I posted this 6 weeks into becoming a first time mother.
My parenthood story got off to a rocky, disorienting start. A beautiful, precious, healthy child that wouldn’t stop crying. From 11am to well into the evening. No matter what I did. I couldn’t understand what I was doing wrong.
Already everything 100 times harder than I every imagined – breastfeeding, recovery, sleep deprivation, and now I had a baby that I, her mother, could not soothe and comfort. I felt so alone.
And everyone around me was so well meaning. Telling me it was a phase – witching hour. Suggesting drops and powders and every other helpful thing.
I can’t explain it but it made me feel even more isolated.
Like I wasn’t trying hard enough or I wasn’t smart enough to make these things work. Like I was a wimp – that couldn’t hack a “witching hour” that for most is something like 5-7pm every night but for us was 11am to 10pm. Like everyone else had figured out how to comfort their babies and because I couldn’t, I was hurting and failing my baby.
I knew in my head that I wasn’t. But how to explain that it’s your heart that rules these dark days?
Do you know what it’s like to wake up dreading the day? To know that every ounce of energy will go into an endless dance of futile soothing attempts. To doubly dread 5pm because you knew it will get relentless then. And that even though everyone assures you it will get better, you have zero reason to believe them and even if you did, it wouldn’t help you figure out how to survive this day.
It’s not like I didn’t know this wasn’t exactly “normal”. Lots of my friends had just had babies. I was a part of one of those wonderful, helpful new mother groups. But all that did was emphasize how not all babies needed to be worn, rocked and comforted 20 hours of the day.
For someone that had build their identity and self worth in doing things well, in this most critical and actually important thing, I was a complete failure. I was crushed and terrified. I didn’t know how to ask for help.
There was only one thing that got me through – the mamas that also had these babies. Because their posts didn’t have any suggestions. Just words of solidarity. Of saying – I know. Don’t try to explain. But you will get through this. The only way to get through it is to go through it.
That was all I needed (well not all. I really could have used those hours of sleep). Acceptance and validation. No judgment, suggestions or salves.
Did it get better? Of course it did.
But this is not a story about that. Or the fact that my bug had an undiagnosed allergy to dairy and soy that I had to fight to get diagnosed before we really made the true turn.
And comparatively, I was lucky – I had my mom that staying with us for the first two months. My husband would come home after work and gamely take his shift in this brutal daily assault.
But again, that’s not what this story is about. None of that changed my reality. How I felt.
That’s all that matters. For the health and well-being of all new mothers, new fathers and new families of every shape and story.
This is my parenthood story of how I felt in those early days and weeks. How I had to find a way to be vulnerable and share my experience openly to find those few that truly understood what I was going through. How I gamely took the kind suggestions from my other helpless friends that didn’t know how else they could help but were trying to be there for me.
But I believe to my core that I wouldn’t have felt so alone if I had heard the stories of others that had the healthy babies but felt crazy in this insane experience of colicky or “hyper-sensitive” or whatever label babies. If I had been surrounded more naturally by the full real range of realities.
Parenthood is not a contest. Of oneupmanship tales. It’s about connection and vulnerability and leaning and supporting.
I know how lucky we were and are – to be blessed with a healthy, thriving child.
But there needs to be a space to share all of the different feelings and experiences that come with this ever human experience. My hope is that by making it the norm to share, we can build a beautiful, raw and honest place to simply be seen and heard. To be validated.
This is my parenthood story. Just one of many. But the one that so strongly shaped those early days for me.
Here’s to sharing these stories – without reservation and without judgement.
What’s your parenthood story? Would love to hear it here.