Labor was my true introduction to the wild and unpredictable world of parenting. For months, I was told that I should expect to go late, have a long labor, and to definitely take The Drugs. But then, 15 days ahead of schedule, I endured an intense, chaotic, and unintentionally unmedicated 2.5 hour labor. I literally went from relaxing and watching TV at home at 3:30 to holding my newborn at 6:00! As I lay awake in my hospital bed on that first nearly sleepless night, it was clear to me that I had been officially inducted into the Mom club. Motto: “You Cannot Prepare!”
Thanks to the internet and my 23948237 closest friends and family, I was aware that my baby might have a cone shaped head, that she would eat constantly and only sleep a few hours at a time, and that I would need a lot of help and a lot of frozen food to get me through those first few weeks. And wow, you guys, having a baby turned out to be really freaking hard. Like I said, I wasn’t expecting rainbows and unicorns, but it’s a real shock to the system to actually be in the thick of it.
What I was completely unprepared for was the fact that it would be so exhausting, so disorienting, so overwhelming and painful and scary at first that I would actually HATE it. I was expecting it to be hard – something like, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” but it was more like, “Maybe I’m not cut out for this.” Instead of rising to the occasion, I felt myself buckling under the pressure. I cried every day for the first few weeks, and most days I questioned (a bit too late, obviously) whether having a baby had been the right decision.
Apparently, while it’s normal to feel like you’re teetering on the edge of postpartum depression in the beginning (a phenomenon with the absurdly cutesy name “baby blues”), it is not normal to ever admit that things aren’t perfect when people – and we’re talking friends and family here, not strangers – are constantly asking you how it’s going. Since I’m a really terrible liar and am apparently not very good at thinking on my feet, my response to these questions usually starts with, “Uhhhh…” and then I either have to backtrack or explain myself. I understand that “How’s it going?” isn’t intended as an open invitation to air all my deepest motherhood confessions (much like “How are you feeling” when you’re pregnant is not an appropriate opportunity to talk about your hemorrhoids), but I literally had someone who has children say to me, “Are you loving it?” and then act surprised when I offered a very diplomatic, “Parts of it.”