Tuesday, July 7, 2009

the other side

Each morning I awake - well rested, sun shining - to the sound of birds chirping merrily in the flowering tree outside my window. I tiptoe into my darling son's room to find him laying quietly, bright-eyed in his crib. I greet him hello in a sing-song voice and he grins that sloppy grin that eats through my heart, right into my soul. Together we sit in the glider as he eats breakfast, pausing in his sucking occassionally to smile up at me from my breast as I sing sweet lullabies to him. Before long my husband comes in quietly, bearing a cup of herbal tea and hot buttered toast so that I too can have breakfast before starting my day. He gazes down at the glowing face of his son, greets him with a "hello sport!" and puts his arm around me, proud of me. We kiss softly over our child, the baby we made together, and know that this is what we've been waiting for. Exactly this.

Or maybe not so much.

I never idealized family life in the way that I think some infertiles (and plenty of fertiles) do. I knew that baby-raisin' would involve a lot of bodily fluids, not a lot of sleep and a fair amount of crying, on everyone's part. I actually worried quite regularly through my pregnancy that I would birth this baby and find that I hated motherhood. I hated babysitting (oh, the crying!) so why would parenting be any different? While I was (and am) irritated by smug mothers making smug comments like "sleep now - you'll never sleep again!", if a mom shared with me the honest difficulties of raising her child I would listen with empathy rather than moral outrage. "Well at least you have a baby!" was rarely my response to a mom being realistic about the stress of her profession.

But I understand that not everyone feels that way. I don't blame you if after your third failed IVF (or first failed Clomid cycle) you have little patience for someone on the other side complaining about the hardships of motherhood. We are all in our own places, dealing in our own ways, and if irritation at a complaining new mom is how you cope, I hope it helps you cope well. Staying sane in the face of infertility is a daily battle. Trust me, I know.

And so I feel like I must warn you that to those of you fighting those fights this blog might not seem like a friendly place anymore. Because I have to tell you - being a mom is HARD. No. Really. Like, harder than you could ever imagine considering the job duties of a mother of a newborn basically include feed baby, change baby, stop baby from putting poison in mouth, repeat. Oprah isn't bullshitting when she says "it's the hardest job there is" (although how does she know???). And if I've ever needed a place to vent and cry and whine, this is the time. I don't want to alienate anyone (anyone who is still here after an unforgiveable 6 month blog sabbatical) and I truly feel for every one of you still fighting the hard fight. But let me tell you, caring for a screaming, hysterical, dare I say colicky newborn is a fight too. I would absolutely rather have my hands full than empty, and even when that little lobster baby (bright red from the endless crying) is shouting in my face, seeming to tell me how much he hates me, I am grateful for the opportunity to raise him. But seriously. He is LOUD. Dude.

So for those of you who may continue reading (if I do, in fact, continue writing) please know that you aren't likely to ever see anything like that first paragraph here again. First off because to "awake in the morning" implies that one slept the night before. And to greet my son in his crib would mean that he's slept there, even once, for even a moment. (Although I did greet him there yesterday after I had to put him in it, leave the room and close the door to escape his sobs and hopefully get a grip on my own. But he wasn't smiling when I returned a few minutes (and a hysterical phone call to my husband) later. Not exactly. Spewing obscenities more profane than any profanity I or the entire US Navy have uttered is more accurate.) And the smiles that melt my heart and soul? Maybe someday, but so far we're still in the accidental gas smile stage. Although occassionally I will glimpse a grin while he sleeps, presumably because he is dreaming a sweet dream of murdering me. (Because how could somebody possibly shout like that all.the.time at someone they didn't despise to the core of their being?)

Being a parent is nothing like babysitting (which, have I mentioned I hated?). There is no one to rescue you at the end of the night. As a matter of fact, the night is when things get really interesting. When the baby sleeps (if the baby sleeps) you aren't able to invite your boyfriend over for a makeout session. No, that's when you frantically try to brush your teeth (and on a good day your hair too!) before the screaming starts again. And you don't get paid - not even a meager $2 an hour. It's exhausting. It's endless. It's nothing like babysitting at all.

It's a million, squillion, gillion times better.

Even with a reflux baby, a baby who constantly vomits your milk back at you in a mucousy mess and is hungry again moments later, even then there is the love. Instead of being annoyed by the incessant screaming (which you wish more than anything would end), you're tortured by it. Wondering what you could possibly do to make this poor, helpless creature feel better; what you could do to make him realize that being alive isn't really that awful. You ache because he aches. And as painful as that sounds, it's also beautiful. Having not just an obligation but a deep desire to set yourself aside for the one you love. And there are moments - even with a baby who makes Morrissey look chipper - when your heart melts at the beauty of your baby. When he opens his eyes so wide, as if to tell you "yes, mommy - I will never sleep again!" you can't help but adore his little chihuahua face. When you kiss his little lips and he opens his mouth in reflex you can't help but glow, deluding yourself that he is kissing you back. And when your husband tries to calm him by sitting in the glider, rocking slowly and singing him off-key Beatles songs instead of nursery rhymes you remember why you fought so hard in the first place.

So let me tell you (and not in a smug, obnoxious way): Parenthood is hard. It's blindingly terrifying and sometimes soul crushing. Parenthood is hard and it is LOUD. But it is worth it. It's so worth it.


G$ said...

I feel like in many of the blogs I read, this is the message. Is it because in our battle to finally get pregnant we don't prepare for how hard parenting a newborn really is? Or is it just reality? Either way, it's ok to feel those feelings, hell if you didn't I would have to worry you were just blowing sunshine up our asses.

Enjoy the moments, write what makes you feel comfortable. People will read or not, that's their choice too :)


Leigh said...

Hi Amber,

I have been following your blog for quite some time now. Congratulations on your precious son!

I have to say that I was strangely comforted by this post. I am due in just under 6 weeks, and these are the types of fears I'm experiencing. I am so worried that I'll feel like my baby doesn't love me if she turns out to be a bit collicky....

I am so sorry to hear that it's so hard for you right now, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I appreciate your honesty - b/c what good does it do a new mom to say that parenthood is a piece of cake!!!?

Best wishes that it gets a little easier sometime soon...

Jessatsea said...

I love you! that's all! I love you and *this* too shall pass. Not the love... NEVER the love. the love is boundless! the love is overwhelming. The love is TERRIFYING and right.

can't wait to see you this weekend!

Cara said...

This was my experience with my third. Emma died, so bring the next into the world was a big questionmark regarding 'how to parent'. But, she was a breeze compared to the next. Colic - for sure!

The good news?? She four now and I barely remember a thing. I think the good parts to come somehow modify your memory!

womb for improvement said...

I think this is an excellent post. And it is right that you are honest, not saying everything is all rainbows and gurgles just because you are aware of how fortunate you are.


MrsAmandaMqn said...

While I can't wait to find all this out the hard way, I love your honesty. IF is hard and I'm sure parenting will be too.

Amy C said...

I just cried because I have felt so alone and you just made me feel not so alone. My twins are 3 week old now and I am miserable!! It is the hardest thing I have ever done...I am exhausted...my house seems like a strange place...I feel like surely everyone else has had it easy. SO, thank you for that post ;-)

Lorraine said...

I had a sleepless colicky clingy baby. I was at the end of my rope for most of the first year, and plenty of the second one. I loved her dearly, and we did have wonderful moments, but... I was exhausted.

I can tell you it gets better. A million times better. As much as you know it's worth it now, it's exponentially better as time goes by. When the going gets tough, just remind yourself that you get out what you put in.

I am doing everything I can to go through it all again, but I have no illusions about those first two years. Treasure the beautiful moments, and the rest of the time, hold onto that knowledge that it's all worth it.

Foreverloves said...

OMG! Did I write this entry?? You have read my every thought, and written it so much better than I ever could have. I love this blog entry - I really do. As an infertile, a deadbabymama, and now the mama to a new little girl, I feel every emotion you have written here. God bless you for writing this - I feel as though I am not insane or alone.

kbarsch said...

Kyle was right--this IS a great post!! At least I know that it's either going to be just this bad in 6 weeks (or less) or if it's not (crossing fingers) I can be even more grateful!! Either way, I know that we'll be doing this thing together and that, my dear, makes it seem more doable...
Oliver---Mammaw Kelly says to STOP CRYING!! or at least not so loudly...(=

theworms said...

I'm so glad you're back, I have so missed your blog and your amazing posts and this post did not disappoint.

thank you for your honesty and CONGRATS! your little man is so precious.

Foreverloves said...

Hi Amber,

I really, really liked your post and wanted to say (I interrupted reading comments to write this, so forgive me if overlooking something) I get tired of hearing PPD too. I don't think it's me. So many people (i keep another blog on a website called open diary where I write a LOT more than I do here) have told me to go get on meds and whatever. I know they mean well, but wtf, yo? I'm sorry, this is an impossible situation and why wouldn't I act insane at times? It's not meds-required. I really don't think so. I went through the goddamned check list just to make sure and it doesn't fit me. My moods are purely based on HER moods and havingt no sleep. I don't just cry for no reason. I cry because she's crying; because I can't help her. Or I cry when I look at my stomach, ripped apart and not healing because of my c-section.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that I appreciated what you said and I agree.