It’s hard to explain this until you’re actually in it, but new motherhood is both the most amazing thing that will ever happen to you and the most frightening.
There will be happiness, it’s true, but there may also be anger, frustration, jealousy, exhaustion, mind-numbing rage, and pure unadulterated terror. And the only thing that is even the least bit strange about that is why we don’t really talk about it.
Parenting site Everyday Family asked members of its Facebook group to describe what motherhood meant to them. “Pure bliss!!!” wrote Amanda. “Never-ending adventure,” said Bobbie. “JOY!” proclaimed Amy. That’s how we talk about new motherhood. It’s how we post about it on Facebook and gush about it to our childless friends. It’s the narrative. New motherhood is bliss.
But it isn’t bliss for everyone. And it isn’t bliss all the time. Assuming that it will be makes it all the more difficult to handle when you’re right there in it feeling anything but. Bliss is defined as “complete happiness.” But new motherhood is so much more complicated than that.
It isn’t bliss all the time. And assuming that it will be makes it all the more difficult to handle when you’re right there in it feeling anything but.
It’s Okay To Feel Far from Blissful
There might be nights when you cry. Nights when you yell. Nights when you look at this tiny, helpless human being and wonder what on earth this scrunch-faced, screaming, poop-machine is doing in your home. And maybe you’ll think back to all those posts, and parenting sites, and blogs you read that day and you might think: What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t it feel like “bliss” to me?
You might miss your old life, and that’s okay. You might feel jealous of all your childless friends and their ability to sit, on a Sunday morning, with a cup of coffee leisurely doing the crossword puzzle, and that’s okay. Nowhere, in the entire manual of new parenthood (which doesn’t even exist), does it say that you must, at all times, feel completely and utterly blissful about becoming a parent.
You might miss your old life, and that’s okay.
For me, the bliss of new motherhood was something I could understand only after it had happened. Sure, I caught glimpses of it while I was in it — in the upward curl of tiny eyelashes resting on a dimpled cheek, or the whiff of that baby smell that emanates mysteriously from a little tiny head — but it was fleeting. Replaced, all too quickly, with the absolute chaos of a world turned upside down.
If you’re like me, it’s only later — when you sit with your four-year-old as he explains to you the eating habits of the mimic octopus — that you realize why his infancy was blissful. Because, in it, you and he were creating this. This bond, forged in the fire of sleepless nights, and poopy diapers, and incessant, red-faced, banshee-like screaming, is bliss. Because, now that you really know each other — now that you’ve been doing this whole motherhood thing for a while — you understand that “complete happiness” doesn’t have to mean feeling happy all the time.
Just Care for Him and Love Him
You can be blissful and sad, blissful and angry, blissful and just so tired you think you might keel over at the supermarket while holding a can of black olives you don’t even know why you picked up in the first place. It’s not that it gets any easier, exactly, it’s just that you get used to it. The blinding onslaught of sudden chaos has become your new norm. And so, sure, you’re blissful. Why not?
But, at the start of it — at the beginning of this absolutely insane endeavor — you might be in shock. Your entire life has changed in the space of half a second, and you might need a minute to breathe, but there isn’t any air on this new and alien planet but the air of motherhood. So you breathe it. And maybe you cry. And perhaps you moan. And maybe you scream into pillows. And it’s possible that you’re decidedly un-blissful. And that is absolutely, one hundred percent, completely, and utterly, okay.
Bliss is not a requirement of motherhood. The only thing you have to do is care for and love your baby.
You can love him when you’re angry. You can love him when you’re sad. You can love him when you’re just so tired you can’t see straight. Just care for him and love him. And if you need a little help — if your emotions feel too big, or too scary, or too out-of-control — then get some help. Everyone will understand. It’s a big, scary thing that’s happened to you. There’s no right way to feel.