The eating, pooping, sleeping peaked within the first two months after my daughter's birth. It seemed endless. I felt like just a cow or just a warm body. I didn't feel like a mother or a wife or an individual anymore. I often asked "Where am I? Who am I?" but couldn't conjure up a solid answer anymore. I sat on my couch for 12 hours a day to feed. It was overwhelming and I often felt desperate and sad. I tried to hold on to the beautiful parts of motherhood but couldn't hold on to them for more than a few minutes at a time or for a few hours- on a good day. When the fog began to lift (just recently), other aspects of motherhood began to come into view. I started to SEE my little one. I started to get to know her. I had wanted to feel this since the beginning, but since shortly after birth, breastfeeding became unbearably painful and hormonal changes had me on the brink of tears constantly, there was a big delay. The emotional rollercoaster was pretty intense, but I had the hardest time with the breastfeeding. After the first week of breastfeeding, my little one took a piece of my left nipple. And it's just now- three months later- that I'm nearly all healed up. I thought I would quit more than a dozen times. I felt like such an unfit mother. I wondered how that beautiful scene of mother nursing daughter as they lovingly gazed at each other was ever possible. I had that picture in my head all the time and constantly wondered what I was doing wrong. It was only when I started opening up and sharing my feelings that other women began to share their own challenges. So many women had a very hard transition into motherhood and even more loathed breastfeeding. I never knew. I always thought the baby popped out and you were flooded with love and automatically knew what to do. I guess this belief was why my experience was especially shocking to me. I wish more people talked more openly about their difficulties. Which is why- as private as I am- am sharing what I am feeling.
My pregnancy was great. No complications. I was the perfect picture of a healthy pregnant mom-to-be. The only issue I had while pregnant was the feelings that came up about my own mom. I was so angry at her for all the things she had seemingly done wrong. I blamed her for so much. Maybe that was hormones too- I'm not quite sure now. Whatever it was, I was enraged by all the shouldacouldawoulda's. I wondered internally "Why wasn't I breastfed? Why did she go back to work so soon? Why did she miss our recitals and performances? Why was she never a PTA mom?" It wasn't until one day that my mom and I had a chat one afternoon when she was helping me with my little one that I understood and began to let go of some of the anger. I'm happy to say it's somewhat subsided. I attribute that to the very helpful book I'm reading right now called "The Science of Parenting" by Margot Sunderland. It explains, in a very scientific but relatable way, what happens to children and their brains due to specific forms of parenting. I am a practitioner of natural and attachment parenting- meaning that I listen to my baby's cues, I wear my baby in a sling/carrier, and I breastfeed her- and apparently, this is the best way to parent because it helps babies learn to feel safe in the world, it is very soothing to their highly alterable states, and it teaches them how to be well adjusted and how to cope as children and into adulthood. And as newborns and young babies, it helps them reduce the cortisol level when they cry (cortisol is very bad for babies and their brain development). Reading all about this, I realize where my own anxieties come from and how maybe my mom and dad's parenting falling short of these tenets shaped my reaction to stress and to all of life's situations in general. Yes she made mistakes. Some major ones too. But if my mom is truly at fault of anything, it is of making the world too safe for me sometimes. She sheltered us in a lot of protection. Anxiety and stress came about in me when I- much later in life than most people I think- finally came face to face with difficult situations.
Motherhood is hard. It's not my favorite thing in the world. It took a session with a beautiful healing soul named Joyce (an excellent massage therapist and Barbara Brennan healer) to allow myself to admit it. She was also very encouraging as far as sharing my story with others so that I could shed some light to other women who may be going through similar experiences and feeling alone, shameful and/or overwhelmed. The good news is the situation will evolve and it does get better and I know this because everyone around me has now shared their stories with me and they have all come out the other side stronger, no less sane and as happy parents.
Which is GREAT news actually because I don't always want to smell like sour milk.