Since the moment I discovered I was pregnant 15 months ago, life has been full of surprises, both amazing and… less amazing. I could write volumes on this topic, but I narrowed it down to my top 8 for your consideration. I am in no way trying to say that this list encompasses the most shocking things about parenting in general – these are my own very personal picks.
1) Feeling like a mom has been a very gradual process. Even though I had eight-ish months to get used to the idea of becoming a mom and felt a profound sense of responsibility, connection, and love from the moment my daughter was born, I am still getting used to the role. I still feel like myself, but I am also finding out that Emily plus baby equals more than the sum of the parts, and I am continuing to discover who that person is.
2) The body does what the body wants. No matter how slowly I tried to gain weight while I was pregnant or how quickly I tried to lose it after baby, no matter how hard I tried to push through exhaustion or control my hunger level or increase my milk supply – not to say that I have NO control over these things, but at the end of the day, my body has its own agenda. It works in amazing ways, and I am learning to listen to it and trust it.
3) Very little in pregnancy/motherhood is linear. There are ups and downs, progress and regressions in just about everything. Baby girl HAS to stop sleeping through the night at some point so you will truly appreciate what you have when she starts it up again (yeah, that’s it…). It is a bumpy, unpredictable, but ultimately beautiful road.
4) Even though I really wanted and expected it to happen, breastfeeding Just. Didn’t. Happen. At least not in the way I hoped or expected it to, and not because of any “legitimate” issue (that I know of). I figured that if you wanted it bad enough, paid your dues, and put in your hours, it would magically just be perfect and natural, but it never was for us. Feeding my baby is a puzzle, and I work hard at fitting the pieces together (nursing, pumping, formula, and solids) every day.
5) I actually believe that my baby is objectively the most beautiful ever… Every parent says that their baby is the most beautiful, right? I always thought that parents have to say that out of pride, but they know deep down that it isn’t really true. Yeah, well myth DEBUNKED.
5a) …and yet, I often question whether she is really mine. We had this weird incident in the hospital where our baby went for her first bath and was supposed to be returned in “15 minutes – 20, tops.” An hour and a half later, she still wasn’t back. My husband ended up having to go retrieve her from the nursery, and when he came back with her, we weren’t entirely convinced that the nurses gave him the right baby. She had the wristband and everything, but… Sometimes even now I question whether she is too beautiful to be mine, and I am known to study the pictures we have from her delivery to be sure.
6) I feel literally zero guilt about being back at work. On the contrary, returning to work is probably the best parenting choice I have made. I do occasionally feel guilty about not feeling guilty, but it passes. That said, summer vacation is right around the corner, and I am really excited to be a short-term stay-at-home mom.
7) I am a completely nonfunctional human between 1:00 and 4:00 am. Seriously, useless. I figured that I would just power through those overnight feedings, diaper changes, and scream-fests, but I quickly discovered that I am unable to make rational decisions, or speak in a remotely civil tone of voice, for that matter, during those hours. I thought it would get better, but for me it never has.
8) Unmedicated childbirth was just as horrible as it was awesome. (I should clarify that, even though I didn’t want medication going in, I was wholly unprepared not to even have the option – this definitely had a big impact on my experience.) Today, writing about this, I do feel that having my daughter without even an IV was empowering and incredible, but it has taken seven months worth of childbirth amnesia for me to get there. At the time, I felt borderline traumatized – not joking – and could barely walk or use the bathroom on my own for days. I am not trying to scare anyone or knock unmedicated childbirth in any way, but it was so different from my expectations. And by the way, I don’t think that having a baby come out of my body “under the influence” of an epidural would have been any less amazing.
Moms, what aspects of pregnancy/motherhood have surprised you the most?