There is an absolutely wonderful blog post going viral right now about the gut response to people who come up to parents with babies and tell them to “enjoy every minute – it goes by so fast” (while clutching their heart). Mamas, I’ll let you read it firsthand, but let me pass along some things I’ve learned in the New Mama classroom.
After months of preparing for their babies, thoughtfully picking out their layette , choosing the most beautiful name, and being exposed to the cultural onslaught of images of blissful motherhood, most women take their babies home and are slapped in the forehead by reality.
Caring for a baby is hard. And…sometimes you might not like it.
That’s right, friends. Many a mama has braved the icy waters of admission in our classroom, dared to jump in, and said: There are times when I don’t want to be with my baby. Sometimes I just want to go stay in a hotel for a night. I love my baby, but I feel so guilty when I don’t love being with her all the time. Sometimes I get so bored. I don’t think I’m a good mom because I don’t feel blissful all the time. After the baby goes to bed, I just feel so relieved.
For the first time Mamas out there, I want to say to you: Welcome to the club, baby. Motherhood is a messy soup of emotions, and ingredients range from bliss and love to boredom and frustration. We talk about developmental milestones of infancy a lot at Amma, but I think Mamas have their own developmental milestones. Just like we have to learn to roll, crawl and walk as babies, when we become mothers we have to learn how to let go of perfection, embrace chaos, stop trying to shoehorn ourselves and our babies into the preconceived images we had during pregnancy. I always tell my Mamas: your baby is here to teach you how to love, and one of the people you’re supposed to love is yourself.
One of our Amma Mamas, Carin, recently blogged about her shame and fear when she realized she felt disconnected from her new daughter after a traumatic birth: ”She wanted to be held constantly and I just wanted to set her down. She wanted to eat every two hours and I wanted my body to be mine. I was tired, in pain and thought I had made a huge mistake. This only made me feel worse and I really struggled those first few months with all my feelings at not feeling what I thought I should have felt for her.”
Some mothers do feel a significant disconnect from their babies, and that’s a red flag for postpartum depression. Emotional disconnection from your baby, feeling like you can’t handle motherhood, sadness and hopelessness down to your very core, wondering if your baby would be better off with a different mom – when these feelings (among others) are big and persistent for more than two weeks, it’s not a normal developmental milestone of motherhood. It’s time to reach out for help. These feelings are not your fault, they are signs of a common postpartum illness (depression) which is temporary and highly treatable with the right help.
If you are harboring a secret discontent and your new life isn’t everything you dreamed it would be, you’re not alone. You are in the growing pains of new motherhood – pains which will, like labor, bring about a new person. A person who is gentle with herself, knows when to get help, and accepts herself for who she is.