Monday, June 14, 2010

When Motherhood Isn’t What You Dream It Will Be

All my life, I have wanted to be a mom.

But whenever I thought about having kids of my own, the images were of camping trips, fireworks on the fourth of July, making Christmas cookies, or being there when they got their first tooth. I have never been a “baby person” like some girls. I like babies (especially now that I have one of my own), but I was never crazy about the baby stage.

Maybe that’s partially why this year has been so emotionally and physically draining for me.

Last week a very popular mom blogger (she’s very funny but she uses a lot of bad language so I’m not linking to her here) wrote an entire post about how motherhood was not at all what she expected. She got a lot of comments from people who thought that was “so sad” and couldn’t imagine feeling that way. I commented to thank her for her honesty and writing. Because a lot of us are “so sad” that life with our babies hasn’t been what we thought it would.

I read a LOT during my pregnancy. I know a lot of people with kids, and I’ve babysat my fair share of babies. I knew that it would be tiring to have a newborn, that my sleep would be disrupted for a while, and that it would be a huge learning curve to become another person’s everything.

I was not prepared for him to still have sleep problems over a year later (after we’ve done “sleep training” several times). I was not prepared for a baby who – for months – refused to be put in a sling or a wrap but instead screamed unless he was held facing outward so he could see everything. I was not prepared for the two hours every day in the afternoon of crying and fussiness that didn’t stop for the first few months of his life.

I was unprepared for a c-section, after a doctor who told me I’d have a baby easily by sundown since I’d been progressing for weeks. I was unprepared for not being able to hold my sweet boy until an hour and a half after surgery. I was unprepared for nursing to be a total failure, and to hear from my Lactation Consultants that pumping was really a better option for me. I was unprepared for the extreme pain of pumping during engorgement, and the extreme tiredness that occurred when I would pump for 30-40 minutes (still never relieving the pressure fully), store and clean the supplies, feed my baby, then try to catch 1/2 hour of sleep before doing it all again. I was unprepared for how little help I got when every “professional” and expert I called – except for one blessed woman – couldn’t tell me how to stop pumping but instead tried to convince a sobbing girl on the phone to just suck it up and try breastfeeding again. I was unprepared for the subtle judgment that came from a few people when they found out I was a formula-feeding mom.

I was unprepared to have days when I was SO tired that I actually thought “If we both died and went to heaven then all of this would just go away.” (I never wanted to hurt him or myself, just for the pain and tiredness to stop.)

I was unprepared for so many things that I felt like I was blindsided.

There were many days when I thought, “What have we done? Why did we start a family? I am not strong enough to cope with this.” It makes me cry just to think of all of these memories and all of the heartache that occurred over this past year of my life.

Last night in bed I couldn’t sleep and all of the ‘bad’ memories just came flooding back and I just cried and cried and cried. Basically for the golden motherhood that I feel like I’ve never experienced. I have friends that had wonderful deliveries, and amazing breastfeeding experiences. I know people with content, placid babies, who are a total joy and easy to please. I read about babies who sleep 11-14 hours a night, with great naps during the day.

That is not my story with Luke.

I know that persevering through hard times builds character. I thought I was a strong person before motherhood – ha! I knew nothing. I have cried more times this past year than the 10 years previously. If it weren’t for a wonderful husband and the knowledge that I was being prayed for, I’m not sure what would have happened.

I choose to believe that God brought my through this past year of my life so that I would have the compassion and understanding to empathize with other mothers like me. Mothers who have more breakdown moments than golden ones. Whose beautiful dreams of what mothering will be came crashing down in the face of actual motherhood reality. There is so much pressure to feel that motherhood should be perfect, and if your experience doesn’t fit the bill than something’s wrong with you. I rarely hear any bad comments about mothering – so either 90% of the people I know have perfect kids or a lot of people are lying to fit in.

I can honestly say now that besides him getting up at 4:30 am for the last 10 exhausting days (I know that this will eventually pass), my son is a joy to be with. We play together, he mimics us, he giggles when we do silly things and he loves it when we chase him so he can run and hide. I love him so much it hurts (in a good way). Besides the early wake-ups, I feel like I have come through the other side, so to speak. It has taken a long time for the happy to outweigh the sad and tired.

And so I just want you to know that if you’re in that sad/tired/ overwhelmed/ stressed out place right now, please know you can talk to me. I might be a virtual stranger, but I am a real person who believes in the real power of prayer and I am willing to pray for you. My e-mail address is blessedlifeblog{at}gmail{dot}com and please know that if you need to vent, I am here. If you don’t want to explain anything, you can just write “pray” and write your first name. I am fully convinced that motherhood is impossible without support. I know what you’re going through, and you are not alone.

Maybe you can’t relate to anything I just typed. I am happy for you. Jealous, yes, but happy for you. But if you can relate – please know that you have a someone who cares, and it will get better.

You can e-mail any time.

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