I have a friend who is going to be having her second baby soon. We got into a conversation yesterday about being a new parent, and the things people never seem to get around to telling you about.
One of the things that came up was the whole “love at first sight” thing. She shared with me that she had thought something was wrong with her at one point because she didn’t feel this instant, giddy, walking on air feeling the moment she first got to hold her daughter, and that the actuality of it was it took several months before that developed.
This hits very close to home for me, because I went through the exact same thing. When you spend your pregnancy being bombarded with A Baby Story images of love and softness and an armful of perfection, the reality of childbirth and it’s aftermath can be not only a shock, but a huge letdown. Labor isn’t called labor because its easy, and the delivery is not what the majority of moms would call a fun or delightful process. While we do get through it, most of us come out feeling like we’ve been hit by a Mack truck, and looking like we’ve been rode hard and put away wet. After all that work, you want a meal, a shower, and the best painkillers the hospital will give you. Instead, you are handed this funny-looking bundle of need who will be depending solely on you for the next few years. Every meal, every discomfort, even every bowel movement is something you will be required to attend to. They don’t care if you are hungry, they don’t care if they kept you up all night, they don’t care if you haven’t gotten a shower in 3 days, and they don’t care that its the season finale of Desperate Housewives. They want what they want and they want. it. NOW. It’s a daunting task for us seasoned moms, for a first timer it can be overwhelming. In the midst of trying to cope with all this NEED, while still healing from battle yourself, you are expected to automatically love this child?
Not to say it doesn’t happen, for some people it really does. And I envy them, because I never had that. It took a couple of months before that giddy feeling set in and I knew I truly loved this little person. I think like falling in love with another adult, it takes familiarity and time spent together. And despite the expectations society seems to have, I think, based on conversations with many other moms, this is much more common than we realize. Like post-partum depression, its a little-talked about thing, because who wants to say “No, I didn’t fall in love with my baby at first sight”? It almost sounds CPS-worthy, fodder for gossip certainly in the best of cases. And it makes us look and feel like bad mothers, which is the weak spot of every parent, because its not just a job, its who we are. To feel like we have failed at that is to take an almost fatal blow to our very core.
I think as moms we need to learn to become more honest with ourselves and those around us. It was only after sharing my experience those I knew admitted yes, they had felt that way too, but had kept it hidden from those closest to them, like some shameful secret. Why can we not talk about these things? Why do we have to keep up this facade that life with a newborn is peachy-perfect from day one? The fact is it’s a damn hard thing to deal with, and the most important thing we can do for ourselves is admit as much and accept the support from those closest to us who have been there as well.