Today I had my first “day off” since giving birth. Even though my day off still consisted of preparing Z’s visa requirements and then applying for a visa, I was able to take a long, leisurely lunch all by myself. And I was able to sit down to have coffee after. I also started my 30×30 fitness challenge, 30 minutes of exercise for 30 days. And I felt a little bit like myself again. And as I sit here and write this, I wonder how time has passed so quickly. She’ll turn 2 months old tomorrow. And I feel like I just kind of woke up from a newborn fog, like I was living in a dream and a nightmare all at once. With all the excitement, nerves and exhaustion of newborn parenthood, I realized that nothing could have prepared me mentally or emotionally for it. This whole motherhood thing is so much harder than I thought it was going to be. When I was pregnant, I heard it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. I received warnings from other mothers advising me to sleep as much as I could, to take care of loose ends as much as possible and to go out and spend time with my husband as much as I can. I believed every word but that did NOT prepare me for the actual experience of it all.
When I became pregnant, I started to lose myself. When I became a mom, this feeling became worse. It was like a part of me died. I’d been this very strong, independent woman. It was all about me. I was able to put me first. Being a perfectionist, I felt like I was whittled down to someone that had no choice but to accept that “good enough” is enough. That the sharp memory I once prided myself with would be torn into shreds and that I would constantly forget, get confused and misplace things. This caused me a lot of stress. I often felt like I was literally losing my mind. I suddenly felt I couldn’t do other things and that was very hard for me. I wanted to be a mom, but when I was actually experiencing it, it was a shock.
There aren’t any words to describe my first night home and the first weeks to follow. They were some of the most emotional days of my entire life—highs and lows of epic proportions. We only stayed 2 full days at the hospital as I had a normal delivery despite it taking 27 hours (click to link to my birth experience entry). The hospital stay was awesome. I had food delivered to me, nurses to take care of me, midwives to help me out and give advice about the baby. I even had a newborn welcome kit. When we got home, I was shocked at how incredibly hard it was. Without midwives to help me latch the baby, breastfeeding hurt. And by hurt, I mean the cracked and bleeding kind. The sweet, adorable baby I just put to sleep would wake up to feed every so often and I just got 30 minutes of segmented sleep every day. My days and nights were mixed up and it never stopped. I could never look forward to bedtime knowing that there was no bedtime anymore, I would still have to get up to feed the baby. There were no weekends, no day or even time off. To top it all off, my body was still very, very sore, it hurt to sit down or even move and I had Bell’s Palsy which started 3 weeks before I gave birth. Eating and speaking was difficult and smiling and laughing hurt as it just pulled one side of my face. The right side of my face was swollen and droopy and people would stare at me whenever I passed by. I couldn’t hear very well from my right ear. My right eye wouldn’t close and I had to tape it shut so I could sleep. I felt fat, ugly and miserable. I had always been comfortable and confident with myself, but my self esteem took a dive. Add that to exhaustion and sleeplessness and I was an emotional and physical wreck.
But I have also never felt more fiercely loved than in the days, weeks and months after my baby girl was born. I felt immense love from everyone in my life especially my husband, but the love I felt from other mothers was different. I would suddenly get messages offering help and giving me newborn stuff. It came from deep-seeded understanding and empathy. It came from a place that only another mother can relate to. It was then that I learned that the cliche was true. It DOES take a village. The most important thing to get your baby is not a crib or a stroller or swaddles. The most important thing to get for your baby is a village. Your village will keep you sane. They will literally cross an ocean or go on a month long leave to stay with you and help you out. They will cook and feed you when you are starving, wash the dishes when you are too tired to move or forgive you when you are hours late. They will come over and rescue you with infant formula when you swear your boobs can’t take any more. They will love and cradle your baby when you are too tired and all you want to do is sit on the couch and watch Netflix in someone else’s home. They will give you money when you don’t know how to pay for your baby’s insurance. They will pray for you. I am the mother I am because of the effort of a collective group of women (and some men) in my life.
And so while motherhood is exhaustingly unrelenting and I sometimes feel like running away, it’s also beautiful and meaningful. And I have learned that it’s okay to be tired and wiped out and emotionally drained. And although I still feel overwhelmed and conflicted, sometimes a little depressed, I try my best to be strong. To be patient. To not dwell on what I have lost but to be happy with what I have been blessed with. To trust in the process and have faith. This shift in perspective doesn’t fix all the problems, but it greatly improves our situation when we don’t have too many choices but simply to endure.
Motherhood has humbled me. And in the two months that have passed, I have learned that the hard moments will pass as quickly as they came and will be replaced with a sweet smile whenever they see you, with a talkative babble that will make you forget the pain that you went through, or that half of your face still doesn’t move. I can finally say that after two months, I am beginning to feel a little bit like myself again. I am now comfortable with the fact that my daughter controls and determines the course of our days at least for now. The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait. Work can wait. The rest of the world can wait.
The journey from here to okay is often hard and exhausting. I still have a long way to go before I can fully be myself again. I will still have bad days. But it’s okay. It’s all going to be okay.