When my son was two weeks old, I read an article in People magazine spotlighting new celebrity mothers. Every one of them said something like, “This is the most magical, amazing experience of my life” or “I don’t care if I sleep at all – I just want to look at my baby 24 hours a day.” Reading their effusive quotes, I couldn’t help but think, “What is wrong with me?” This certainly was not the most amazing, magical time in my life – it was, in fact, the hardest thing I had ever experienced. And, as far as lovingly watching my baby 24 hours a day, instead I was trying to sneak in 10 minutes of sleep whenever I could just to maintain my sanity.
When my son was born, my entire world turned upside-down. I’ve since heard that the transition from no kids to one is among the hardest transitions in life. You go from thinking primarily about yourself and your own needs to suddenly having all those needs (sleep, food, using the bathroom, etc) become secondary to this new little being that rules your life. On top of that, you’ve just been through a huge physical and emotional trauma giving birth. I found myself completely lost, thinking, “What have I done to my life?” Nothing seemed the same and everything seemed impossibly hard.
My son’s temperament as a baby certainly didn’t help matters. From day one, he was an extremely colicky baby – cried (screamed) all the time and rarely slept. One time a friend told me that she worked in the church nursery’s infant room and they called their tiny charges the “Sleepers.” I didn’t get it – why would anyone call babies sleepers? In my experience, you spent 24 hours a day trying to get your screaming baby to sleep, but he would only close his eyes for maybe 10 minutes here or there.
I also found it incredibly difficult to bond with this type of baby. I tried singing sweet songs and gently rocking my baby to sleep, but he would just arch his body away from me and scream until I stood up and bounced around the room as hard as I could. To tell you the truth, I always loved my baby, but I don’t feel like we really established a strong bond until he was closer to being a one-year-old. In our case, it took time to develop our relationship – which is hard to say when you’re surrounded by images of people falling deeply and instantly in love the moment their baby is born. But now, with my son almost three years old, we are incredibly close and have a wonderful loving relationship. The older my son got, the happier he became. The more he could do, the better he was able to handle stimulation in a productive way. I remember seven months being a turning point for us. Sure, he has plenty of toddler moments these days (tantrums, not listening, etc) but in general, I feel like he is now really interesting, fun, and a good kid.
One reason I’m sharing all of this is that I feel like we, as mothers, are surrounded by Facebook posts and Instagram shots that tout the joys of motherhood – how adorable our babies are, how much fun we’re all having, etc. And it’s rarer that you really hear about the nitty gritty and just how incredibly hard this journey can be – not only for the mother of a colicky baby, but for any new mother. I’ve had countless moments in the past three years of wondering what I did wrong in those early days, why I didn’t enjoy my son’s infanthood, why it took so long to bond with my baby. I think I will always have those questions and a certain level of guilt whenever I see a new mom so in love with her baby and taking to motherhood so naturally. But my hope is that if we start sharing some of the uglier stories as well, maybe we won’t feel so alone in these feelings.