I’m a new mother. I have anxiety (always have). I also have post-partum depression. Neither of these latter issues defines me but they have each had an impact on my role as mother. As I sit amongst the whirlwind that is now my life, I have realized a few things. Being a mother is nothing like you can ever imagine it will be. Your life as you knew it stops and this new being takes over. Not only are you learning new things about yourself as you adapt to a new role, you start to see the true colors of those around you. There is nothing like rapid, complete change to learn what life is truly about.
There is a societal stigma surrounding motherhood. There are the supportive, understanding folk, yes, but there are always those who feel the need to put their spin on things and to add their two cents to the mix. Being a mother, to some, means you can’t hold a job. It means that you can no longer be a friend. It means that you can no longer do the things you love to do. It also seems to have given people the idea that motherhood is a battle ground and that there is a way to do it better than others.
I’m here to say that some of these things are true, but they aren’t true of everyone, and it is because of the MANY beliefs surrounding motherhood that new mothers become crazy–or are at least made to feel they are crazy. These beliefs, the treatment of new mothers are so often the unspoken cause of their undoing. There are even commercials now mocking the new mom, over packing things to make sure she has everything she needs, and the calmness of the same mother as she has her second kid—implying that having more kids makes you an expert. While the message is meant to be kind and to jest at something most mothers go through (and I am not saying that experience isn’t a good teacher), I don’t believe it’s healthy either. Humor is necessary in motherhood, yes, but to use humor against a mother is not ok.
One of the most condescending things I have heard as a new mom is “You’re such a new mom.” What the fuck does that mean? You’re right, I am a new mom. I spent the last 10 months in a hormonal brew, growing a new human, watching my body change irreparably, feeling pain I have never felt, and being sicker than I have ever felt in my life. Then, I had to have my child cut out of me so I was on pain medication, I had to learn to be a mom and I went back to work a week after the birth of my son. My husband is gone 12 or more hours a day for work, so not only am I brand new at being a mom, I’m COMPLETELY by myself most of the time. Not to mention my son was born in the dead of winter so the lighting of the season sucks—totally experienced SAD on top of everything. All of these things combined have spelled disaster for me. So cut me a fucking break and spare me the “You’re such a new mom.” No shit. And I’m doing my best in spite of the odds being stacked against me.
I personally had an extremely difficult pregnancy—they initially thought I lost my son and then they thought I may have lost a twin. I had terrible vomiting and lost 25 pounds when all was said and done. My vomiting was so severe that I lost control of my bladder while getting sick. I simply could not eat. Being a petite woman, and my husband being 6’2”, my child was larger than I could handle. My body could not accommodate a baby of his size (even though he was born relatively average at 7 pounds 4 ounces and 20 inches) and I endured incredible pain for the last several months of my pregnancy because of how my son sat in my abdomen. I endured sustained contractions for the last month of my pregnancy and they refused to induce me early. My son was born in the middle of a flu outbreak, there was a bout of pneumonia in my family, and there were smokers constantly around. These factors drove me crazy because I felt like I couldn’t protect my son. And I was made fun of for it—and I was told AGAIN what a new mom I was for having these fears. Furthermore, my son developed colic and I did research enough to see that second hand smoke caused colic. So new mom or not, how dare anyone make me feel crazy for doing what I felt necessary and what was ultimately RIGHT for my son.
So yes, I’m a “new mom.” That isn’t a mark against me. That isn’t something to be ashamed of as I bumble and fumble my way through, trying to learn how to be a mother. And that is NOT something for anyone to use against someone, or to belittle someone with. It means I am doing my best as I’m trying to adapt to the myriad of changes occurring in my life. My struggles are not your entertainment. Mocking someone as they make mistakes or as they are in the throws of learning doesn’t make you wise, it makes you an asshole. And their choices in raising their children are their own—you have to respect that whether you agree or not. As hard as it is, it’s necessary to hold your tongue.
Your experiences are different than mine and just because you have been through something I am going through doesn’t mean that you experienced it as I am. When you see someone struggling, that is an opportunity to help them. And in the case of motherhood, often all that is needed is support. Words of encouragement like, “You’ve got this, it’s going to be ok.” Are all that is needed. New mothers don’t need your advice 24/7 and they don’t need your contempt as you mock their beliefs in raising their children.
The path of motherhood is difficult enough—being responsible for another human being is an enormous and difficult undertaking. Add in the uncontrollable internal factors like hormonal shifts and it becomes even more overwhelming. Any other personal experiences can create a cocktail of sadness, fear, and pain during what is supposed to be the most beautiful experience of life. Given all of these factors, don’t be an asshole. Don’t judge a woman as she is trying to make her way in a beautiful but terrifying experience. Instead lift her up—don’t pretend you know it all (because no one does), rather offer support. Help facilitate the joy during this difficult time. It is often difficult for women to encourage one another because we are so often pitted against one another in ridiculous ways. Motherhood, especially new motherhood, is beautiful and raw and it is a great equalizer. No matter how much you’d like to believe you know it all, we each embark on this journey not knowing anything.
Being a mother is simply about remembering what LIFE is about. You learn in an instant that the petty crap you’ve always worried about means nothing. You see the world differently because you remember what you are here for—and it has nothing to do with making money or fighting with others to have more things. It’s about experiencing and living life. Seeing the beauty in the world and having a baby brings out a beauty you had never seen before.
So to all the new moms out there—and the old moms too—let’s help each other on this journey. Embrace the new mom feeling because it is unlike anything in the world. Don’t be ashamed of anything that happens as you learn this new role in life, because the curve is steep. Take it as it is and love your children fiercely– protect them as you see fit. They don’t give a shit how you look, they don’t care who said what to you, and they don’t care if you snapped or felt like you lost your mind. All they care about is that they are loved and loved well. So if you can say you’ve done that, then you’ve done your job perfectly. Keep going.