I recently decided that the next time a new mom tells me she loves every second of motherhood, I’m going to call her bluff.
Has anybody ever said this and really meant it? Has any brand new mother literally loved every second of the transition into her new role? Maybe this makes me sound like a cynic, but I don’t buy it.
You could say, “We’re doing really well,” and I would believe you (although I might ask about seven follow-up questions just to make sure). I could even go along with, “I’ve never felt this much happiness” (babies do tend to have that overall effect after all).
But, “I love every second of being a mom?” Nope. No way. You’re not fooling me.
I wonder sometimes why new moms are prone to falsehood. Why we work so hard to make everything seem euphoric, when in reality, so many of us feel like we’re one notch away from a total meltdown. Now, I can’t of course, speak for every new mom out there, but I can speak for myself, and here is what I have deduced in reflecting upon my own propensity toward lying in those early days:
New moms assume you’re supposed to feel blissful. I mean, that’s what everyone tells us. That babies will enter the world and then the elation of their presence will be enough to counteract any pain or hormones or difficulty during the first days. Maybe some moms feel this bliss, and I’m happy for those who do. But, others don’t and then feel like they’re doing something wrong. To say you’re having a really hard time transitioning can feel like an admission of failure, so you just lie instead. It’s easier.
New moms don’t want to be a burden. I know a girl who, upon visiting her friends who have just given birth, comes over, bypasses the baby, and does laundry. Washes, dries, folds, puts away. She doesn’t even bother asking, and I think that’s because she knows that each new mom would probably say something like, “You don’t have to do that.” When people flood your house, you don’t want to put them to work. You assume all they really want to do is hold your baby and then leave. (I suppose some people probably do fall into that category, but I’d like to think most don’t.)
New moms don’t know what kind of help they need. How could they? They’re wading through uncharted territory. When you ask how you can help, most won’t know how to respond because they won’t even know what to ask for. My mom always tells me to go take a long shower. She holds my babies and entertains my toddlers and tells me to take my time. I never knew how much good a shower could do me until my mom started telling me to take them. I know now, and let me tell you, it’s always exactly what I need.
New moms don’t want to cry in front of you. This is why I used to lie to people who asked me how I was doing at church. Who wants to start crying in front of a hundred people on a Sunday morning? If you ask a new mom how she is in a public setting, and she gives a short, chipper response, proceed with skepticism and caution, but mostly invite yourself over later that week. Bring cookies.
I wonder sometimes if I’ve been as good a friend to my new mom friends as I could have been in the past few years. I certainly wasn’t before I had kids of my own (It’s hard to be when you don’t know exactly what they’re going through).
I recently read Bloom: Finding Beauty in the Unexpected–A Memoir by Kelle Hampton (Mar 26 2012) and through her life reflections was reminded of the importance of the village. She calls it “The Net” or “the ever-present existence of one another, standing by, ready to catch any one of us who might be falling.” Her army of friends was there for her in droves after the birth of her second daughter, and I thought, “I want that. I want that for myself, and I want that for my friends.”All this to say, when you have your first baby, don’t even think about telling me that you love every second of your newborn’s life. I’m onto you. Just hand me a load of laundry and point me to the washing machine. I’m taking cues from my much wiser friends.