(Ella – two months old)
The sms sends me spinning. I keep seeing it over and over in my mind, those few words spitting their pity at me. It’s from a friend who gave birth five weeks after me. My little Ella is eight weeks old; hers is not even three weeks old. She smses to tell me that she will see me at a barmitzvah we are both invited to. She is leaving her baby with her mother and is excited for the night out. I am reeling.
How can she go out and face the world? At night too! I have just recently been able to move my own bedtime past 6.30pm. For the past eight weeks since birth, I am in bed by 6.30pm. With a baby who barely sleeps in the day, and is up from 3 or 4 am for the day, those four hours from 6.30pm – 10.30pm are my saving grace. There is no way I can leave the house at night, let alone be awake for it.
But more than the physical exhaustion, I am shaken to my core. I am struggling to adjust to my new existence. The reality of being attached constantly – mentally, physically and emotionally – to another being who demands my full servitude unsettles me. I am missing my inner world, which is now overrun with questions – is my baby hungry, tired, does she need to be changed, is she eating enough.
Going to this function signifies a slight return to the outside world, and implies that I can go out for the night and be okay. It marks a milestone in my world, showing everyone that I am still alive. And here my friend is is, less than three weeks after birth, and able to get up and go out with no fuss at all
I feel assaulted by her seemingly seamless transition into motherhood, and envious at how unscathed her psyche is(granted her baby does sleep for a large portion of the day time). I find myself comparing myself to her. I question why I cannot be as calm and collected as she is, and why I am finding this change so challenging.
The unraveling of self confuses me. I did not expect this. I expected an adjustment and some sleep deprivation. But I did not anticipate this cataclysmic redefinition of self. I mourn my free self. I miss being able to dash off the shops with no pram or car seat or nappy bag in tow. I miss my mind a lot. My independence is shattered, and I am beholden. I question everything about it. Am I loving her enough? I wander if I will have an adult thought again. I question my reaction. Why is this hard for me, I wonder. Will I ever sleep again, I ponder. Why do some new moms get to waltz out the door to a barmitzva, barely three weeks post birth, with not a care in the world? Why do some moms look happy and poised and perfect while I struggle to find myself in this new role?
Then it hits me. I am a thinker. I take life seriously, sometimes a little too seriously. I do not meld into any aspect of it. Marriage, friendships, jobs and interests are things which I delve into with gusto. I question and ponder and posit I constantly re-examine my motives and my being, to what I want from my life and what I can give to life. I do not suffer, but I do not go gently into this thing call life. There are days and events which shake me up. There are weeks where I feel sad and anxious and lonely and aimless. I love my blessing-filled existence, but no I do not meld into anything.
Some may call me uptight. Some may call me “too serious”. But this is me. I battle through the waves, manoevering the rocky shores in reach of the swells which await.
And being a new mother is no different. With this realization, I am calmed. I own my way of being. I am a self confessed uptight mother. The first time the doctor says my baby is not growing fast enough, I freak out of my wits. I face my guilt and high expectations head on.
Yet despite this calming epiphany, life is not done with me. Another friend tells me nonchalantly how she misses her baby even while she’s in the shower. Another cosmic tidal wave crashes through me. I am not at the stage where I even love my baby authentically. I bump into the father of my friend, who recently gave birth. He tells me how easily she has made the transition into motherhood and how her baby is ‘so, so good’. Why have I not transitioned easily into motherhood? (I later find out that her child barely sleeps in the night or day, and she is literally at her wit’s end)
So here it is. The confession. I am uptight. I am serious. I struggle to find my place in the world. And that does not make me less or inferior or a worse mother. This is who I am, I want to scream out to the world. I am the mother who worries when the nappies aren’t wet. I am the mother who is unsure and uncertain. I do not demand anything more of myself than what I am. I doubt I will ever waltz off to a function days post birth. I still need to go bed embarrassingly early after a string of bad nights. And on this journey called motherhood, I choose to give myself a break. The mother in me is just days old, and is learning slowly. I doubt I will ever find this journey easy and seamless, but I hope that over time I will learn to show more compassion to myself, to trust my instinct and to embrace the beautiful moments along the way.
Until then, I exclaim with celebration that I am an uptight mother.