So you hate motherhood… Now what?
Updated: May 13, 2021
You tried for months. Then it happened. You got pregnant! Quickly, though, the joy was replaced by nausea… vomiting… gas… insane mood swings… and worse: hemorrhoids. “OK...” you think to yourself, “This is just temporary discomfort. Once my little bundle gets here, life will be a dream!” Only it’s not. It’s more hemroids, and blood, and pain, and screaming, and sleepless nights, and wild hormones, just to scratch the surface. By now you’re looking for a receipt. “What did I get myself into?” you may be thinking, as you try in futility to nurse a screaming baby who won’t take the breast.
OK, let’s be honest. There are some moms who love pregnancy and who have beautiful births where doves gently carry the baby from the womb and then magically their bodies bounce back in a matter of weeks and the whole experience is like an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. It’s not a myth! My friend Elizabeth was just such a unicorn. (OK, maybe doves didn’t gently deliver the baby, but you know what I mean. Her body was back in TWO WEEKS. Ugh.) I’ve also had friends who enjoy pregnancy. My friend Caitlyn cooed, “I just love being pregnant!” As I tried not to vomit. But those are the outliers. More often than not, the stories I hear are worse than those told around a campfire on Halloween. Hemorrhaging on the table, only to survive by the skin of her teeth to get home and hemorrhage again. Or pushing for almost 36 hours straight only to have to be carted off frantically for an emergency C-section. Or forced bed rest for nine months, not able to stomach any food the entire time only to give birth and have things go downhill from there.
Honestly, the more stories I hear about motherhood (including my own), the more I think, “Who would like this?” Only a masochist would actually enjoy this kind of pain. Let’s stop here for a moment. If you’re reading this and you are currently in the middle of a hellish motherhood nightmare, first know that you are not alone. We’ve all been there. You aren’t the first and you won’t be the last. Also know that whatever you’re feeling is normal. It’s OK to not like the baby at first. It’s OK to resent the baby, or the whole experience, for how much pain you’re in. It’s OK to not want to do this. To run screaming for the hills. If you are having suicidal thoughts, or thoughts of harming the baby, however. Seek help. Now. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and if you can’t get through there, call 911. Heck, call Domino’s Pizza, talk to another human, any human, outside your own head and get help. (I learned that Domino’s tip from my favorite Comic, Maria Bamford, who famously struggles with mental illness.)
If you’re not in a dire situation where you may harm yourself or the baby, though, it’s time to get your act together. Yes, this is hard. Yes, it sucks. But you are the captain of this ship, and until you start to right it, it will not right itself. You will not magically enjoy motherhood unless you work at enjoying motherhood. Let’s get to work.
First, you need to try to sleep. I know. That’s easier said than done, but it is necessary. Your outlook will improve dramatically when you are rested. Even if you’re a mom of three teenagers, get some rest and then look at the situation with fresh eyes. You’ll be surprised how much rosier things look through a set of well rested peepers. If you have to, sleep while you nurse. Just make sure you’re in a safe position where the baby can’t roll or worse, be rolled on. Or if baby will not sleep at all, put her in a play pen and sleep on the couch in front of her. I guarantee she will wake you if she needs you. The most reiterated advice is: sleep when the baby sleeps. This is a toughie. Why? Because for a lot of us this is the only chance we have to take a shower, or make lunch, or clean up that spit up on the couch. But guess what, girlfriend. All that can wait. Your family will benefit much more from a rested you than a clean couch. If your mind is racing, write down the things that are bothering you and set a time to think about them. Whatever you have to do, clear the clutter, and curl up. Your sanity depends on it.
2. Eat Well
Next, take care of yourself. Eat a balanced diet and drink plenty of water. I know it’s easier to grab a Clif bar or just wolf down a box of crackers while nursing, but your energy and mood depend on some actual food and nutrients. Your mood and emotions won’t survive this without it. Make it a habit to eat veggies, protein, fat, grains and drink plenty of water. You can even just grab microwave veggies and start them while you finish another task. However you need to do it, do it. Don’t skip this step.
3. Create Fun
OK, now the best part: make it fun. You’re probably grimacing at me right now. “Fun?” you growl. “I’m still taking pain killers so I can sit down!” I hear you, sis. After my first delivery, I couldn’t wear pants for almost two years. TWO YEARS. But you will not start to enjoy motherhood until you create space to enjoy it. What does this look like? Well it doesn’t have to look like care-free play time with baby. At least not at first. Think about what you enjoy. For me, it was sitcoms. I could laugh while simultaneously losing myself (and my current stress bubble) in another character’s silly dilemmas. I also enjoyed treats. Anything chocolate screams my name. So what did I do? I turned the most painful, worry-inducing part of my day into the funnest. When little guy needed to nurse, it was me time. I stashed loads of treats in the cushions of the rocking chair and brought my phone with me. With headphones on, I rocked and nursed and laughed silently to myself. Before long, it became a pavlovian response that nursing was no longer something to fear but something to get excited about. Whatever makes your day fun is what I suggest doing. Maybe you miss connecting with friends. Try calling your bestie while you nurse. Or you can’t sit still and being indoors is a nightmare. Grab your shoes and do a quick couple laps around the block in between feedings. Give yourself scheduled times during the day where you have something to look forward to.
4. Get Outside
The sun does more than just provide natural light for selfies. It gives you much needed Vitamin-D and helps regulate your mood. Take the baby to the park, walk around the block. Just try to get outside every day and soak in those rays. Your mind will thank you.
5. Be Grateful
I know, I know. It’s extremely hard to be grateful when you’re in pain - physical or emotional. But studies show that gratitude can greatly improve your level of happiness. It can be hard to be grateful for the big picture things sometimes, especially when they cause you fear, anxiety and stress (your new baby for instance), so instead start small. If you’re walking outside, be thankful for your legs or your ability to walk. If you’re still stuck inside and recovering, be thankful for Netflix. Look around you. What do you have that brings you joy? Focus on it and be thankful for it.
The quickest way to forget about your own problems is to help someone else with theirs. OK, now you’re probably confused. You may be thinking, “I’m taking care of a freaking baby all day and all night! When do I have time to serve?!” Well, service doesn’t have to be an all day volunteer day at a soup kitchen. It could be an encouraging text to another struggling mom. It could be sending a meal to someone who’s grieving. Or it could even be ordering groceries for someone who needs help financially. All three of those examples can be done with a click on your phone while you’re stuck in your nursing chair. Think about someone else and it will help get you out of your own head.
I know this article is mainly focused on the new moms, but this advice holds up into toddlerhood and beyond. You will always need rest, good nutrition, fun, sun and gratitude and you will always benefit from loving and serving others. For me, it took years (you read that right - YEARS) to bond with my first son. That’s because it took me years to physically and emotionally recover from his traumatic birth. The whole experience created a volcano of fear and resentment and anger that was constantly bubbling up inside. It’s hard to do, but you need to separate those emotions from your child. He or she did not ask to be born, he or she did not choose the way in which they entered the world and he or she did not intend to harm you or cause you pain. They are just a blank slate. An innocent life who depends on you. And they need the best version of you.
So as you work to take care of yourself, try also to see your child through a clear lens and with empathy and love. It’s OK to feel your feelings. All of them, including the dark and ugly ones. But work to recognize the feelings and then let them go. Do not hold on to them, do not allow them to make you feel guilty or victimize you. You are not your feelings. Your child, too, is not responsible for your feelings. They can’t make you feel anything, all they can do is simply stir up emotions that already lie within you. So take that pressure off of them and off of you. You are doing your best and so are they. Reach out through the comment form if you need some support. You got this, mama.