There has been a blog post being passed around the Internet talking about motherhood. I'm not going to even link to this article because, frankly, I found it to be cynical, sarcastic, and negative. While I understand the need to vent, I am fed up with the negative. The negativity began when we first shared with people that we were expecting...
"Enjoy these last months of sleep."
"Breastfeeding is soooo hard."
"You two are going to bicker all the time. Babies bring out the worst in your marriage."
"Say goodbye to your sex life."
"I didn't shower for like, four months after our baby was born."
Everyone warned us that doomsday was quickly approaching. All Kyle and I wanted was for one person with young kids, just one, to say to us, "Parenting is so fun! It's amazing. It's the best choice we ever made!”, without prefacing it by telling us how hard it was and how much this or that sucks. But, it was all doom and gloom and poopy diapers on the horizon, apparently.
We made a choice to ignore every negative statement that came our way, or to turn it into something positive. If people told us we were going to bicker all the time, then we devised a plan on how not to do that. If people said we would no longer have sex, then we decided we would schedule it if we had to.
The negativity continued after Gigi was born...
"Oh wow, she slept through the night? That won't last." ...and when it did... "You're second baby won't be like that!" Really?!
In the past year have we slept less? Are my boobs “never going to be the same"? Has our household hygiene been less stellar? Did we bicker sometimes? Have we eaten dinners of cold pasta while balancing a crying baby? Do some days just plain suck? Has it been stressful, challenging, exhausting? Of course! Everyone who decides to become a parent already knows that it will have it's challenges. Why not, for a change, share with those around you who are expecting or who are new parents how wonderful it is! Tell them about how parenting is fun, funny, amazing, perfect, magical, ridiculous, life changing, the best! Because it is.
I often feel that people discount my "Pollyanna" outlook on motherhood because I'm "not cynical yet" and I have an “easy” baby. This is always said with smile that says, "come back and talk to us when you are as bitter about motherhood as we are." I am very grateful for my life, my husband, and my baby. Sure, I’ll admit that Gigi is the perfect baby for us. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t whine, cry, wake up in the middle of the night, bite, pinch, or do any of the things that every other baby does. There's a lot of work that goes on behind closed doors and it's frustrating to have that work written off as luck. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
Everyone assumes that because I am so happy to be a mom, rarely complain, find joy in the little things, and find humor in the hard stuff, that I have had a really easy baby and an easy transition into motherhood. But it wasn't that easy. After Gigi was born, I plummeted into a state of extreme anxiety. I felt extremely nervous and unbelievably angry. I was hit with intense panic attacks, I heard voices in my head that were threatening and terrifying, I was afraid of myself, fearful of everything, I cried a lot, and my body tense with anger. After a few weeks I finally managed to say to Kyle, "I think I'm going crazy. I think I need help." Asking for help was incredibly hard. As a mother, I didn't want to need help. Luckily, I had worked with an amazing counselor in my late teens, and was able to call her for the help and support I desperately needed. I worked with her a few times a week over the phone for my first two months as a new mom. Just talking helped. Exercise helped. Fairly quickly I was able to regain my footing, and proceed with joy and intention into my role as a Gigi's Mom.
About a month ago I was watching an old interview with Brooke Shields on Oprah (because that's how cool I am), and she was talking in-depth about her experience with postpartum depression. As I watched, something clicked. I completely connected with some of the things she was saying. Not all of it, but a lot of it. The bizarre thing was that, I had read this when I was going through my own experience with postpartum anxiety, or depression, or whatever you want to call it. At the time, I read it and thought, how terrible... it would really suck to feel like that. It wasn't until just a month ago that I recognized myself in it. I thought that having postpartum depression meant that you didn't care for your baby, didn't feel love for them, and weren't ever happy. I was happy a lot of the time, euphoric even. I loved Gigi beyond anything I ever imagined, so I didn't recognize what I was experiencing. I'm so glad that there's help when you need it in the form of wonderful lactation consultants, other parents, husbands, sisters, your own parents, friends, and counselors.
The point is, it hasn't been all easy, or perfect for me. I choose to be appreciative, positive, to seize the day, and to live in the moment as much as I can. I love being reminded by sweet older ladies to enjoy it because, "It goes by so quickly". It reminds me to live each day with gratitude, even the hard ones. I love being a parent. I love having someone who needs me and relies on me. I have never had the desire to work so hard for anything in my life. Having a child has made me want to be the best possible person I can be. It has grounded me. It has elated me. It has expanded my heart and my mind. I cherish it. Becoming a parent was the best choice I ever made. I wouldn't trade it for anything. Sometimes I wish the days were twice as long, and that I could do this whole last year over again because I have loved it so much and learned so much. I'm not just saying that to make a point, I really do. I kiss my baby hundreds of times each day, and I go to bed each night and reflect on how lucky I am because, even though it's hard work, it's the best investment of my energy, time, and love that I can make.
If you know someone who's expecting, tell them all the wonderful things you can. Offer your love and support to friends with newborns. Help the new mom at the grocery store load up her groceries so she can get her twins out of the rain, even if that means you and your baby get a little wet. Send a care package to a new dad you know. Every one of us is doing a great job, doing their very best. Be supportive, positive, and encouraging.
I am genuinely excited for the people I know who are expecting... especially my sister and Rob. They are in for such an amazing journey full of joy, snuggling, laughter, and fun. They will probably have some sleepless nights, but babies look beautiful in the moonlight.