As mothers, we've heard them all. Whether during a pregnancy or the early child-rearing years, friends, family and strangers both near and far are quick to share these existential gems with you, or as I like to call them, the "myths of motherhood."
Here I sit, ten weeks out from welcoming our third son and while I try so hard to ignore my ever-growing to do list, I can't help but reminisce and think back on some of the crazy things people have said to me during these times in my life.
"Having a baby should be one of the happiest moments of your life!"
Welcoming a new baby into your family is a blessed, life-changing event, and the love that a mother feels for her baby can be all-consuming, transformative even but for many mothers, both new and seasoned, giving birth to a new baby and furthermore, those first few weeks of newborn-dom isn't always fairy dust and unicorns. Having a baby doesn't necessarily change you, per say. You're still "you" but now "you" suddenly have a baby to look after.
Whatever insecurities haunted you before becoming pregnant/having a child, remain and may even be amplified. You and your spouse won't magically begin seeing eye to eye on everything and marital conflicts still occur. Often times those first few weeks following the birth of your new baby are so fog-filled, with sleepless nights, sore nipples and thoughts of "oh my god what have we done," that it may be difficult to feel anything other than overwhelmed. That's okay. It's normal, in fact. Happiness will come but don't let people make you feel like a horrible mother if you aren't singing the praises of motherhood just moments after birth. Like with any milestone in life, an adjustment period or rather grace period, is necessary.
"Breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do for your baby."
Speaking of sore nipples, breastfeeding my babies was the hardest "easiest" thing I've ever had to do. Parenting book after parenting book after hospital pamphlet had me believing that my milk would flow, baby would latch and all the while angels would be singing. Let's just say that was about the furthest thing to happen after the birth of my first. There was toe-curling and tears, over-supply turned lack of supply issues, poor latching and if any music was playing, it was definitely more of a heavy metal undertone than a Hallelujah.
For many of us, breastfeeding does not come naturally. It is a learned experience that requires just that, learning. As well as patience and ultimately sacrifice of both your body and your time as a mother. Having been told and therefore assuming that it would "come naturally," I wasn't prepared for that type of dedication after my first baby. Knowing what I know now about breastfeeding prepared me for the birth of my second baby and all of the hard work that it would ultimately take for us to achieve a successful nursing relationship. Not only was I knowledgeable but I was prepared and I made sure to surround myself with the support of other women who had been there and served as my veritable "boobie cheerleaders," if you will.
Breastfeeding is not easy. It does not come naturally. And it hurts like a motherf*cker. But? It gets better. After nineteen months of nursing my second baby, I can promise you, it gets better. Hang in there.
"Sleep when the baby sleeps."
This is one of those pieces of mom-advice that always sounds so great in theory but when applied to real life, it isn't exactly the easiest execute. Yes, those first few weeks (maybe even months) of having a new baby in the house are exhausting. You will not sleep as much nor as well as you once did and you will feel it with every inch of your body every minute of the day. There will be days when, yes, you can absolutely sleep when the baby sleeps and for everyone's sake, you should.
There will also be, however, many more days when the laundry needs to be washed, the kitchen cleaned and heck, maybe your other children would like to play with something that doesn't require batteries. Life doesn't magically pause once baby arrives. Dishes still pile up, clothes are dirtied and although the saying, "babies don't keep" rings true, your husband will appreciate a hot meal and a clean pair of underwear every now and then. Do not be afraid to accept help and for those of us who feel awkward asking others to do our laundry, pin a list to the refrigerator of "tasks" that need tasking. When friends and family come to visit, hopefully they'll catch on.
"A good mother never yells."
This is just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Mothering is H-A-R-D and we, as mothers, are only human. With the bearing of each child, we aren't given additional patience, super powers or an extra dose of grace to handle the chaos that comes with raising babies who undoubtedly turn into toddlers no matter how much we try and stave off years 3 and 4, as charming as they are.
"A good mother yells and she may even stomp her feet and scream into pillows but then she takes a deep breath, returns from her hiding place in the pantry and says she is sorry all the while hugging and kissing her child," is what that should really say.
There's only so many times a mother can count to three before she loses her cool. Along the same vein, it's okay to love your children but not like them every second of every day. It's okay to desire a break from them regardless of whether you're home with them all day or just between the hours of 7pm and 7am.
Being a mother is exhausting. It is taxing. It is filled with unreasonable demands such as "Mommy, could you please build me a purple unicorn that sings, dances and brushes my teeth from these here two q-tips?" or "Mommy, can I please wear Daddy's shoes, this pair of Superman underwear and your scarf to the grocery store while it's blizzard-ing outside?" that if not immediately met, send the tiny demanding dictator into an epileptic fit of epic proportions.
Being a mother is hard work in an often thankless position but it is a work that also brings so much joy and so much love along with it that with just the joy and the love alone, it redeems itself.
So moms, the next time someone waxes poetic on all of the happiness, and sleep and soft-talking you should be experiencing as a mother, do not let these myths of motherhood fool you. Real moms and good moms and even us good enough moms, we all know the secret to motherhood is SURVIVAL, no matter how we come about it at the end of each day. And if you find yourself in one of those "less than motherly moments," send me an email. I can guarantee I will make you feel much better about yourself as a mother in no less than four lines of size 10 Times New Roman.