I’m in the fortunate situation that I have friends who have babies who are a few weeks and days younger than my own youngest baby, and a friend who birthed her boy just a few weeks after us. The benefits of this are numerous:
– friends who could commiserate with me during pregnancy
– friends who understood the massive ups and downs of pregnancy
– friends who shared similar values and beliefs during pregnancy
– moms who are now experiencing the same thing with their babies as I am
– moms who understand the flood of tears that follows a normal conversation
– friends who aren’t judging because they know the first rule of being a parent: Never judge another parent
– mom friends who just get it
I was chatting to one such mom friend on the way to lunch the other day. We’re both on maternity leave with little baby boys born just three days apart. We were talking about the stage of motherhood that people just don’t get and that people don’t usually talk about. That stage just following the honeymoon period, after 2 weeks. Where you’re beginning the mourning period. Honeymoon period? Mourning period? What, you’ve never heard of them? Let me explain.
That phase immediately following birth where you’ve been awarded society-sanctioned time to rest and recuperate following the ejection of a human from your own body (through whatever means necessary). This time is used to doze next to a sleepy (also recovering, recently ejected) baby, smelling the top of his head while pumping out liters of oxytocin. During this period there is little space available for any feelings other than euphoria. Moms have, after all, just met the person who has been closer to them than any other person ever will be (other than another baby). There is most certainly no time for guilt, loneliness, or isolation – these special feelings are reserved for the next phase.
Reality sets in
During this less magical, but no less overwhelming, phase the new mom begins to experience a myriad of other emotions. And often, during this time, there is much less support or perceived support than there was during the honeymoon phase. During those halcyon days immediately following birth, attention was rained down upon mom and baby. Calls to congratulate and offer support, advice and encouragement abounded. Friends and family visited. Neighbors sent meals. Then, a week or two passed and the world went on – seemingly unchanged, despite your and your immediate family’s life being turned upside down and inside our (and covered in breast milk and baby wee). The new mom is left alone to cope with a new life, huge overwhelming emotions, waves of rollercoastering hormones, confusing and conflicting emotions. And perhaps, overwhelming love for the new baby.
But there’s also the guilt. For doing and not doing so many things: lying in bed for hours trying to recover from birth, not being a ‘productive member of society’. But this guilt is unfounded actually. Think about why you DESERVE your maternity leave: you grew a human. In your own body, out of flesh and stuff. And, when that human was too big for your body, you birthed it. Are you paying attention ? You birthed a human from your body. You deserve a break.
I need more
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy your work. I love my job and find my work stimulating. I’ve really enjoyed my time exclusively bonding and baby mooning with my boy but I’m feeling now like I need more. Just a few hours work a day will do it. In fact, I’ve been to the office a couple of times in the past week or so and I’ve loved seeing my colleagues and hearing about how all the different projects are going. I don’t feel guilty about wanting to work. I believe it makes me a better mom because I’m more balanced. And I’m fortunate enough to have a boss who is happy to let me work as much as I need to.
I don’t know what will come next. I can only hope the colic will ease (that’s a whole other post on its own!), the cramps will be some less severe and that my little girl realises that her mommy and daddy don’t love her any less but somehow actually have fallen more in love with her since her brother was born. The newborn period is difficult. And we forget how difficult it is as our first little ones get older. But toddlerhood is also difficult. Something I’m trying to remind myself of every day is that parenthood in general is hard and I need to give myself a break. I’m not doing too badly. And nor are you.