One of the most wonderful things about motherhood is– gag, I can’t believe I’m writing something this cheesy– is that you join this tremendous– gag, here it comes– SISTERHOOD of other mothers. Vomit, I know, but it’s true.
Something happened during that last week or two that I inched towards my due date. Women everywhere started coming out of the woodwork. Friends, old friends, old sorority sisters, cousins, colleagues… all popping in with emails and texts and Facebook messages saying the same variation of the same thing: I’m cheering you on. You can do it. You are going to be a great mom. You can call me, it doesn’t matter what time it is. I hope each one of them will read this and know how much that meant to me, that I didn’t just read and forget. That I carried those sentiments with me as I battled through birth and the aftermath, remembering that I wasn’t alone, that millions of women had gone before me and would go after me. Sniff. Enough of the gaggy stuff. I guess what I mean to say is, SISTERS ARE DOIN’ IT FOR THEMSELVES.
It’s weird finding myself on the other side now. One of my very best BFFs just had a little brunette beauty and we talked for the first time yesterday. “I’m on day 12,” she says, “when does it get easier?”
Oh bless you mama. It will get better. Was the wisest thing I could think to say. I love the It Gets Better message. It’s applicable to so much. It always gets better.
I was trying to think back to Frogson’s first few weeks and much like his first few days, I struggled to even remember a lot. It was difficult. I hate even writing that, because I wonder if in some small corner of others’ minds, people look at women with PPD issues and equate it with not having love for their children. THAT’S NOT TRUE. It was difficult because I loved him so much, because I worried that I was unworthy, that he was so wonderful and perfect he deserved someone who knew exactly what they were doing, someone who could win a NOBEL PRIZE in parenting. Not dingbat me, who couldn’t even put a diaper on right (THAT IS TRUE I COULD NOT PUT ON DIAPERS THE NURSES HAD TO REDO IT FOR ME), and also had to watch a YouTube tutorial on how to put a shirt over a baby’s head (ALSO TRUE).
The first few days home were stressful. He had jaundice, he lost weight, the visiting nurses had to come over twice, I worried my face off. I spent a morning back at the stupid hospital for a problem on my end. It was the dead of winter. Jeff had to go right back to work. I d0n’t remember a lot. There were tears. I wondered if I was depressed but I thought no, I couldn’t be, because between the hysteria there was a sweet little cherubic nugget nestled on my chest, and every moment I felt so grateful that he was here and healthy. Gratitude does not an undepressed person make, though. Can we talk about gratitude? It’s a double-edged sword. The other side is self loathing. I berated myself to no end. What right did I have to feel overwhelmed? There were women doing the same thing I was with 3.5% of the luxuries and resources I have. There were women who had lost babies or pregnancies who would give anything to be up all night nursing a newborn. What a spoiled, ungrateful, undeserving, perspectiveless brat of a mother I was!
It was not healthy. At all. Sometimes I need to remind myself that HEY YOU’RE ALLOWED TO HAVE FEELINGS SOMETIMES CRAZYPANTS. You are entitled to your own struggles and emotions and it doesn’t negate the grief or the empathy you have for others. (I need to cross stitch that for my freaking wall.) So I did say that to my friend, that you can have feelings. Don’t be hard on yourself. HORMONES ARE NO JOKE.
As for the rest? It gets better. The sleep gets longer. They can hold a pacifier in their mouth for longer than 14 seconds. There are still setbacks and difficult days but it gets better. Your boobs start to feel better and nursing no longer feels like an angry chimp is clamping down on your nipples. And when it is time to nurse, baby is like CHUGGA CHUGGA CHUGGA OK all done instead of those early days, where he was like suck… suck… sucky suck… Mom how does this work again? Better go call that lactation consultant back, I’m sure she won’t mind. I’ll just wait here and sob and assume your desire is to starve me.
You heal, you feel normal again. Instead of hysterical wailing on the changing table, your baby will smile and giggle and shove both fists in their mouth, and grab your hand and pull it against their chest, and you will smile the biggest smile and your heart will melt with love and affection. Leaving the house gets easier. DID YOU HEAR THAT, THE DAY WILL COME WHEN YOU WILL LEAVE YOUR HOUSE! The lights at Target shine brighter, the produce at the grocery store tastes sweeter, you will have a spring in your step that comes not from your elastic leggings but because LOOK AT ME I LEFT THE HOUSE WHEEEEEE!
Some things stay the same. Sometimes it will still take 3 tries to get baby into a new diaper and a new outfit because they immediately pooped and/or peed and/or explosively puked milk all over the first two diapers and outfits. (And the changing table. And you. And over the changing table onto the carpet. AND NOW THE DOG IS LICKING IT OMG THIS IS MY LIFE.) But you get better at it. Your hands will fly with speed and dexterity, instead of fumbling slowly and awkwardly. Lining up the stupid snaps on baby outfits is no longer like AP Calculus. You will laugh about all of this instead of wanting to wrap yourself in a hooded bath towel and rock in the corner.
“When do you remember it getting better?” my friend asked me. I don’t really remember. 4, 5, 6 weeks? One day you will suddenly notice that you are smiling and not blankly staring. It’s like those signs in factories. It’s been 10 days since my last crying fit! When Frogson was exactly one month old, the three of us went and sat at Starbucks on a weekend. The winter was thawing. He wore one of those ridiculous knitted hats with braided tails down each side, a look only a four-week-old human could pull off. He drew awws from everyone and I fielded their questions. One month today. Our first. Yes they do grow fast don’t they? Thank you, you are kind to say that.
I felt… joy. I had a child. AND A VENTI MOCHA. We had made it.
It gets so better.