When you first laid eyes on that positive pregnancy test, so many things likely came…
You carried a real human baby to term, birthed them out in some way that is generally painful and scary in its unknown-ness, “slept” a couple of nights in a foreign space with multiple wake-ups for vital checks, experienced a fear of pooping, and held your crying baby feeling unsure of what they need, and now — you get to go home! Alone! All alone!
After cradling my newborn’s head in the car seat while my husband drove super slowly back to our apartment, we got inside (some of us waddling more than others), plopped her down on a boppy pillow, and just…stared at her. I had a vague understanding of feeding and sleeping cycles, but my mind couldn’t fully grasp what that was going to look like. What was it going to feel like? What did I even feel at this moment?
I barely knew this kid. We had only named her hours before as we were leaving the hospital. My body is like a foreign object, and I’m expected to take care of her…all the time? You want us to do all of this…by ourselves…unsupervised? Like, without another adult around? This is where I started to freak out.
Up until this point, I had read all of the articles about things I could prepare for. I watched videos and Pinned projects and brushed up on different parenting styles, trying to imagine our new lives in context. I even worked as an early childhood educator and spent my entire professional life around little kids. I have seen thousands of families and met so many different kinds of moms.
I knew I was ready for parenting. And like a lot of expectant and new moms, I sought out all the mom content to try to find glimpses of things to come — to unlock, break down, crack open the “you’ll know when you know” mentality. Because I was going to be different. I was going to know before I knew. You know what I mean? We all understand our whole lives are going to change, but we can’t fully grasp that until it’s happened. And then it happens.
And then, if you’re like me, you end up on the Mommy Blogs. Now, not all Mommy Blogs ascribe to the aesthetic or everything-is-perfect vibe, but I found myself reading a lot about Rebecca Lynn (or whatever) who wears white linen around her toddler, and bakes beautiful zucchini muffins in her farmhouse chic kitchen, talking about how little Sabrina latched like a champ and she still had to time to make a lasagna.
I hated it, but I…loved it? It was like reality TV through Instagram, starring women I like making fun of, but am clearly jealous of somehow? From the personalized baby blankets and babymoons, to adorable muslin swaddle patterns and the baby that sleeps 9 hours through the night, these ladies know how to sell you sleep programs and $80 nursing tank tops.
They make you feel like maybe you’d have the energy to do those DIY craft projects to make your kid become a prodigy. At the very least, they make you believe that you’ll know how to feed your baby and get them to go to sleep. But here’s the thing. Are you ready to hear the thing? Social media is designed to lead us to believe a lot of things that aren’t actually true, even when we are savvy enough to know that it’s a ruse.
I could see the Rebecca Lynns of the internet putting on a show, but it’s still a show I was buying a ticket for. We all intellectually know their News Feed is a highlight reel, even if that’s not how it feels. We know that Mrs. Lynn isn’t showing us her worst day. We know she’s hiding her camera from the corner of the kitchen where all of her sippy cups and half-eaten apples are. (Those have to be there somewhere, right?)
I didn’t think it would be all great, but I couldn’t anticipate the tornado of emotions swirling in my tired, newly postpartum mom brain. The most blaring thought was a loud, “Oooooh no, no, noooo…”, with an equally loud, “Shhh, Annie! That’s terrible! This is your beautiful daughter who you love!”, and then my brain would retort with a, “….but do you like her?” Over and over again “I love her!” “But do you like her?” “I LOVE HER!” “But do you LIKE her?”
The Angel and the Devil on my shoulders were duking it out, while I’m pouring witch hazel on a giant maxi pad, reading about the perfect diaper station and toy rotations. I thought I would be able to predict the emotions of new motherhood. There would obviously be a mourning of your old life alongside the thrill of a new one. And of course the infamous fluctuation of hormones. Responsible for mood swings and hot flashes.
What I didn’t anticipate were the acute feelings of anger and sadness, amidst joy and love. I didn’t anticipate the mental battle transitioning into motherhood.
Where the H-E-double hockey sticks was Rebecca Lynn now?! I didn’t need another story about Lakelyn or Braxleigh wearing an ironic onesie, rolling back to front, or how Arrow-Jackson said Mama! when he was 3 months old.
I needed the story of what happens when you accidentally starve your daughter her first night home because your milk hasn’t come in yet and you don’t have a contingency plan? Or the relief you felt when your mother and husband insisted on formula so she could eat something, coupled with the rush of crushing guilt because “breast is best”?
And you know good ole Rebecca is having the same issues as you are. We’re all sitting on stitches, subsisting on crackers, cheese, and peanut butter packets, our senses in overdrive due to the lingering adrenaline in our system. We are all sitting on the same pink sitz bath and binge-watching reality trash at 3:00 am.
She is just better at hiding the real, unwashed, grieving-your-old-life feelings than we are. And I think it’s okay not to hide it. I think it’s okay to have a harder transition into motherhood. It’s okay to take what you need and leave the rest (whether it’s advice or Rebecca’s DIY projects). It’s okay to have a lot of thoughts, some harder to grapple with than others, and let yourself feel all of those feelings. It’s okay to say to your husband several weeks in, “Is it too late to take her to the fire station?” and then laugh and drink a beer while she cries during a witching hour.
I’ve learned that the guilt about every decision will subside, though never completely. You will be able to find your own voice again in the cacophony of Rebecca Lynns and everyone in your life. You will figure out how YOUR baby likes to sleep, and you’ll get the hang of the breastfeeding thing or be cool with the formula.
Your new life will come into focus. You’ll love the baby…AND you’ll like the baby.