Are moms everywhere lying, or am I just the black sheep among them? It's time to come clean, acknowledge the pain of motherhood and talk about when it's all "worth it."
Thanks for the support fellow moms, but as a pregnant first-time mom, I was a waddling invitation for advice and catchphrases from others: mostly women. Whether they came from acquaintances or strangers, I realize the often-unsolicited comments were well-meaning.
At the time, I appreciated the generic and proper “You're glowing,” “You look wonderful,” “You must be so excited” and “I am so excited for you.” They all helped build me up at a time when I felt like crap. I'd respond with a "thank you" and a half-smile. Then, I'd joke about how I really felt.
Seriously, “wonderful” is not a word I'd use to describe pregnancy zits, hangry food cravings every hour, nausea, migraines that incapacitated me to weeping on the bathroom floor, aching ginormous boobs, having to pee every 15 minutes, constipation, exhaustion, ribs separating, aching feet, aching everything and living in the foreign body of a whale.
Pregnancy sucked, but the comment that deceived me the most was, “Oh, but honey, it'll all be worth it.”
I heard the positive message many times. Yet, I sensed an underlying vibe of sadness. I wondered what they weren't telling me.
Nonetheless, I believed the positive words, “It'll all be worth it.” OK, so I could maybe get by until the dreaded day I went into labor. I would get that over with, and then, it'd all be fine.
We'd have our bundle of joy, and it would all have been worth it. I reassured myself this way for the rest of the miserable chapter of my life that was pregnancy. Boy, was I wrong. Everyone was wrong.
I was almost two weeks overdue, and my nerves and patience had been worn thin. I wanted to be done with being pregnant, but I dreaded labor. Drawing out the inevitable was mental torture.
When labor finally began, it was as uncomfortable as I'd expected. It was so slow. I suffered in agony for 36 hours, and in desperation, I caved into receiving an epidural to help take the edge off.
Hours later, thanks to talk of an emergency C-section, the possibility of my baby dying and a failed epidural, I had reached the end of my energy, willpower and strength. I would have much rather died on the birthing bed than continue on. It was sensory overload –physically, mentally and emotionally – and it scarred me deeply.
Even now, the details are vague. I must have blacked out or blocked them out.
I'd never felt so helpless and out of control. I didn't care to live anymore, but I was on a ride that couldn't be stopped. Eventually, I managed to traumatically birth a little boy.
I kept wondering, "Is it worth it yet?"
It was over, thank god. But was it all worth it? I thought about this as a tiny human got placed upon my chest while they stitched me up. But I didn't feel anything other than relieved that it was over.
But it wasn't over: It was only the beginning. I had already been sleep-deprived for over 48 hours. But then, the hospital staff ushered us into a room where I was given meager snacks – certainly not a meal – and left me to attend to a screaming newborn all night.
My husband assisted as much as he could, but his lack of mammary glands limited his capacity. I needed sleep. I needed to mentally process the horrors I'd just gone through.
Being a highly sensitive person and an introvert only magnified the ordeal of a long, difficult birth. I was in a congested hospital full of people, but I wanted to be alone. I broke down in tears as I helplessly held my poop-soaked infant at arms' length and thought, “What have I done? Is it worth it yet?”
I don't think that question even requires an answer at this point.
The following weeks were not much easier, but at least there were small moments of hope when I felt love and pride to see how much joy my son brought to others. I was still very much broken: both physically and emotionally.
I replayed the labor and birth over and over again in my head. Each time seemed even more horrific and awful than the last. Postpartum body functions were complicated, and they felt like complete surprises.
I still felt awful. I still felt alone. I was so very alone because I didn't know who to talk to. I was a horrible failure as a mother.
Because people had told me it would all be worth it and I didn't agree, I felt isolated in my struggle.
“When will it all be worth it?” I kept asking myself. Am I the black sheep, or are the other moms lying?
Perhaps other moms had an easy, breezy, wonderful time, and it was all worth it for them right away. There was no question that I loved my baby. But if I had the choice to go back in time, maybe I'd re-evaluate my decision to go through all of it.
I know there must be other moms who have had experiences close to mine, or maybe even worse. If they fully embraced motherhood regardless of their troubles, what did that make me? Horrible. Broken.
More disturbingly, perhaps, is the fact that there are moms out there who have had difficult experiences just like I have. But they just don't talk about them.
I don't blame them: I'm bawling my eyes out as I write this, but I've had two years of bottling up dark postpartum depression. It's painful to think about, let alone talk about. But we need to talk about it.
Why the silence? I can't help but feel misled by society's fluffed-up facade of motherhood. Maybe people are afraid no one will want to have babies if the truth comes out. Perhaps moms are holding back for fear they'll be criticized for not living up to the acceptable mommy mindset.
I'm finding peace with my openness and truth, as messy and real as it is. By silencing reality – or even worse, by lying – about our journeys into motherhood, we are doing a disservice to the women we care about.
This is exactly why I won't be able to look another mom-to-be in the eye and tell her with a half smile that it'll all be worth it, when there's no guarantee she'll feel that way. I might get there. I might be able to say it one day.
Every day, I feel I get a little closer to “It was all worth it.” I want to say it. Maybe one day, I will.
Let's be real: Over time, the wounds heal up and fade. The traumatic memories slowly distance themselves. But the thing that will heal us is opening up about the truth and encouraging other moms to do the same.
It's time to come clean, acknowledge the pain and talk about how we really became moms.