Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Psychology of Motherhood

Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist (or even close), so please take these thoughts and views in the spirit intended.

The alarm goes off at 7:00A. It's MLK Jr. Day, so I am off of work. But I do have a scheduled doctor's appointment at 8:00A. I saunter into the kitchen and cook my OatFit. After 90 seconds, I put the bowl on the bar, open my iPad and begin to read my Facebook feed. Between Facebook and Pinterest, I encounter a ton of pregnancy and motherhood blogs and articles. Undoubtedly, the analytics derived from my searches probably reveal that it is a chief interest of mine these days, so I am hardly complaining. But lately the themes are kind of downers. I will summarize.

Body Disappointment. I read one blog post today about a mom who had fantasies of leaving the hospital in her pre-pregnancy jeans only to be disappointed that the bounce-back was more like a slow grind. She had visions of breastfeeding being easy and natural only to find out that the baby had her own plans and pacing. Both things left mom feeling like a failure.

Exhaustion. The most common refrain I have heard from every mom, new or veteran, is one centered around sleep deprivation. In fact, there hasn't been one mom with whom I've ever spoken who boasts straight eight-hour sleep with her newborn. They have feeding demands, night/day adjustments and plenty of potty episodes. Expect to sleep? Expect to be let down is what I've gathered.

Hormones. We all have them chilling out at a delicate balance during normal operating conditions. Changes such as pregnancy, delivery, breastfeeding, menstrual cycles and miscarriage all have a profound effect on that balance. Many moms write about the countless tears shed on their couches due to heightened emotions - both acknowledgement of a joyful new chapter as well as the digestion of an awfully intimidating new normal.

Pain & Discomfort. Whether a C-Section or a VB, each comes with its own version of recovery burdens. Even still, our bodies are all different, and each of us may recover at different paces. Regardless, pain and discomfort limit us from doing our normal daily activities to the fullest extent. If, on top of that, you've never been one to ask for help, you may endure a lot of extra stress as you accept that you simply cannot do it all, most of it, half of it, or even a fraction of it with the quality or speed you once did.

Frustration with Baby. I wonder how many new moms would admit to thinking "why won't he/she just _____." Sleep. Eat. Latch. Poop. Stop Crying Stay swaddled. Take a bottle. Take a pacifier. Let me put him/her down. I'll bet guilt comes shortly after those thoughts for daring to blame your new bundle of joy for your newfound stress and frustration.

As I've mentioned before, I am more nervous about these things than I am the actual delivery because everywhere I turn I read about the difficulty and the dashed expectations. I'll admit, each mom does end her rant with "but you'll never experience a greater love" or something to that effect. So, is that the proposed coping mechanism? Let the intense love for your new baby provide enough perspective to endure what sounds otherwise unendurable? To repeat the mantra "this too shall pass" as you recognize the newborn stage is but a blip on the timeline in the grand scheme. Some moms wrote that you'll miss the hospital. Others write that you'll miss the newborn stage. Many go on to share that you'll look back  on raising one baby with fondness when you're now in the throws of raising two or more.

So let me get this straight: I am going to hate my body, hurt like hell, cry on a whim, get frustrated with my baby and experience all of these things on dangerously small amounts of rest? But if I expect all of these conditions, will I find it so disarming? If I assume that none of these moms are remotely exaggerating,  and all of my boundaries will be tested, can't I just expect that and adjust accordingly?

Sounds like an opportunity to exercise grace toward your spouse, your baby and (perhaps mostly) yourself. Pregnancy did not occur on my timeline, so I anticipate the same is true postpartum. Like most things, I like to plan for the unplanned. Laugh through stress. Trust in my instincts and simply be okay with doing the best I can, even when it doesn't look "Instagram- worthy."

I appreciate these honest articles and blogs explaining the real-talk. I acknowledge that I am still sitting here with my baby tucked away in my womb with no first-hand experience with a newborn (or changing diapers, swaddling, bathing babies, nothing.) I am coming in completely green on the whole baby thing, and will probably laugh at myself for thinking maybe it will be different for me. But I do hope that I am able to find joy and positivity when things get difficult or go off-script. I know all of these moms love their babies unconditionally, and at the end of the day, we are all just doing our best.

And, one thing is for sure, I will never be able to say...no one told me about this.

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