Motherhood is a mindf#$%. Pretty bold statement, I know, so please allow this mama to share her journey with you.
I am 7 months postpartum, and while I pretty much despised being pregnant, there is this sadness that this chapter of my life is now over. Not postpartum depression, just a feeling of sorrow because something beautiful has ended. Aside from the two beautiful children that I birthed, the only evidence that remains of me ever having been pregnant is the extra tire around my midsection and a now very faded linea nigra. See, this is what I mean.
While I hated being pregnant and hated what it was doing to my body, I now find myself clutching to preserve that mysterious brown line down my belly as if it were the last piece of tuna tartare for nine months (the mom pouch, not so much)! Mindf#$%.
Let me backtrack here so that the gist of this blog makes sense. I’ve been pregnant 4 times but have two children. The first time about 5 years ago, was an inexplicable blip; enough HCG hormone to render a positive pregnancy test and to get my hopes up, but not quite enough to yield anything beyond that. A “chemical pregnancy”, I believe it’s called.
More recently, about a year and a half ago, I suffered a miscarriage at 10 weeks, one week before my 36th birthday. Two weeks before I would finally be able to share the good news with family and friends. It was brutal. I remember sitting in synagogue for the baby naming of a very close friend’s daughter, and I could feel everything being expelled from my body. It was such a gruesome feeling. Here I was, having to put on a show for my friends and genuinely seem happy as everyone around me celebrated new life. And simultaneously, I was mourning the loss of the life inside me. Aside from the physical trauma that comes with a miscarriage, there was the emotional trauma as well. Naturally, I blamed myself and wondered what I did wrong to bring this on. Had I eaten something? Lifted something? Complained too much and brought bad karma onto myself? While the medical experts assured me that it was none of the above, my doctor had given me a note to take a leave from work to heal physically, emotionally, and mentally. I didn’t even give this a second thought, since the alternative to sitting at home wallowing in self-pity seemed pretty unbearable; so, decided to immediately throw myself back into work as a distraction. In hindsight, I probably should have taken the time for myself to properly grieve my loss. I think about who that baby was and who s/he would have been all the time.
So, I vowed to never complain about being pregnant or “getting fat” again so as not to bring more bad luck onto myself.
Fast forward about 6 months later and I became pregnant. I held my breath for the first 12 weeks and hoped and prayed that I wouldn’t go through that again and breathed a sigh of relief when I made it past the first trimester. I also yearned to have another girl. Bows and frills are what I knew best. When I found out it was a boy, I was beyond disappointed. It sounds awful, I know, and I felt so incredibly guilty for feeling this way in light of what I had just gone through only months earlier. Why couldn’t I just be happy that I was pregnant with a healthy baby? Mindf#$%.
After my daughter was born four years ago, I had a terrible case of postpartum depression that lasted for several months. Having lived through this inner turmoil, I am able to identify the signs and am pretty in tune with my feelings, so I can thankfully say that I have not gone through this the second time around. But I was definitely depressed DURING my pregnancy. Until very recently I would occasionally joke that I had “pre-partum” depression; but after doing some research, I discovered that there is indeed a term for this – prenatal depression, and yes, it’s a real thing, although not many people talk about it, it seems. In the last number of years, more and more women have bravely come forward with their own personal and heroic accounts of postpartum depression and of miscarriages – all these once “taboo” subjects, and that’s great! We’ve made wonderful strides!
But does anyone talk about the very real prenatal depression that can also come while being pregnant? We’re so conditioned to feeling that we HAVE to feel a certain way during those 9 months, and that we have to embrace every millisecond of it all.
But what if we don’t? What if we can’t? I felt so guilty for feeling so shitty, and promised myself after my miscarriage that I would be grateful to be pregnant again, so why couldn’t I just be happy about my unborn son? Why? Mindf#$%.
Blake is now 7 months old and I have gotten used to the polos and jeans. In fact, I love dressing him up as his dad’s “mini”! My nickname for him is “special”. But as special as Blake is, we did not get off to the easiest start. He had a severe case of colic (which up until recently, was a very obscure term for me), and thankfully, that finally subsided about 3 months ago. The first 4 months of his life consisted of him crying ALL DAY. Literally. From morning ‘til night, with maybe a 20-minute reprieve. Just enough time for me to go to the bathroom in peace and maybe fold a load of laundry, if I was lucky. Our daughter was such an easy baby, so this was completely incomprehensible to us. For those mamas reading this who have experienced a colicky baby, you know what the unrelenting screaming can do to your soul, and you really start to question yourself and your capabilities as a mother. Your mind wanders to very dark places that you would never dare contemplate. At least mine did. I almost did not recognize myself. It was a very bleak and lonely time for me, and the days were not only long, but isolating. Now those newborn days are gone, and yet I am longing for them to return because I feel as though I missed out on them with my son. Mindf#$%.
During that time, out of sheer desperation, my husband and I had tried everything, and when I say everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Bouncing, swinging, shushing, weekly visits to an osteopath, oh, and how can I forget the *vibrator* (*yep, you read the correctly) that we put under his mattress. Yes, my husband took a trip to a sex shop specifically for this, and yes, the saleswoman fully rolled her eyes when he asked her for the “strongest” thing she had and assured her that it wasn’t for him (i.e. “asking for a friend”). Looking back, it is pretty comical, but at the time, it was anything but funny. We were willing to do and try anything to stop the crying. I was so grateful on those days when I had the occasional visits from friends and soaked up every second of their company. And when they would leave to get back to their own lives and children, I found myself feeling sad that my human contact with the outside world had come to an end for the day. Here we were again, alone, Blake and I against the world.
It’s amazing to me how you can love someone so much and yet be completely miserable around them at the same time. Mindf#$%.
How did I survive that dark time? Well for starters, I got dressed and took a shower every single day. I even put on a bit of makeup. It sounds so basic and ridiculous to even note that, but when you’re a new mom at home with a newborn, bathing and dressing are daily luxuries. I donned myself in what I like to call the “mom uniform” – leggings and a shirt of sorts, but dammit at least I looked and felt like a person on the outside. In between bouts of screaming, I perused Instagram, became influenced by influencers, and shopped online to distract myself in the hopes that these unnecessary and impulsive purchases would fit my pre-pregnancy body. I drank a lot of coffee during the day, and a lot of wine at night. I called my mom numerous times throughout the day and had a good cry each time. I counted down the minutes for playgroup days and music days, where I could be with other moms who understood what I was going through and empathized with me. I even looked forward to daycare pickups. Social interaction literally saved my sanity.
Why am I sharing my journey with you? With strangers? Well, for one, you need to know that you are not alone – even when you think you are. All this physical and emotional angst are shared emotions and experiences that unite us all as a team of Super Heroines. Motherhood is messy, beautiful, sometimes ugly, unforgiving, and accepting all at the same time. It isn’t the perfectly staged pictures that we post on social media for public approval. It’s raw and it’s sacred. It is a myriad of mixed feelings that forces you to look into the depths of your soul and it makes you rise to the occasion.
It compels you to realize how strong you really are, but above all else, that you are HUMAN and doing your goddamned best to get through each day unscathed.
Thankfully, we have our children to come along on the ride, and most of the time, they are our biggest fans. Please remember that, even when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the Superwoman staring back at you.
Heather holds an M.A. in Child Studies from Concordia University and is a professor at CDI College in the department of Early Childhood Education. She has worked with countless children in numerous daycares and in theatre settings, and often reflects on these experiences as she raises her own children.