Sunday, March 21, 2010

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Confessions of a New Mom

I apologize in advance to those of you who come here looking for food. I also apologize for this blog taking a turn into mommy blogging land. I still haven't gotten back into my kitchen routine. If I bake once a week or if I cook more than 3 times a week I consider it a good week. Just when I think I'll be able to get back into the kitchen something happens to deflate those plans. It is extremely difficult to set up a solid routine when you have a baby, especially one that decides she only likes to sleep in hour-long increments during the day. So this post is about my experience with parenthood. The past 5 weeks with Catarina have been incredible and hard and I thought I'd share with you my reasons for why parenting is so hard in the beginning.

Note: this is based solely on my experience and some of the things I've listed might have been a none issue for others. Also, this is coming from my experience as Catarina's mother. Everyone's parenting experience will be different based on their child.

Reasons Why Parenthood is Hard During the First Month

1. You have to get used to not sleeping at night. Your sleeping occurs in naps from now on.

2. You have to get used to having this little person be completely dependent on you. Marriage is not the ball and chain, a child is (I don't mean this in a bad way). Your life is forever changed and you will be eternally connected to your child. You may spend a few hours away from your child, but you will never have a true break from them.

3. Your child is selfish. It's a lot of you giving and giving. What you get in return from your child is very little. You are responding to their cues and they don't care if you want to shower or eat. They just aren't considerate like that. It's not like the baby says thank you after every meal. It's your powerful and consuming love for the baby that helps you get through the day. Sure, the baby does cute things that make it all worth it (it's your reward for your hard work but you cant predict when you'll get it). It isn't until the baby starts interacting with you that you feel like your relationship with the baby isn't so one-sided. When Cati calms down at the sound of my voice I feel like a million bucks. She may not know I am her mother yet but she knows I am someone really important and someone she finds comfort in. That's her way of giving back to me for all that she receives from me.

4. Dads are great but they don't do as much as you do. You will be doing the majority of the work. That's just the way it is. Dads are there for support and to help you rationalize things (see #5), but you become a mother long before he becomes a father. It's not their fault, we carry the baby for 9 months and feel connected to the baby before they do.

5. The emotional investment is bigger than anything else you have been emotionally invested in and you are way more invested in the child in the beginning than the father is. Because this investment is so huge you worry about everything and you take everything personally. Baby doesn't latch? It's your fault. Baby isn't gaining weight? It's your fault. Baby isn't developing well? It's your fault. Everything feels like it's your fault even when it's not. With Cati's issues in the beginning I blamed myself and felt like a horrible mother. This was an isolating feeling because Alex didn't blame himself and he didn't feel like a failure as a father. But because he didn't feel the way I did he helped me step outside of my emotions so that I could see things more clearly.

6. Your reality is way different from your expectations. Sometimes it's hard to reconcile the two.

7. You are terrified of screwing up and being a horrible parent.

8. You realize the permanence of your decision to have a child. Once the baby is born there is no turning back. You will forever be that child's parent. You can't return the baby or wish it back in your belly. You have to leave the hospital and you have to take the baby with you. You have to adjust to the fact that everything in your life is different now that you have a child.

9. You don't know how to read the baby in the beginning. If you get frustrated when your dog gets sick and it can't communicate what's wrong, prepare to be completely overwhelmed when your child cries and you can't figure out why. You'll figure things out but those first few days of dealing with a crying baby and not knowing how to console him or her are heartbreaking.

10. The learning curve is huge. Just as the baby has to get to know you, you have to get to know the baby. What works one day may not work the next. They key is to try to ignore the comments/suggestions/advice of others and do what works for you and what your instinct tells you to do.

11. And lastly, and most importantly, no one tells you how hard it will be and how normal it is for things to feel hard. If someone is honest with you about their experience, latch onto them and go to them whenever you need someone to talk to. I feel good about parenting and caring for Cati NOW. A month ago I felt overwhelmed and like I wouldn't make it through another day. If it wasn't for my friends I don't know how I would have dealt with how I felt. I'd imagine I would have felt very isolated and alone in my feelings when the reality is that what I felt was completely normal. I really am amazed at how people either don't talk about the first few weeks with the baby or how pretty of a picture they paint.
I would love to hear about your experiences with parenthood and what things top your list for why parenthood is so hard in the beginning.

PS a huge thank you goes out to Ale, Jen, Lauren, and Mon. You guys have been a great source of comfort and support and if it weren't for all your reassurances the past 5 weeks I don't know what I would have done. Thanks for reading my novel-sized emails and for inspiring me to come up with this list in the first place.


Jen said...

You are an amazing mother and Cati is soooo lucky to have you. I'm glad you wrote all of this down because some day several years from now, Cati is going to come to you carrying your newborn grandchild and feeling totally overwhelmed and she is going to ask you how you managed to do such a great job mothering her. In case our sappiness gets the best of us and we end up romanticizing the newborn phase like everyone else seems to do, at least we'll have this list to remind us so that we can comfort our daughters when they are new mommies and feel like they are in over their heads :) Love you!

Monica said...

Thank YOU for allowing me to be a part of your life and most importantly, Cati's life. I think it takes a lot of courage for someone to sit down and not only tell you the good and the pretty of pregnancy/labor/becoming a mom but to also tell you the bad and the ugly of it all. I love Cati more than words can say and I look forward to seeing her grow into her own little person but most importantly, to see you evolve as the amazing mother I know you will be.
Tia Mon

Chrissy said...

I've followed your blog for quite some time now (I'm assuming I found you from The Knot, I'm from the MIA but was a DW bride). Boston is one of my favorite cities and I loved your culinary adventures there. Now, I love your blog even more. I am pregnant and wonder and worry for hours on end about so many of the things you are talking about. Thank you so much for sharing as I am sure, come September, it will help me feel not as alone. Cati is beautiful!!

Christina said...

I can't really say much on parenthood given the fact I'm not a parent, but going based on my mom's experiences with me I'd say you have a pretty good grasp on what it all entails. =) Cati is very fortunate to have parents like you guys.

Jess said...

That was one of the best summaries of the early weeks of parenting that I've ever read! You are doing great, no matter how it feels on any given day. I've done the newborn thing twice now (my baby turns one in a couple of weeks) and it threw me for a loop both times. I think it's especially hard if you (like me) are among the first in a group of friends to have a baby - you have so few people who really understand how it is.

Believe it or not, a year from now, all this will seem very far away and unreal. You'll miss that tiny newborn! She is just beautiful, by the way.

*Jen* said...

I stumbled across your blog looking for nutella brownies — and find that you're a new mommy :) I've been there — just a year ago — and it was super-duper hard for me, too.

I promise it gets easier, and you will get to start sleeping again. I know those first weeks are hard, though — keep your head up & just focus on each day as it comes.

氣氛 said...


Cara said...

What a great post! I agree with every single thing you said. The first 3 (6?) months of my son's life were definitely the hardest. He's 2 1/2 now, and while this age has it's challenges, those first few months were really really rough. I had an awful time adjusting, felt like a failure as a mommy about every little thing. It also seemed like all of my friends that were having babies seemed to handle things SO much better than me, and thought that having a newborn was hunky-dory. (At least that was how it appeared). I love my son dearly, but being a new mom is ROUGH! Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I know what you're going through. I had all those thoughts and feelings too. Hang in there!

ashley said...

congrats on your baby girl. great post!

Alexandria said...

I hadn't seen/read this post until now that it was reposted today (12/31). Unfortunate that I was shut out from this part of your motherhood journey, but glad you have survived. As difficult as thing must have been in the beginning, you really have a handle on things and are doing a great job.