This little girl is my daughter - I will call her Little L on this blog. As of yesterday she is 8 weeks old and she is the most amazing thing that ever happened to me.
A question I have been getting a lot from my childless friends since she was born is "How is it REALLY like to be a mom?", "Come on, be honest!" they'll say while looking at me expectantly as if any other parent they ever asked that only told them lies.
So this is why I am writing this blog post here. Of course, motherhood is different for everybody. What I am experience is going to be very different from a single mother, living on welfare. I am aware that I am extremely privileged to not have to rush back to a 40-hour work-week after only getting to spend one month at home with my new daughter. I am privileged to have a husband who tries to share the job of parenthood as much as possible. I am privileged to have a healthy child and a safe home. I am privileged to have had an easy birth and health insurance who paid for most of my hospital charges.
You can pretty much say I had a baby in the best, possible conditions. Still, it's not easy. So I am going to give it to you straight. I am not going to dilly dally around. I am going to cut to the chase. And I am going to tell you how it's like to be a mommy.
First off I'd like to say - I love being a mom. I really do. I love every minute of it. It is the best thing that ever happened to me and while giving birth isn't a picnic and pushing out a little human was the most physically challenging thing I ever did (note to self - work out more during the next pregnancy and don't forget to do your kegels!) I still have very fond memories of giving birth. And if you find yourself pregnant and terrified of giving birth right now I'd like to tell you that - so was I. I was so scared. But nature has it's way to prepare you for giving birth. With me it was 5 days of constant early-labor contractions. By day three of not-sleeping and being in nearly constant pain, I was ready to give birth whatever it takes.
Anyway - back to what you can expect after you give birth to your very own mini-me:
*You will sleep less than you ever thought possible.
About a week after Little L was born I started to hallucinate. Apparently that is a side effect of being extremely sleep deprived. It wasn't anything serious. I didn't see a dancing baby or white rabbits hopping around the apartment. But I did see doors closing out of the corner of my eye even though nobody was there to close the door and when I checked, the door was still open. I thought I saw something move and when I looked straight at what I thought had moved, there was no movement. A friend of mine told me "Wait till you are seriously sleep-deprived - you'll hear your breast pump starting to talk to you!". And she was right. Mine says "We like her". Though E insists the breast pump says something else.
But there is hope. After a while baby will start sleeping longer. I still haven't had a solid seven hours of sleep but I have had the occasional five or six. Whenever I wake up and I see that I got to sleep five hours straight, I get all giddy. But as everybody will tell you - it get's better. I am the girl who used to need eight hours of sleep to function properly. Now I do ok with five. And if I get a nap in during the day, bringing the total up to six or seven hours of sleep, I do really, really well.
*You will feel a kind of love that you have never felt before.
The first week with Little L was intense. I felt such an overwhelming amount of love, it was incredible. And the love you feel for your child is different than what you feel for you partner or your parents. Nature made you love your baby so much, so you don't mind taking care of it (and you don't bring her back to the hospital, asking for a refund after the third sleepless night in a row). This love makes you so happy to be around your baby. It's deep and wonderful and a bit scary. After a few weeks, when the majority of the post-pregnancy hormones left your body, your feelings somewhat normalize. Though a friend and I were discussing if you actually start feeling less or if you are just getting used to the feeling of being so in love with your child.
*You might not want to have "me" time anymore.
Before Little L was born I was worried about how it would be to have something attached to you (outside of your own body) 24/7. What is it like to never be able to just go to the hair dresser whenever I want to or go for a spontaneous bike ride on the beach. Well, honestly, this is hard but a lot less difficult than I expected it to be. Yes, you can't just get up and do whatever you want. Whenever we leave the house it involves planning and about an hour of preparation (my little one happens to not be a huge fan of being outside. I am working on changing this though). And then there is always the chance that she will have a melt-down and scream for 30 minutes straight when you are at Target and everybody looks at you like you are the worst mom that has ever lived and really, why can't you shut up your child, can't you see she is not happy? ... Uh, where was I?
But anyway, I was surprised to find that I really don't like to be apart from her. Like, ever. I do take a break once a week when E stays with her, either to go on a bike ride or to get some shopping done that requires several stops and would be difficult to do with Little L. I enjoy those breaks - mostly because it's a lot easier to get stuff done when you don't have to hold and shush your baby to sleep while using your teeth to try to get your credit card out of your wallet in the check out line. But after a few hours (usually two hours) I start to really miss her. I look longingly at other people's babies and wish she was here with me. Every strangers baby's cry is like a stab in my heart, reminding me that I really should be home with Little L. What is she doing right now? Is she crying for her mommy? Does she think I abandoned her? Does she know I love her and that I will be back soon (with new curtains!)?
I know there are new mommies out there who can't wait to get back to work and that's also ok. But I was surprised to find that I am very happy to not have to go back to work until I am ready for it.
*You can eat later. Or not.
I am not the kind of person who forgets to eat. I just am not. I love to eat and good food is very important to me. When I was pregnant I was hungry constantly. I would eat dinner, then a snack before bed (which I never used to do) and I would still often find myself lying awake at 4 in the morning, unable to sleep because I was so freaking hungry. I thought it was just me. I though, I just don't have any self-control and that's why I am eating so much. It go so bad, I had to have snacks with me at all times in case I was out doing something for longer than two hours.
And then I gave birth and the hunger stopped. I know a lot of people only really start to have this feeling of hunger after they give birth because of breastfeeding but for me, even though I am breastfeeding, this has not been an issue. Quite on the contrary - it happened to me a lot in the beginning that I either couldn't find time to eat during the day or I simply wasn't hungry. I often only ate twice a day and I was fine. The problem is - when you don't eat enough, you don't produce enough milk (or at least, I didn't), so it's very important for me to eat healthily and regularly. It's getting better now but I still don't get very hungry.
*You learn how to do almost everything one handed.
Little L likes to be held. All. The. Time. I have a very emotionally needy baby and while I don't mind that most of the time, because I LOVE holding her, it can be annoying when you are, say, in a store. Or when you really, really need to go to the bathroom or when it's 4pm and you haven't had anything to eat or drink yet. Or if you just want to take those vitamins you were supposed to take with food, three times a day but you neither had food, yet nor can you reach those vitamins with your one, free arm.
This has only been getting better this past week since we've found some new nursing positions that don't require me holding her with both hands but it's still difficult. I have a huge pile of unread magazines and the newest book from the Sookie Stackhouse novels (that I have been waiting for almost a year to come out) lying next to me - all pretty much untouched because it's really difficult to hold a book up with one hand while holding and nursing a baby. I now wish I would have gotten every book that I bought in the last 6 months on Kindle because not having to turn a page really would make my life much easier.
So since I've been pretty much sofa-bound most of the time, nursing my little one, I have gotten very acquainted with the On Demand feature on my DVR. I have watched more reality TV in the last month than I have in the whole past year together. My IQ has probably gone down 50 points. However, I have learned a lot about editing to make people look stupid/cool/desirable/hated/... . If I ever get sick of being a mom and a photographer, I might have a future in reality TV production.
By the way - that Bachelorette Ashley is completely delusional.
*You get obsessed with the color of your baby's poop.
Did you know your baby's poop can be green, yellow, black (in the first few days) or even orange and that's all normal? However - brown is not. Well, now you know.
*My baby is a genius!
People who talk about how their baby is so advanced are really annoying. Aren't they? So your baby could walk at 8 months, big deal. That will be very useful for him when he is 18.
That's how I used to think. Now that I have a (very advanced, of course) baby myself, all I want is to talk about how amazingly smart she is. She socially smiled at us when she was 4 weeks old! She can already roll over! Well, our pediatrician thinks it's cool. You know, I don't want to be "that mom". The one that always compares her baby to other babies and who can't stop bragging about how amazingly developed my child is, so I am trying really hard to just shut up. But man, it's hard.
*You know what Little L did the other day?
Related to the baby bragging is the "I can't shut up about that cute thing my child did yesterday". I have a few friends who still went out with me occasionally even after they had a baby and I loved them for not constantly bringing up the kids in conversation. I foolishly thought that was because they were happy to get to talk about something else then dirty diapers for a change. I now realize that I was wrong, at least partly. Of course it's nice to get to talk about other stuff but when you are the mom of a baby or even a toddler, your child is the most important thing in your life. You can have a really amazing job but you'll still want to talk about how your baby had the cutest smile after she farted the other day or how she said something that sounded like "Mama" last night. I now wonder if it took a lot of restraint for my friends to not break out the baby stories. This has been another tough one for me. Hopefully I'll get better at it soon before I alienate all my childless friends.
I could probably write a whole book about the subject on how it feels to be a new mom but I'll leave it at this.
It's a wonderful experience and much easier and at the same time much more difficult than I ever expected. But I wouldn't want it to be any other way. It's awesome and fantastic and it makes me happier than I've ever been.