People ask a lot of irritating questions while you’re pregnant. “How are you feeling?” is pretty bad, but the one that really rattled me was, “Are you ready?” Yes, our house was stuffed full of baby gear, we had completed our childbirth classes, and I had read every “10 Things Nobody Tells You About Parenthood” article I could get my hands on. When I was little, the Girl Scouts had advised me to “Be Prepared,” but while I was cognizant of the fact that my life was about to change drastically, I also knew that there was no way for me to really be ready for how difficult it would be.
Labor was my true introduction to the wild and unpredictable world of parenting. For months, I was told that I should expect to go late, have a long labor, and to definitely take The Drugs. But then, 15 days ahead of schedule, I endured an intense, chaotic, and unintentionally unmedicated 2.5 hour labor. I literally went from relaxing and watching TV at home at 3:30 to holding my newborn at 6:00! As I lay awake in my hospital bed on that first nearly sleepless night, it was clear to me that I had been officially inducted into the Mom club. Motto: “You Cannot Prepare!”
Thanks to the internet and my 23948237 closest friends and family, I was aware that my baby might have a cone shaped head, that she would eat constantly and only sleep a few hours at a time, and that I would need a lot of help and a lot of frozen food to get me through those first few weeks. And wow, you guys, having a baby turned out to be really freaking hard. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting rainbows and unicorns, but it’s a real shock to the system to actually be in the thick of it.
What I was completely unprepared for was the fact that it would be so exhausting, so disorienting, so overwhelming and painful and scary at first that I would actually HATE it. I was expecting it to be hard – something like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but it was more like, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Instead of rising to the occasion, I felt myself buckling under the pressure. I cried every day for the first few weeks, and most days I questioned (a bit too late, obviously) whether having a baby had been the right decision.
Apparently, while it’s normal to feel like you’re teetering on the edge of postpartum depression in the beginning (a phenomenon with the absurdly cutesy name “baby blues”), it is not normal to ever admit that things aren’t perfect when people – and we’re talking friends and family here, not strangers – are constantly asking you how it’s going. Since I’m a really terrible liar and am apparently not very good at thinking on my feet, my response to these questions usually starts with, “Uhhhh…” and then I either have to backtrack or explain myself. I understand that “How’s it going?” isn’t intended as an open invitation to air all my deepest motherhood confessions (much like “How are you feeling” when you’re pregnant is not an appropriate opportunity to talk about your hemorrhoids), but I literally had someone who has children say to me, “Are you loving it?” and then act surprised when I offered a very diplomatic, “Parts of it.”
I can only admit this all now because, although I still have some really tough days, at 10 weeks postpartum, the worst of these feelings have passed. Baby girl and I have had time to get to know each other, I feel more at ease with my new lifestyle, and I’m starting to get a little more sleep. But really, don’t ask a new mom how things are going unless you really want to know the answer. There is nothing more frustrating than being exhausted and overwhelmed and full of self-doubt and then having to lie about it. So for those who ask how it’s going and whether I love it: Honestly, it’s going sometimes crappy, sometimes better, and no, I can’t say that I love it. But I’m hanging in there and doing my best. And most importantly, I do love HER, and that bond is growing every day.