I fell in love with my firstborn the second I met him. It took less than a week for me to physically feel like something was missing when he wasn’t in my arms or by my side. I knew him instantly; what he needed, why he was crying, what he liked. I missed him when he was sleeping, even if he was curled up on my chest. Right from the start, I fell head over heels in love with my son.
I did not, however fall in love with motherhood.
Motherhood made me angry, sad, and resentful. It made me tired and exhausted and worn out with nothing left to give other than direct care for my son. And mostly, motherhood made me feel all of those things in direct opposition to my husband — to no fault of his own. I resented him for getting to go to work. I held a grudge because he got to snore peacefully while I was up feeding the baby — again. I was angry at him for any and all reasons.
My fight with motherhood slowly turned into an ever-growing wedge in our marriage.
Luckily, it was just a season — a season of stress and difficulty that we managed to make it through unharmed. But as we get ready to enter the newborn stage for a second time, I wonder if we’ll get as lucky to make it through unscathed again.
I’ve made it a point not to focus on trying to do things differently with our second baby, as I’ve learned so much depends on the individual child. I don’t want to set us up for disappointment and failure. But one thing I do plan on doing differently (I hope anyways) is to not allow the stress and exhaustion of a newborn translate into my attitude towards my husband.
I understand this time as husband and wife, we naturally have different roles in the parenting of a brand new baby (despite my desire for gender equality in all things). I’ll be the one up feeding the baby in the middle of the night because I’m the one with the ability and gift to breastfeed — that’s not his fault.
He’s the one that will have to leave this new little one eventually to go work in an office or out of town and miss those tiny moments. Instead of being jealous of his time away from the potential chaos, I will remember that I’m lucky enough to be there for all of those moments we will never have back.
And most of all, this time around I plan to speak up; to not play the role of helpless martyr mom who takes on everything herself. I think with two kids in the picture, it will be easier to both pitch in with things, whereas with one I felt like I could (or rather should) do it myself. I know all of us will benefit from time spent as more broken down units — big boy and daddy, mommy and baby, mommy and three-year-old, daddy and baby — and not to be forgotten, mommy and daddy.
I can imagine these things going differently this time, but I still have no way of knowing what this newborn period will look like. All I can do is hope my hardest that we can handle it with maturity and grace and go in with the best attitude possible.
I tell myself this over and over, especially as the newborn days get nearer, but the reality of it is I’m still terrified. I’m terrified that the sleep deprivation will overrule my desire to be square-headed and understanding. I’m terrified that I won’t be strong enough to play nice when I’m tired and feeling lonely or overwhelmed. I’m terrified a newborn will push us apart, and mostly terrified that we won’t be able to pull ourselves back together again when we reach the other side. But hopefully remembering that there is another side will be enough to get us through, if that’s what it comes down to.
My biggest mistake last time around was thinking that motherhood was just about a baby or just about being a mom. But motherhood is so much more than that, the least of which is a new dimension of marriage. One that can easily sway you off course, but doesn’t have to. It’s a chance to learn to put each other first in a new, yet different way.