think we did not discover it because many mothers are so occupied with coping through the drastically new and crazy transition that they do not often have time to really process it well enough to share the experience in detail. There are some elements of trauma many of us hesitate to expose, consciously or unconsciously.
I think we did not discover it because some mothers decide that it is their duty to protect and sharing experience deemed by everyone else to be normal could come across as overly self-indulgent. And it is very easy to lose yourself in the demands of parenting such that you forget that you’re a person too with needs that matter too. Often raising your voice about those needs could be met with dismissal, invalidation or disinterest. These reactions encourage many of us to shut up altogether because when others cannot identify or listen it can be quite the isolating experience. No one wants rejection, not even in that form, so many of us swallow whatever difficulty confronts us and we face the world head on with our fists up. Ready to do what it takes to simply survive. Social expectations can make you feel like this is a weight that you were born to bear, (by the way stop shaming people who cannot or choose not to have children). But the truth is, it is so much easier when you don’t have to do it alone. (It still hard doh..)
Mother’s Day has passed but I want to remind mommies that you are seen. Like really seen. Beyond the sweet cooking, loving lullabies and great sacrifices. Here are some experiences I hope will validate some, enlighten some and give community to others. So here in no particular order, are a bunch of things you’ve probably never been told about early motherhood but may have walked through sooner or later.
They never tell you that you’re really carrying a child for ten months. Maybe nine is to make it feel shorter and soften the blow. But you’re literally carrying a human inside you for a year. And the nearer you get to the end the more you obsessively clean and can’t wait to evict the tiny tenant.
They never tell you that the speculum will become a wonderful and constant friend at the doctor’s office. I’m being sarcastic.
They never tell you about mommy brain. And how you will sometimes forget your name and probably never sound like the genius you were. When you see how brilliant your child turns out you know where it has all gone. Hopefully.
They never tell you that you’ve got to pay doctor fees, hospital fees and a plethora of fees I can’t remember.
They never tell you about the catheter (horrific) before a section and that if you need an epidural, if it misses it can paralyze you. Fortunately, responsible doctors won’t let this happen to you. No worries.
They never tell you that breathing classes fly out the window when you are labouring.
They never tell you that you can rip or get an episiotomy during natural delivery when the baby comes out. Not pretty. Not fun.
They never tell you that your section cut will be there forever and your belly could very well never re-assume its original form.
They never tell you that your boobs are probably going to get wrung by nurses coaxing them to produce milk. One nurse taught me that there are better means though.
They never tell you that you can struggle in those first months learning about latching. And worry that the baby is starving. And can suffer with mastitis. (That fever hits different). And that some of us may never produce milk at all and that THAT IS OK. Fed is best.
They never tell you that carrying a child is literally a life or death, suspenseful scenario. Fortunately, life is often the outcome for both mommy and baby. You’ll be okay!
They never tell you that you’re a mother from the moment life begins to form in you. You already start making changes to accommodate your little one. You calm down where you would wig out normally because it will stress the baby. You eat the best way you know how for the sake of the baby. You talk to your belly when nobody is looking.
They never tell you that labour pain feels like you’re dying. I thought my entire body was on fire. No exaggeration. Some have it easier and honestly I’m glad for you. Imagine being dipped in hell for several hours. Contractions are waves of tractor wheels.
They never tell you that the baby nap is a part of the imagination. You finally get an hour to find purpose for your life and somehow get 4 days of workload covered and before you know it it is gone. The best thing to do is sleep. Because you probably won’t get it at night or consistently for a few more years. I’m writing this at 3.30 a.m. y’all. When else can you get things done?
They never tell you that your family is just as on-edge as you are about the introduction of the new family member. It can feel like a bombardment of instructions and different opinions very frequently. Everyone means well and everyone thinks they know best. Try your best to discern good advice (it ain always google.) You eventually find your mommy shoes and walk in them however. Stay strong.
They never tell you that post-pregnancy you bleed for a few weeks. You will need an adult diaper or pad. Prepare sis. Oh and your hair could fall out.
They never tell you that everyone, including strangers, wants to touch, hold and kiss the baby. Lioness arise. This is a no-no you don’t realise how deeply you feel until you have your own. Don’t be afraid to set boundaries.
They never tell you that baby supplies are incredibly expensive and need to be constantly restocked. I literally looked at diaper rash cream and yelled “WHAT?!” in the supermarket when I saw the price. A father passing by with his little one uttered an affirmative – “I know right.” Nineteen dollars for a 4 oz tube. I can’t make this up.
They never tell you that your body image can get messed up especially with the pressure to snap back. Many of us will find the determination to rebound eventually but in those early days some of us are nursing section wounds, barely have time to eat or bathe and are just slightly getting ourselves and our babies through the day. Very slightly.
They never tell you that babies can be addicted to their mothers. People love to ask you to leave your baby with others (which is necessary to some extent if you intend to survive) but babies know when they are leaving their mothers and many are not interested in departing. As they age (boys I’m talking about you) they will journey to the centre of the Earth to find mommy and it doesn’t matter what Mother Theresa task you are laying your life down for. It doesn’t matter that you want to pee. They want you now.
They never tell you that your house will never be clean again and that toys colliding with the floor will be the theme song of your days when you’re in the toddler stage.
They never tell you that your child will have an obsession with running the tap, opening your fridge, innovating their way out of any holding spaces you build, stool in the shower and pretend that they can’t hear you. They are the wittiest little whipper snappers and they make you feel bemused, amused, frustrated and proud all at once. One thing I’m trying to balance is ensuring that he knows when to stand down without crushing his powerful resolve and laser sharp concentration (he’s gonna need those).
They never tell you that you have to do some measure of putting your dreams on hold to properly care for and bond with your baby.
They never tell you that your relationships change. This is hard and unexpected and needs another blog post all on its own.
They never tell you that you can feel left behind when you see your contemporaries achieving their goals and yours take a little bit longer. Don’t give up on them. Your efforts and your end point still count greatly.
They never tell you what a blessing it is to have a strong support system. Mommies are superheroes but they can’t do absolutely everything. We’d love to but we can’t. Thank your significant others, grannies, friends, sisters, whoever as often as you can.
They never tell you that sometimes you legit wish you can run away and never come back… I did not stutter.
They never tell you that you will feel extremely lonely sometimes. Vulnerability can be met with “but I did it and they turned out fine”, “you feel this way because you are doing this incorrectly”, “raising children is not that hard, get some backbone”. Sometimes mothers around us “getting everything perfectly” can be intimidating. Rest assured that most if not all of us have no idea what we are doing and are figuring it out! Find people who will be honest with you but understanding of you.
They never tell you that you will never be the same person again and that you need to patiently grow to love this new person. You are still amazing.
They never tell you that your experience will be your own. That you are chosen for your baby. That no one will mother that child better than you can. Embrace it.
I’ve got more tattling to do if you guys want to hear it. Feel free to add your own or let me know if you relate.
Love you mama take it easy. Happy Mother’s Day.