I Didn’t Feel The Way I Was Supposed To About Becoming A Mom

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Don’t you just look at him and want to cry? So read a text from my friend Jaime. Sure, I thought, but more like tears of sadness.

I was a new mom to my baby boy, Duncan, and Jaime had an infant son, too. Duncan must have been just a week old when I received that text. Jaime told me how every day, she’d shed tears of happiness that he was in her life, and if she had to be away from him at work, it was unbearable.

My heart dropped: If that’s the way I was supposed to feel about being a mom, I was already screwing this up. Unlike the moms on my mommy Facebook groups who “wanted to soak up every second” with their precious babe or felt “so lucky to be so-and-so’s mom,” I felt regret. Ambivalence. Disappointment. Not for my son. I loved him; that was automatic. Instead, I felt ambivalent — even not-so-great — about the actual fact of being a mom.

(At this point, a quick word to the internet masses: It seems like anytime a woman says she’s anything but over-the-moon JOYOUS — yes, with capital letters — after having a baby, people want to come for her and put her head on a spike and parade it around as the head of the former worst mom ever. If that’s how you feel about me…well, okay, I guess?)

The truth was, my new life was not how I envisioned it: basically sort of like my old life, with a few reasonable adjustments. After all, with the exception of my last two years in college, I’ve never been a partier. I’m a homebody who generally falls asleep before 10 and, as a proud introvert, I think I have whatever the opposite of FOMO is sometimes. I thought, So what that I’ll have to skip out on going to happy hour? Or say no thanks to a 9 p.m. dinner and a few rounds of drinks?

Then, I had a baby, and I felt…trapped. Just going out at night for ice cream was even off the table. My husband could leave and hang out with his friends (which he only did, of course, after making sure everything was okay at home, but still). But I couldn’t read a book before bed because it had to be lights out at 8 p.m. in order to log enough sleep in between baby wake-ups. I was pumping around the clock, too. Which was another unpleasant surprise: That thing is a torture device.

I was trapped in my smushy body that seemed to be healing so slowly I could barely notice it. I was taking a break from my work as a writer, so I didn’t have that creative outlet anymore. I barely talked to my husband, except to complain about how much my nipples hurt.

And to cap it all off, I was sure I had a baby who was disappointed in me. (Yeah, I know now that makes no sense. But postpartum hormones, okay?) He was a grump. And he was the boss of me. He felt like a stranger, too. Sure, I carried him around for nine months, but when he was born, I looked at him and thought, OMG, I have no idea who you are!

Then I had a baby and I felt…trapped.

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So I was being bossed around by this bad-tempered stranger — all the time — while I was hearing stories from my friends about their easygoing babies. I felt a bit of resentment that I didn’t get one of those. And then I worried that it was my fault: that I was doing something wrong all day, every day, and was getting what I deserved.

Sure, some of this was likely postpartum blues, which I know are totally normal. (By the way, postpartum depression is different, and it’s critical to get help quickly, so if that’s something you’re going through, talk to your doctor ASAP.) But I don’t think it was entirely about hormonal changes and exhaustion: I was a confused, worried, and unconfident new mom, facing a difficult motherhood reality that wasn’t softened by overwhelming joy the way I’d thought it was supposed to be.

I didn’t think every poopy diaper was the best thing I’d ever seen. I didn’t “soak up every moment” — especially those from 2-4 a.m. when he cried. I even looked forward to taking him to day care when he was 3 months old and I went back to work. Part of it was because I genuinely missed my job, and part of it was because I wanted to feel what it was like to have a minute to myself again without worrying about how I was performing as a mom. I didn’t even tell my friends that it was his first day of day care — I felt too guilty that I wasn’t stressed, sad, or heartbroken over taking him. Again, what I thought I was supposed to feel. (Though, I still did wipe a couple tears away as I dropped him off that day.)

I worried that, unlike my friends who took so seamlessly to this mommy thing, I wasn’t cut out for it.

The good news: I was wrong.

Truth is, I just was slow to adjust to mommyhood. Other women might feel like it was the job they were born to have as soon as they leave the hospital, but it took me four months to get there. It was then he transformed from fussy stranger to my little man who genuinely smiled at me. (Whew, he does like me after all!)

To my surprise, I started to rock my new role. I got confident wearing him around to run errands, taking him to restaurants (turns out, even the coolest ones in the city are baby-friendly as long as it’s 5 p.m.), and learning what the heck he wanted or needed in most tear-filled moments.

He’s eight months old now, and I can fully understand why parents think their kids are the coolest kids ever. He is the coolest baby ever. And he’s so smart. And so physically capable (I mean, he just learned to clap — pretty impressive, no?). I dance with him, make silly faces at him, enthusiastically wipe his nose, and tell him how damn much I love him every day. In short: I’m a total mom. Even, occasionally, with a few tears of joy. It just took time.
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