Here's my experience of becoming a mother.
Ah being a mother. Whimsical. Magical. Wonderous. When I found out I was pregnant with Sam, I was excited. Rick was excited. When we found out we were having a boy, we were excited. Every week was full of anticipation over what size of fruit he was, what he was developing that week, maybe we joked about me having the superpower to grow a penis, maybe that I was secretly a man because I had a penis on the inside, the usual squishy, glowing mommy stuff.
My sister and I were pregnant at the same time. She had her son about five weeks prior to when Sam was born, so it was like watching the person in front of you go down the water slide, the diving board, out of the air plane, down the aisle when you’re a bridesmaid, but you’re not first in line.
I imagined all the little adventures we’d have with him, all the cute little hats and outfits he’d wear. Bow ties. Suspenders. Scully caps. Little baby fedoras. Little baby hoodies and baby jeans and little baby Converses. Basically a Gap baby. Because out pops baby, clock in, you get this perfect little bundle who will breastfeed perfectly, that you’ll have nothing but these golden moments until they leave for kindergarten, enter melodramatic montage, college, clock out. Then you get to be an empty nester, where you wear sweaters tied around your neck and have beautiful, long white and silver locks, and then you get to be a grandma, the end.
That’s what I thought I signed up for. There’s so much they don’t tell you about. There’s so much you hear about, but you think it won’t be you, that everything will be perfect as soon as you’re not pregnant anymore, as soon as you get to hold your perfect little bundle. Like they told you. Like they told you in the sweet little video with all the stranger vaginas in it at your parenting class.
I think I was in a pretty good place mentally, up until the last two weeks of my pregnancy where I just wanted the baby cut out. Yes, pregos say some pretty messed up stuff. The last week, I cried daily, my tipping point was when Kim Kardashian had her baby before me. I was like, “WHAT! Everybody’s having their babies before me! WAH WAH WAAAAH! burp”. My wonderful husband dealt with all of that nonsense, preparing the house for baby, cleaning his clothes, organizing, while I sat on my ass and cried about Kim Kardashian having her baby first. I’m not still jealous. I’m not still jealous. ANYHOO. We spoke with the doctor every few days about inducing. No, not yet. No, not yet. Still no. Other people were busy having their babies before it was my turn. Nope. Still no. Then, the clouds opened up, and WE WERE GOING TO BE INDUCED! We sped to the hospital with a trip to Chick-fil-a first, duh, and eagerly parked in the parking lot for the last time as two adults without children.
That night I was induced and I went into labor at about 11 pm. I cued the nurse to get the lady with the drugs, posthaste. I think I declared between the contractions was, “I am ready for the drugs”. Maybe, maybe not. Still fuzzy. Either way, I got the drugs.
All that next day, I was in labor. There was tension between my nurses and my doctor, and the anesthesiologist. I had to sit in one position. Doctor said it was bad. Baby heart rate dropped. So they told me to move again. Anesthesiologist said it was bad. The medicine wasn’t going to work. So we did this nice little “do whatever they tell us to do” thing, until it was time. IT WAS TIME. SUCK IT, KIM KARDASHIAN! There was oxygen, my mom, my doctor, my husband, and a nurse. Maybe two. There were drugs, and there was sleep deprivation. Also, I was in labor. I remember the nurse directing the husband and my mom to grab a leg. I remember being told to count and breathe. I had to be reminded which one to do when, who can be having a baby and count and breathe at the same time!? Oh. Not me. I was being encouraged by everybody (I did tell my husband to stop talking - “You stop talking now” with my hand on his mouth) but after about 45 minutes, here was Sam! Ta daaa! (Also, he was born before Prince George. So, yeah. I won, Duchess of Cambridge!)
My mom needed oxygen and took a moment to sit down. It all happened so fast after they took him from me, I think we did skin-to-skin contact like we were “supposed to”, which I hardly remember, just that I was naked. Which I hated. Wasn’t this moment supposed to be all breathy and wistfully “ooooh, my baby…” but all I felt was awkward because they put a naked baby on me while I was naked. He had a full head of blonde hair, and my mom was impressed by the size of his big ol’ baby balls.
They took him, cleaned him up and handed him to me in the little pink and blue footprint blanket and pink and blue striped hat. It was over! I kept thinking to myself I was happy and excited, but there was this…dread. Coming from somewhere. Maybe it was because I was scared now that I was officially a mom, maybe it was the fact that he was purple. The nurse noticed shortly after she’d handed him to me, and took him away. She unraveled him from his tight little burrito, and started doing mouth to mouth resuscitation and heart compressions. One of his first photos, you can see the nail imprints on his chest. Then she called a Code Blue, and a team of nurses swarmed into my birthing suite. Rick and my dad held my hand while they tried to figure out what was going on (turns out he was fine), while I wept uncontrollably. They figured out quickly that he was fine, and took him to get a bath, and all that other new baby stuff.
And I sat there waiting, just hanging out, not feeling my legs, all the birth goo still there. I was on autopilot after everything that had just happened, afraid to process my vulnerability and terror. Thankfully, my friends in shining armor were allowed in my suite so they could see me. You know you have real friends when they’re willing to hang out.. with your..stuff hanging out.
The nurse showed up to clean me up and get me in a wheel chair so she could take me to my room, where I would find the joy and beauty of breastfeeding. By saying joy and beauty, I sort of mean alien and painful. It was probably 10:30 at night, I was exhausted, Sam and I had both been through a lot, physically and emotionally. He didn’t latch easily - the nurse, breastfeeding consultant (?) was borderline suffocating my baby with my boob.
Then she said he was being lazy and I was like, “listen here, biotch” in my head, but I just sat there, tired and silent, because I’m terrified of confrontation. Any confrontation.
Baby Sammy figured it out eventually, both of my friends hung out briefly after I got my lesson in boob smothering, and that was our first night. Naturally we woke up for feedings and diaper changes hourly, everything else seemed to go smoothly. My anxiety grew every time Sam needed to eat. It was just the beginning of my difficulty with breastfeeding and postpartum depression.
I was afraid to nurse because it hurt. I kept doing it to feed my little man, of course, but it was hard to accept that my body didn’t belong to me, even though I wasn’t pregnant anymore. There wasn't anything to look forward to, all the happy prego hormones were gone, and I felt this heaviness, this darkness, this stress that I was the only source of food for my baby. I felt terrible about having to give him formula because he wanted to do nothing but eat, and the pain was a lot for me to handle. Too much, some days. Most mornings we would start off ok, but by the end of the day, my poor husband came home to the big, sloppy, angry mess that was me. And a crying infant. We were lucky enough to have my sister stay with us when Sam was about 3 weeks old, which was enormously helpful seeing someone else with a little baby, nursing, pumping, etc. not to mention she was enormously helpful with cooking and donating some of her milk because I just couldn’t make enough.
It was a long 11 weeks until I went back to work. More breastfeeding woes, fears, and pain, lots more crazy. I didn’t hold him a lot. He didn’t seem to want to be held, we just kind of sat in our respective places and vegged all day. There was lots of feeling judged, (what I thought) feeling criticized, not feeling good enough as a mom, feeling exhausted, feeling frustrated, feeling tethered down and trapped. It’s amazing what you can convince yourself of when you have that much time and that little contact with the outside world, especially while the outside world is carrying on, working, being productive, being with adults. I was Netflix bingeing Buffy the Vampire Slayer while playing feedbag and butt wiper.
Once I went back to work, I started feeling better. The distraction of other adults and work was welcome. I heard all these stories about moms crying when dropping off their baby at daycare for the first time and I was like, ‘bye bye’. I didn’t feel bad. I think initially I was worried, considering it was a complete stranger, but it got better. I was able to do with my body exactly what I wanted to. I didn’t have to conform to somebody else’s need to eat either by holding them, or being strapped to a foreign device. I did still have to pump because I was still nursing, but it was on my time. It was when I could fit it in during the work day. So I did the working mom thing. Also, pumping at work is weird. The whole lactation idea is weird. Loved my enormous boobs, but overall, nursing, not great. Not magical. Not fulfilling. Having to pump at work felt inappropriate. Having to tell anyone that I had to go do it felt inappropriate. Storing my milk in a lunchbox in the work fridge felt like I was violating some food safety rules, maybe that I was exposing the office to a biohazard. I made it three months before I was over it, so I didn’t have to do it for much longer after going to work. Once I was done, I felt FREE! Mostly. No more of the weird mechanical milking thingyjobber, making the loud thingyjobber noises that I swore echoed off the office’s grey and beige metallic cubicles. No more sneaking into vacant offices of people who were supposed to be out that day, in fear of being walked in on, with my boobs out.
Once I was done nursing, I felt back to some brand of normal. No more weird bras! No more hurting boobs, no more pumping! F you, loud thingyjobber, good riddance! Other than the breastfeeding business, Sam was a pretty easy, happy baby. The first three months were the most difficult. They say those are the hardest because they’re still fetuses. Once they start to be more aware of their surroundings, once they start interacting more with you, you feel like more of a person to them, they start smiling at you, you feel acknowledged, and not just screamed and cried at all day because they’re hungry or have shat themselves. You don’t realize how much of your identity gets wrapped into what you think your little baby thinks of you, more importantly, how you judge yourself as a mom and as a person.
He is four now. He has been a harbinger of havoc since turning three. He points his penis at other kids. He has painted with his poop. He pees in the yard. He gets into Astroglide and covers himself in it. He offers me peanut butter and jelly off his fingers in the dark. He threatens to punch me in the butthole. He tells me he hates me. He tells me he loves me and that he’s sorry.
Becoming a mom might not have happened the way I expected, what I had idealized and told myself, planned for those nine months, even after those nine months, but there are so many wonderful moments I’m able to glean from every day that make it all worth it. Even when they tell you that you’re going to jail because they fell down.