This morning I came across a blog post by Stephanie Sprenger that discussed the difficult balance between how we talk about the awesomeness of motherhood and setting realistic expectations for moms-to-be.
In her original post, Studenroth Gerson discussed all the warnings she received while she was pregnant. Things like, you’ll never shower again, or, sleep now because it’s the last time you will. She wrote that she was very anxious about motherhood, but then was surprised to find how much she loved her child and motherhood.
In response post, Sprenger expresses her happiness for Studenroth for having a good transition to motherhood, but that for so many women, it’s a huge, very hard adjustment.
“Is it the author’s responsibility to take into consideration the experiences of all other mothers everywhere?,” Sprenger writes. “Of course not. She is allowed to speak her truth, and she did so. Kudos to her for ignoring the warnings, overcoming the negativity, and rocking motherhood…
“But I have a hard time reading glowing accounts of new motherhood when I am well aware of the women who struggle painfully with their transitions. We need to find a way to prepare mothers for the possibility that they may struggle, and that it doesn’t make them bad mothers. We need to give them the tools and support to thrive after their babies are born. We need to be a loud chorus of ‘Me, too,’ and ‘You’re not alone,’ to those who are brought down by postpartum mood disorders or ambivalence about their new roles. New mothers who may not be loving every minute can say, ‘I’m so glad they warned me.'”
I agree with Sprenger that, now that I’m on the other side (the mothers giving suggestions or “warnings”) I have found that it is such a tough balance to talk about all the positives and negatives of motherhood to future moms. I really strive to be conscious of this and not over-hype or bash motherhood, but it’s a very tough line.
The truth of it is, sometimes it’s amazing and other times you want to claw your eyes out. I could write so much about the incredibly hard parts of transitioning to motherhood that I experienced (I think I cried daily about one thing or another for weeks). Yet, you would never have gotten that impression, for instance, from my Facebook posts. We have this incredibly difficult expectation that motherhood is so beautiful and natural and that if you have hard times, you’re not really supposed to talk about it. We’re expected to just gush about the amazing moments, such as baby learning to smile or walk.
It’s also really hard because I know many people struggling with infertility, and to complain about things sometimes seems petty, because I have this nagging voice in my head saying, “at least you have a baby.”
But the truth is, motherhood is both – totally amazing and completely overwhelming.
I know that I am in the camp of people who probably post too many lovely photos of their kids, painting an unrealistic expectation of motherhood. It’s so hard not to share when you are so awed by your child. I don’t post the bad times because, well, they make me feel badly! I don’t really want to share that. But, I have to say this: do not trust your news feeds, people! It’s not all rosy cheeks, coos, and cuddles.
Despite the fact that, as I mentioned above, I cried daily, this is a sampling of what I shared on my wall:
Where were the tears? Where was the frustration? Where was the doubt and uncertainty and the constant questioning of myself? They were buried behind a digital wall (and sometimes my own acting, because I definitely did not tell everyone how I was feeling).
I often felt badly, particularly in the first few weeks, because Leo and I were having such a hard time getting something so “natural” as motherhood right. You would have never known that from the façade I put forward in the public light. But ask my husband about those “dark days” and he will tell you he wasn’t sure if we were going to make it.
But, the most import things to remember are: no one has it all figured out, that’s OK, and there is help! There is support and love out there, in the form of family, friends, support groups and professionals. Motherhood is also a sisterhood. It’s OK to reach out. You’re not a bad mother. You’re normal. Your baby is normal. And you’re doing just fine.
Just to prove it, here is a small glimpse into the 25 minute melt-down my toddler had this morning.
I am captioning this: “I’m #sogladtheytoldme that sometimes toddlers melt down just because it’s Wednesday.” And today, it’s going on my Facebook wall.
Motherhood is altogether wonderful and difficult and it’s OK.
What are you so glad they told you about motherhood? Comment here or add your voice on HerStory.com.