Anupama writes a letter to her 18-years old daughter. Read what she has to say.
A new mother is a tired mother! People talk about the joys of motherhood but no one tells you how rough it gets. Here’s what this new mom has to share about her rocky road to parenthood.
Alright, so, I’ve finally decided to stop the pretense. I am going to bare my soul, tell the truth, irrespective of the consequences and the repercussions. These thoughts have been churning in my mind for a long time now, but I have always been taught to be positive, optimistic and to look at the brighter side of things. I have never exactly understood why! So here goes.
Yes! Under the cover and façade of an optimistic, forever-smiling person lurks a dark heart filled with pessimism. I love being sad, I love being miserable, I love being blue and listening to sad songs! I love spending time always observing and over-analysing all the negative thoughts in my mind and trying to figure out how are they helping me build my character.
In spite of spending years walking the walk of infertility (my experiences are heaped to the brim with those negatives, almost a Garden of Eden for a person like me), I held my head high. As I saw all my friends fall pregnant – literally a ‘fall’ like falling into a ditch and disappearing from sight for many years – I convinced myself that I was meant to achieve many things other than the honour badge of motherhood. The optimist in me kicked into over-drive and the pessimist in me felt sorry for all those lovely out-of-sight women.
This rare-optimist helped me tide on for a few years, until suddenly, out-of-the-blue, when me and my husband had finally decided to take a good clean break from this ‘baby making fiasco’ and enjoy our DINK (double-income-no-kids) life to the fullest, bang! I was punched in the stomach by the shock of staring, quite unbelievably, at those two red lines, making even my saint-like husband react with a, “No way.”
Just like that, as I saw myself falling into that ditch, I bid the optimist a hearty goodbye and clutched the pessimist’s hand. I have never heard anybody, any of my friends, my families, nobody speak in negative terms about early motherhood and so, like thousands and thousands of women before me, I looked at all of it with rosy glasses. I was so sure about myself, strutting with pride that my body could carry this pregnancy all the way to the end. I had the entire idealistic plan and timetable ready for how I would be bringing up my child and was completely excited and could hardly wait for the baby to be born. I knew my husband would support and help me a 100% and my excitement knew no bounds! And then the baby was born.
I have never heard anybody, any of my friends, my families, nobody speak in negative terms about early motherhood and so, like thousands and thousands of women before me, I looked at all of it with rosy glasses.
Seriously! Why don’t women look out for each other and prepare the first-time-mother-to-be for what is really going to hit her? I had no clue what early motherhood would take out of me. How can a bundle so small, tiny, so delicate, so helpless and so totally beautiful make me cry, whimper, faint, and actually fold my hands and beg for some mercy on my soul? How can a person who is just a few days old have so much attitude and have the skills of telling me exactly what he wants with just a cry? How can this teeny-tiny bundle get so quickly used to my arms and how can he tell that he likes it better when mom walks and not when mom sits down? How can he tell, even in his deep sleep, that mom is going to lie down now and rest, so I better wake up quickly? How does he do all this and how am I understanding all this on just 2 hours of sleep? Before I knew it, I had been reduced to the level of a slave.
Gone were my beautiful, stain-free clothes; replaced instead with ratty tattered clothes; gone was the jewelry or the make up as I had turned into this boggy-eyed, messy haired, smelly street urchin-like person, who’s heart was completely wrapped around this little 8-pound Mr.Attitude, a woman who now breathed and lived to only be there for him. Yes, I was sitting in that ditch; me and my pessimism sitting next to each other and habitually analysing every misery, quite unaware of the optimism hovering over us and generously showering us with happiness.
Yes, remember I said I will bare it all? And bare I did, even then; all day, every day, day and night, day in and day out, in privacy and sometimes the family getting to watch the show as I tried to cover myself and my son decided that he specially likes a good ventilation. That is the one time in life when you wonder why hasn’t nature given this ‘abundant joy’ to the husbands as well, so that they would be able to help too.
Whether I was sleepy or tired or sometimes almost dead with fatigue, my breasts and my baby had developed their own relationship, which surpassed even my own self. One cry and the breasts would literally ache for the baby. Nobody can prepare a new mother for the feeling of bone-deep fatigue that early nursing can bring with it; yet also the feeling of relief once the baby starts to suckle and with it, the complete, deep, soul-touching pride that you are nourishing this little human being, helping them grow; the marvelous feeling that you cannot love any other person more and the amazing comfort when you pull that baby closer to you and sniff more of that new-baby smell and plant a kiss on their soft heads; and in the later months while nursing when the baby learns to look up at you and smile happily, like you are the only person in this whole wide world they love so much; even though you know that that angle isn’t doing any justice to you; that is when you are thankful that only you have the breasts and hence, this special bond.
Nobody had prepared me for this either and I was really mad about it! I hadn’t read in ‘What to Expect When You are Expecting’ that early fatherhood is going to make my husband quit his maturity. In movies, they always depict the new daddy as being sweet, doting, smiling and so with-it. What the hell happened here? Where were the “I love you for having my baby,” or the “Are you doing okay? Can I get you something?”
All I saw was a big baby having more hormonal tantrums than me, when, on paper, it was suppose to be me with the post-partum depression. But now it had started feeling more like post-partum-partition, with him standing on the other end, far far away and just snapping all the time with “Oh my God, stop his crying. Just nurse him!” and me snapping back with, “Why don’t you do it and see how it feels to have a baby practically hanging off you all the time?” Gone were the sweet talks, the hand holding, the romance and the sex, replaced with, “Oh! Please don’t touch me. I need my space” or the “God, you reek!” and all this in between n number of complaints of how I’m not handling the baby right.
Johnson & Johnson is very wise in saying, “Having a baby changes everything.” It definitely and completely changes your relationship with your spouse and the adjustment period is really tough. It is like a prolonged earthquake in your relationship and it really tests the sturdiness of the foundation. But when you sit together and see the toothless smile of your creation, you forget the bitterness for a few minutes and realize that it’s worth it! And when you have passed through this ‘Test of Fire’ and you come out, your husband looks at you with a whole new respect, and you look at him with the resignation of knowing that motherhood has taught you that you are going to be handling this ‘big baby’ too for the rest of your life.
It definitely and completely changes your relationship with your spouse and the adjustment period is really tough. It is like a prolonged earthquake in your relationship and it really tests the sturdiness of the foundation.
I honestly never knew I had so many negative traits in me. My son taught me that, by very quickly and effectively picking up all my negative traits and throwing them right back at me. While handling the terrible twos and the troublesome threes, I have felt like I am fighting with a darker version of myself, and losing the battle hopelessly! I never knew that my language had gotten so rough, my negotiation skills were totally lacking, my patience and my temper were so short lived, and worst of all, that I had started snapping at my poor spouse with such regularity.
When my son started using the same tone and words while addressing his father and I reprimanded him with, “You cannot talk to daddy that way, only I can,” and he, very innocently asked me, “Why?” it was like an eye-opener. Why can I talk that way? Do I feel an entitlement just because I have been through the rough times of early motherhood or, without knowing and meaning to, I have started taking everything and everyone for granted? Do I feel like they all owe me something because I have worked so hard for them? And that is when it hits you about how motherhood has changed you thoroughly as a person!
I never knew that my language had gotten so rough, my negotiation skills were totally lacking, my patience and my temper were so short lived, and worst of all, that I had started snapping at my poor spouse with such regularity.
The innocence and fascination that I see in my now four-year-old son is a daily reminder of the wonders of life and nature. By forcing me to set an example for his sake, he is constantly teaching me to be the person I always hope to be, not the person that I have changed into. He is a constant reminder that it pays to be good, patient, sweet, understanding and nice to others. In short, motherhood has taught me that it really pays to be optimistic, after all!
First published at the author’s blog
A doctor by profession and a freelance editor/writer by choice, I have a dream
I read your post on Mid-life crisis and really liked it and it lead me to read this post too. In our early 40s now, a lot of my batch mates and I are certainly facing mid-life crisis! But after much soul searching, like you’ve rightly pointed out – much of our anxiety could be eased if we find balance in the “giving vs taking” equation in our relationships!! Sadly I didn’t have your post at the time and beat myself up for a very long time, trying to figure out the most critical reason for the chaos in my mind !!! Only after considerable battle with the demons in my head, I came to the same conclusion as you !!! Anyway, its still a relief to see that you have so articulately zeroed in on this fact. I hope many women read your post and benefit from it.
This post on motherhood is soooooooooooooo true too. Its written so well and its honest and funny too!! I completely identify with every single highlighted heading and paragraph!!!! And I felt just like you. It’s been 10 years since I had my child and I am so glad my husband had the good sense to stop me in my tracks from having any crazy, unrealistic, romantic notions about having a second one!!! I love my kid like crazy as any good mother would, but one child is certainly all the energy I have for and can commit to in a meaningful and fulfilling way for all of us concerned in the family. I agree with you -women ought to be more honest and acknowledge the sacrifices and hardships of having a child, along with the bliss and happiness we so willingly share with mothers to be. Its just a more fair way to help someone to make an educated and intelligent decision regarding- if and when and how many kids one must contemplate bringing into this world.
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