How hard is it really?

There has been a lot of talk since yesterdays Oprah aired.  Two well off beautiful women wrote another (latest of 3) book and came on to talk about Motherhood.  The title is good.  “I’d trade my Husband for a Housekeeper.”

I have to say I’m tired of “nobody tells you.”    Today we have limitless resources on the Internet both in actual parenting advice and that of our sisters in the blogsphere.  Chances are, like me, you started reading Amalah, Sundry or Dooce well before you started having kids.  And let me tell you, they told me!  They told me how much being a Mom can fill you with equal parts joy and shit.  They promised that life as a Mom is chalk full of disappointment and screw-ups.  Full of misery and loneliness.   Every magazine on the table at the OB’s office has an article about not bonding with your newborn, how hard it is to nurse, and that no matter how hard you try you will loose something about your old life once this new one is in it.

So really, I think that if we allowed ourselves to be told, we were.  Now getting it is another issue entirely.   It is all very abstract to us first timers.   So when that kid tears it way out (literally)( we knew that, too)  it can still be really shocking to find out that they were, gasp, telling the truth!

You can scour my archives if you have the time and want to know how those first weeks really were.  But, you have a life or a kid or two.  Maybe both if your lucky so I will tell you here.   It’s hard!  All of it and for months and months and months.   It’s all varying degrees of hard,  that little dictator wont let you get in on him and keeps changing the game just when you think you’ve got it figured out.  I know that Nate’s 2nd month was the hardest, by far.  I brought home a very peaceful baby who wanted nothing but to nurse, sit quietly and sleep in his crib/bouncer/my arms/carseat.  He was up to eat a lot but slept most of the time.  The 2nd month was bad, and I remember every time I look at his pictures.  There about about 12 for the entire month.  He started cluster feeding in addition to having belly aches as I learned what I could and could not eat.  I got my first (of a million) clogged milk duct.  I admitted that it was harder than I thought.

I think that most of us go through the hard part mostly alone.  Even if your near your family, its typically us who are up at 11,1,3,5 am feeding all alone.  Those are some really dark and difficult nights that seem to run on for a life time.  And in those days/nights who the hell knows is it dusk or dawn first months of a new life that is all you know.     While we are out here alone I was still surprised how much I was alone.  Not even in the since of being home in the house alone but how much of the job of being a Mom is just you.  That must sound stupid but really.  When your baby cries at night you get up.  You are the one who looses the sleep.  You are all alone in those hours spent up trying to get that baby down.  Just you and your thoughts.  These were quite literally my darkest moments.   What I knew but wasn’t prepared for was how I would operate with such sleep deprivation.  It was ugly.  I remember so vividly a night when Nathan was about 7 weeks old and he wouldn’t nurse.  He kept latching on and pulling off with a “pop” and then crying.  At one point he arched away and I let him roll form the bobby to my lap.  I didn’t try to catch him,  I let his little  noodle body roll right off.   I was lucky he was so small and didn’t fall to the floor.   In that second, I didn’t care.   That ugly split second when I just wanted to go to sleep and walk away.   That incident was the only one I had like it.  I immediately started crying wondering how I could have let him roll that way.  He was fine but I had learned my lesson.  That was something I could have never anticipated or been told to expect.  That exhaustion could get the best of me that way.  It did and I was shocked and disgusted with myself.   While nothing like that happened again there were countless nights that I would just sob while he ate.  Several times waking Mike up I was so loud.    There was just something about the middle of the night that broke me, and often.  

The thing is though, you get through it.  For me it took about 5 months.  Around that time Nate started sleeping all night, I had dropped all of the baby weight and we were out of the newborn stage.  All equal contributing factors, for sure.   I think that with any new job there is an adjustment period and this is the same, only different, since the adjustment period is about 18 years or so. 

The women today (I’m only referring to the book authors) said they were lonely, they didn’t know who they were anymore, and that basically they like being Moms but don’t like the work.  Which I can relate to at least a day or two per week.  Some days are just that way.  I do count down the minutes  until bedtime and have given Nate pudding for dinner because OMG I swear if you feed one more bite of food to the dog/throw it on the floor I will light my hair on fire and run into the street.  But as far as not liking the work.  That’s not me.  I love this.   I wont go as far as to say it’s my calling but I do feel suited for it.  I think that Nate and I are a fantastic match.   And, no matter what kind of day we have had within 30 minutes of him going down for the night I can’t wait for tomorrow. 

I don’t think I’m different or lucky.  I think that this just fits both my personality and my needs.   I love to entertain him and earn a smile or a giggle.  I love to read and color and go down the same slide 46 times because that is exactly what he wants to do.   I love that he needs me, that’s not something that’s really popular to say but it is true for me.     I love that we can communicate well, that he is able to express his wants and needs with words that I have taught him, both verbally and with sign.   I love that we seem to fill each other with joy.   Being the center of a kid’s universe can be super demanding but is has a load of peaks, too.

The truth is: yes, it is hard work.  There is no PTO, hell, no TO.  And it is real work raising a little one to be a decent human.   There is no guarantee that you’re doing any of it right and that your human will in fact, be decent.  The only thing I know for sure is I chose to bring this little one here so I’d better do my best while his ears are free of ipod ear-buds and before his eyes have learned to roll at me.     A job I take pretty seriously, but not so seriously that pudding for dinner won’t do on a day when nothing else will.

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9 thoughts on “How hard is it really?

  1. Yes, yes, yes!!! I agree with everything you said. It’s still the middle of the night that gets me – we’re almost night-weaned, but Toby still wakes up once a night, and is still finding it difficult to go back to sleep without nursing. The other night he was awake from 12:30 – 2:30. Towards the end of that block, I was just so angry with him, and I actually thought to myself “I don’t know if the pluses outweight this…”. But, of course, he went to sleep eventually, and as I stood there listening to him snuffling away in bed, and sucking his pacifier, I thought to myself “Yes. Yes, this outweighs everything else.”

  2. I love it! Seriously, I don’t see how these women (the authors) could NOT have known the challenge that motherhood is. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that 90% of the books, blogs, articles, etc., that discuss the new world of parenting cover this exact topic – what to expect, and it’s not all rainbows and unicorns, heck, I think a good 70% of the time (I’m just throwing these numbers out there) they give you the beyond worse case scenarios.

    Part of us likes to live in la-la land and think, “oh, that won’t be me, surely it can’t be that bad,” but we were forewarned. We had an idea that it COULD be that bad. I’ve always wanted to hear the worst case scenarios, that way if it went just a smidge better than that, I’d feel good and if it went just as bad, I’d feel that I was in the norm.

    Ok, I should really quit my ranting now. Thanks for your post, it was a great one!

  3. Oh, I love this post. The nights were a very dark time, early on – they brought up anger and fear and exhaustion. Ugly, ugly emotions.

    But I can honestly say that now, at 14 months in? My most-frequently experienced emotion is simple joy. Sure, there’s frustration, but this? I would trade this for nothing. Even though I had to go through THAT to get here.

  4. Oh Christina your honesty is so refreshing. Here I am starting this whole middle of the night thing over again. Isaac is one week old today and although I’m getting up several times a night it hasn’t proven to be challenging yet because he is so young he falls right back to sleep but I know what is around the corner. My anxiety would snowball and my blood pressure felt like it would skyrocket those evenings of colic and late night feedings. Oy.

    Also, is the Oprah worth watching the whole thing? We recorded it but I turned it off after those well off beautiful women were annoying me with their its so hard, no one told us as they are throwing this expensive elabrate Safari birthday party for their freaking 5 year old. Only recorded it because of all the bloggers that were on it so I’ll probably finish watching it.

  5. This is so well done. So well done. I refer to the first three months of R’s life as, frankly, the worst of my life. But the thing is, I want to do it again. It took me a little longer to figure that out than most people, but I do. This is must-reading for anyone dreaming of being, trying to get or already pregnant.

  6. (This is a beautiful, incredible post.)

    I think, in my sleep-deprived opinion, the reason it’s so shockingly hard for people who have been told (in great detail) because it’s hard in very specific, unique ways. What was hard for one woman is always slightly different than what is hard for the next. It’s impossible to really prepare yourself for how hard it’s going to be FOR you. And so I get that everyone talks about how hard it is so it’s not necessarily a news flash that motherhood is hard, but it’s stunning (it’s nearly unbelievable) when it hits you personally.

    And I don’t think (again, to me) that it’s really about people talking about it being hard that needs to happen more (you’re right, there are plenty of blogs and plenty of articles and plenty of first-hand accounts), but people need to have the freedom to talk about their own experiences without fear of judgment or loss of respect. Even if it’s the same story that’s been told nine million times by nine million women before, we need to welcome the next story, even if it’s nine million and one. Because to that woman it’s the only story she has and she has to feel comfortable enough to tell it, on Oprah, on her blog, to her friends over lunch and know that every other mother may not identify completely with her very unique experience, but they’ll reach their hand out to let her know that no matter what, she’s not alone.

  7. This is a wonderful post. I love that you gave a specific example of something you weren’t proud of doing–I feel like I have those all the time, raising my voice or holding my kid too tightly or saying “Shut UP!” when your daughter wakes herself out of a sleep during bedtime and then starts screaming and you don’t know what to do to make it better. (That one happened just last week.) And I was so embarrassed about it. I didn’t even want Luke to know about it, though I’m sure he heard me say it and that’s why he came in and offered to take over. And even though I was frustrated beyond belief, I still said no. For some reason, I had to be the one to make it better for her.

    I agree we need to be allowed to be more honest about what the bad times are like for us. That more than anything makes it easier to carry on–knowing other people have been where you are, have made less than stellar choices, and are still great parents to their children.

    Rock on, sista friend.

  8. Wow, what a gorgeous post. Seriously, that’s publish-worthy. It makes it so much better to hear other moms voicing your thoughts. I know exactly what you mean about the middle of the night – between 1 and 4 seems like the toughest for some reason.

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