I recently read an interesting blog post, written by a long time blogger and fellow IF survivor, Miss Conception. Her series of posts on the challenges of being a new mom, bring back memories of my own fraught journey from maidenhood to motherhood, and the sadness and fear that accompanied the joy and awe of bringing Bean into this world.
When Bean was born, the love and protectiveness I felt towards her was instantaneous, but the rest – the selflessness, capability, and motherly “instinct” I thought I was supposed to feel – were not. At this point in my life, I don’t believe they are for anyone, at least not with a first child.
My post-partum situation was a little unusual, as I was hospitalized two days after giving birth, and separated from Bean. It was necessary to keep her away, to allow me some time to rest, and to protect Bean from the germs and exposure of multiple trips back and forth to the hospital, but I missed her terribly and I felt very disconnected from my new role as mom. Rather than glorying in my new baby, nursing and snuggling quietly at home, I was stuck in an uncomfortable hospital bed, loaded up on painkillers that hardly masked the pain I was in, weak as a kitten, and strapped to a breast pump every three hours to express toxin filled milk to be dumped down the sink. I felt helpless, impotent, disconnected and a bit like a failure…feelings that were only amplified when I wasn’t able to successfully transition Bean back to the breast after her time on the bottle.
That was my first week with my baby, painful both physically and mentally, and the fun didn’t really stop there, just the hospital stay.
Over time I did heal, I did learn the ABCs of Bean, and I did come to trust in my motherly instincts, but it was all a learning process…
I learned that mothers don’t actually instinctively know their babies the best, they just spend the most time with them and learn to read every sign and every sound. The instinct part is more animalistic, more practical for baby’s immediate survival – like being in tune to your baby’s cries – but knowing that this cry means I’m hungry, and this other cry means I’m tired…that is just observation over time.
I learned that every mother mourns her maidenhood. My sister taught me this – one night when I was melting into a puddle of post-partum misery and guilt. Mourning your life before is normal. Grieving for your lost childhood and former freedom is normal. As Miss Conception says quite perfectly, “…before children we tend to live a fairly selfish life. A life based around what we want and need. To go from that, to putting yourself second or third always….overnight….is huge.” It is huge, and it is sad. The life you knew is gone forever, so taking a few moments to cry and feel the loss, that’s okay.
I learned that no matter how hard the journey, you will ultimately forget or bury the bad over time, and will instead focus on every smile, every giggle and each new day with your child. You will rise to the occasion over and over, even when you think you can’t, and you will become a person you didn’t know you had the strength to be.