Now that my son is over a year old, I’m getting the question that every mom eventually hears: when am I going to have another?
Frankly, I don’t know.
I love being a mom. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do when I grew up – this is literally my dream job.
But I don’t want to be a mom to a newborn again. I’m terrified of going back to that point in motherhood.
Right now, with my 16-month old son, I love my life. I love watching my son, Killian, explore the world around him. I love it when he laughs with me (even though he doesn’t understand the joke). I love how Killian stands in front of the window to watch his dad come home from work, and I love watching him hug his dad in those first moments together every evening. I love seeing Killian make silly noises with my own dad and I love how he has a special kiss that he does only for my mom.
But I wasn’t like this when Killian was a newborn. And I’m afraid of going back to the hardest time of my life because I’m afraid of testing myself like that again.
I struggled as a new mom. I really did.
Killian’s birth was hectic – he was born less than 48 hours before Hurricane Irma hit Orlando – and nothing went right in those first few days. We lost power after the hurricane and I struggled to learn how to breastfeed by candlelight and lanterns. Unable to handle another day without electricity, air conditioning, or water, my husband and I piled into the car with our days-old newborn, our dog, and my mom, and we headed an hour away to spend the night with my in-laws.
With my husband working 14-hour days six days a week (and sometimes half-days on Sundays), my parenting partner wasn’t available most of the time. Killian was usually still sleeping when my husband left for work, and he’d be asleep again in the 30 minutes between my husband getting home at 10:00PM and falling asleep by 10:30. My husband never got to see his new baby, and I resented the partner that I didn’t have.
Breastfeeding was a constant struggle. We never figured out a successful latch, and I spent all day and night either attached to my pump or washing the pieces between sessions. After four months, I sobbed over my failure as a mom when I told my husband that I couldn’t do it anymore. Killian was formula-fed after that.
Sleep deprivation hit me hard, and the weeks of sleeping in 2-hour shifts took its toll. I once had to turn my car around and postpone a trip to the supermarket because I was starting to fall asleep at the wheel…I lived only two miles from the supermarket.
I loved my baby. I loved being his mom.
But I hated those days.
There are so many moms who look back on their first months of motherhood fondly. And there are women who would give anything to have those months at all. Becoming a mom is an absolute blessing, and I don’t want to ever take away from that.
But there are also moms – like I was in those months – who don’t understand why something they were told was so miraculous is actually so overwhelming. There are moms who wonder why they aren’t measuring up and why they’re struggling this much. But that’s life, sometimes things are harder than we expected them to be. Sometimes, even dads get depressed after their baby’s birth, thus making things even more difficult for the new moms. There are moms who wonder what they’re doing wrong because everything shouldn’t be this hard.
And for those moms: I get it. I know the feelings (all of them). I experienced them myself, I got together with other moms and heard similar stories, and I’m realizing that I’m not alone in feeling so lost.
And now that I’m on the other side of things and I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I also know that those days are temporary. They aren’t easy, but they aren’t forever.
You will make it through, too, mama. I promise.
You’ll learn about your true strength. You’ll surpass your own expectations. You won’t have to pretend that it isn’t one of the hardest times in your life (I will be frank and say that it was the hardest point in mine), but you can be proud of yourself for rising to the challenge of motherhood.
Don’t be afraid to talk to someone about how you’re feeling – it can be hard to navigate the gray space between what is a struggle versus what could be the first signs of postpartum depression. Sometimes, it’s difficult for us to see when we’re having a hard time or when something else is going on.
I know how hard it can be, and I’m proud of you, mama. It probably doesn’t feel like you’re doing an good job, but you are.
I just hope that you can be proud of yourself, too.