The Mom Files – It’s A Process

Early in March I asked all of you to participate in a survey about the blog and almost 200 of you took the time. Thank you so much for that! One of the questions was about how you would like me to tackle the new role of being a mom in blog land. An overwhelming amount of you requested info on what it’s like to go from not-a-mom to MOM! So the Mom Files will be tackling this journey. I’ve already talked about the early days of breast feeding because ouch. Today I’m backing up a step and talking about the emotional bits.

It has not yet been a month since I gave birth, but if you didn’t know I had made a human, strangers probably would never be able to tell from just looking at me. This is a huge change from how it felt to be pregnant. On Monday I picked up some more swaddling blankets and it occurred to me that the people at the registry thought I was buying them for a baby shower. I had no baby with me, so… it wasn’t completely clear. The shift from anyone and everyone knowing I am about to be a mom, when I didn’t necessarily FEEL like a mom to no one particularly knowing I’m a mom but me feeling like a mom 24/7 is… strange.

When I pushed Gabe’s head out of me and then the doctor pulled the rest of him out it was amazing and I cried. But when they handed him over to me and I called his name and he looked at me, I didn’t feel the way I expected to feel. I felt unsure. I felt like I didn’t know who that little baby was. I knew I was supposed to love him immediately, but that’s not what I felt. I felt like, “Ok, here we go. This is it.” I felt (and I still feel) an overwhelming amount of responsibility. It is my job to keep that baby alive, to protect that baby, to make sure he is fed and is not distressed. I would do anything for that baby, I would throw myself in front of a bus without a second thought for that baby. I did not particularly love him, though. And I felt a lot of pressure (self-imposed, expectation-imposed) to be overwhelmed with love and connection like I saw Kamel was, like I thought I was supposed to feel… but I didn’t.

Now then, this is not to say that I experienced postpartum depression or even baby blues. I didn’t feel distressed or upset or anxious about how I felt about the baby, or in general. I did have a moment of crying in the shower because of the immenseness of having a baby and being in charge of a human life the first or second day we had Gabe home, but that was a holy-shit moment and not lasting.

Love for Gabe grew over the first few weeks and is still growing. I look at him now and I see my son. I marvel at how funny he is, how expressive, how much he changes week to week. I see him and I see a huge connection between Kamel and I and that makes me happy.

Being a mom right now feels exhausting. It has a bit to do with the interrupted sleep, but it is more about the mental energy spent on constantly taking care of another person. Everything is about that little man. Going to the store is a big production of diapers and wipes and changes of clothes and then when we get there I spend the whole time hoping he doesn’t cry, and if he cries I’m searching out a place to change him or rocking the stroller to soothe him. I know it won’t always be so hands on – I mean, eventually he’ll be able to sit at a table or tell me with words what he needs – so as much as certain things are overwhelming and as tired as Kamel and I both are, I know that newborn land is a short period of time.

But being a mom? Is an always thing. Even from the beginning when I thought, “who is this little demanding boy?” I was Mom. Capital M included. The idea of a night off doesn’t exist at this point. Even if I am not with him I am thinking of him. I also know that that will ease with time. I mean, my thoughts alone can’t possibly keep him alive, right? Try telling me that.

Do I like it? I don’t think I can qualify it like that… it’s bigger than like or dislike, hard or easy. It is the most important thing I will ever do. It is not the only thing I will ever do, but if I fuck this up I fuck up a person… and that doesn’t really work for me. Do I feel like a mom? Every second of every day. We will see where this road takes me.

16 thoughts on “The Mom Files – It’s A Process”

  1. From the moment that you played with your Barbie dolls to the babysitting that you had done, you were always going to be a good mom. You are now and I suspect that you will continue to be for the life of that little guy. I’m a dad, so I don’t have the same connection your mother does, but she tells me that motherhood never stops. It is a life long condition of responsiblity, love, worry and pleasure. I’m proud of you and Kamel for how you take such wonderful care of Gabe. Hang in there MOM.
    GDB

  2. This last comment made my eyes water. And Lauren, what a wonderful, honest post. I’m so happy you decided to do The Mom Files; I look forward to reading about your journey!

  3. YES, as always. Your child is your child, but a newborn baby is also…a stranger. You have to get to know each other. One kind of love is immediate, maybe, and the other takes time…

    Certainly I remember sometimes looking at my newborn son late at night and thinking, ‘But who IS this person with my nipple in his mouth?’ I loved him, but I didn’t know him. And now that he talks constantly and tells me stuff and does stuff and I KNOW WHO HE IS, there’s a whole other kind of love

    Anyway, way to keep talking about the things no one talks about! You sound like an awesome mom to me.

  4. “I knew I was supposed to love him immediately, but that’s not what I felt.”

    You know, I’ve heard this from multiple women. I feel like it’s a LOT more common than our cultural narrative leads us to believe. Which is kind of frustrating, you know? As you say, there’s so much pressure to love this thing unconditionally RIGHT NOW. That has to be hard on so many people (men, too, not just women! Although I’m sure the pressure for women is stronger).

    It’s refreshing to hear people speak honestly about it.

    1. I think also (and I didn’t get into this because there was just too much to write) with giving birth I was finishing something really major. I was ending my pregnancy and going through a major physical feat. And that’s pretty epic on top of meeting a new human who I now am in charge of not killing. I think not enough emphasis is placed on the transition between pregnancy and mom. It’s greatly physical but also mental. I mean, people talk about “becoming a mom” but… ENDING pregnancy was momentous to me.

  5. ” I felt unsure. I felt like I didn’t know who that little baby was.”

    Oh thank goodness. I know there’s a lot of pressure to have this immediate connection when you have a child but to me it’s like meeting this little bitty stranger and accepting them with no idea of who they are or what they’re like. I’ve got a suspicion that when I get to babies I’m going to be really unsure at first and I’m glad to know that it’s not entirely odd.

  6. Hi Lauren, I found your blog through APW and this is the first time I comment. I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this process with us. Even though right now it is not the right moment for my husband and I to become parents, all your baby related posts are a relief to me because finally someone is honest about all this! Reading this helps me to understand that my fears on pregnancy and becoming a mother are normal. Also, Kamel and you sound like awesome parents.

  7. Oh, same. Same, same, same.

    That expectation of immediate love is a weird one. Here’s a new human in the room and he’s covered in goo and my fancy bits are on display and I’m now responsible for every aspect of his survival and does he have all his fingers and toes and why isn’t he crying and oh my god, why is he crying and what are you doing down there… I didn’t have time or head space to investigate love then and there.

    The sense of being a mum 24/7 continues to grow for me and some days it overwhelms me completely. Like yesterday when he was sick and couldn’t go to childcare and we both had to go to work and there was this awkward non-discussion about it being me that had to stay home and then explain that to my employer. I took us for a walk in the sunshine and cried twice because I had actually really wanted to go to work and not be the mum for 8 hours.

    Some nights I want to not be the mum for 8 hours as well. I want to be the one who sleeps through the baby’s cries while someone else gets up to him. But I can’t. There’s a visceral bodily reaction when he cries. I can even feel it when I think about him crying. It is full on and some days you want to switch it off but that doesn’t mean you love the kid any less.

    Same.

  8. Thanks for your honesty. I think of course this experience changes a lot per person, I have also read stories of moms who felt *love at first sight*, that there was an instant connection that they had not felt through the pregnancy.
    But, you are right, it must be a process, in the end, it’s a new person, you get to know him (or her) slowly, know their temperament, know what they like… little by little. Our neighbors had a baby last September. We saw her as a newborn and we have babysitted her every now and then… it is amazing to see the evolution, to see how she went from being this baby who was just sleeping and eating and burping and crying, to a baby that is starting to be more like a girl, who smiles, laughs, stares at stuff, wants to grab it. And she’s only 7 months.
    I am sure you will do great!

  9. I’m so glad you wrote this. I also didn’t feel connected to my daughter at all when she was born. I had a traumatic birth which involved way more intervention than I would have liked, and I blamed that. But it’s interesting that you felt the same way.

    I think it’s a LOT more common than people realise. Especially given that a lot of the intervention used in birth does mess with a woman’s hormones. Someone sent me this article a few weeks after her birth, and it described how I felt:
    http://www.mamamia.com.au/parenting/learning-to-love-your-child-after-birth/

    She is 11 weeks old now, and I can feel my love for her growing every day. She feels like my daughter, not a random stranger who has come to live with us. I think we have a way to go before we are really bonded, but I feel now like we will get there.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank your for writing this.

    I’ve never had that “I’m meant to be a mom” instinct that a lot of people have. I think I want kids, but it’s a serious discussion and reading real life accounts like yours – that aren’t all “I had a baby, and then I was overjoyed and realized I had never known a happy day before, and life was perfect from there on out” are really reassuring – it makes me feel like, maybe I can do that, too.

  11. You’re not alone…my mother told me that she didn’t really feel that instinctual love for me until I first smiled at her, a few months after she gave birth. Not all moms feel that attachment right away! Also kids are gross but I am strangely intrigued by your posts! I love the honesty.

  12. Thanks for writing this. I remember saying to my mom in those first few weeks that I was worried I didn’t have the intense, so-overwhelming-it-brings-you-to-tears love for my daughter that I felt like I should have, that love that I’d heard parents talk about. I was afraid I didn’t love her enough. That love has certainly grown and I know it will continue to do so (we’re four months in). But I still look at her in awe and curiosity… who is this person I gave birth to? What will she think and do and say and love as she becomes herself? It’s fascinating, and it feels wonderful that I will witness it all as she grows.

    Anyway, on a related note, also thought you might like to check out this blog post. I don’t feel exactly the same way she does in every way, but certainly related to some of the things she said. Thought she offered an interesting perspective.
    http://www.renegademothering.com/2013/02/09/i-became-a-mother-and-died-to-live/

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