Mother of Five Reveals All
I’ve learned over the years that—despite the countless books and articles I read or my advanced degree in family studies—there were certain things that I was wildly unprepared for when I had my first baby.
You’d think that someone—my mother, my mother-in-law, a friend—would have whispered certain facts in my ear. But perhaps veteran parents feel like some of these new-parenthood experiences every one of us has to live through to understand. They were shockers to me, that’s for sure!
First, I had no idea how exhausted new mothers are after giving birth. I vaguely remember experienced mothers chuckling about the sleepless nights I was about to face. I even received a couple of humorous greeting cards regarding it, but I’m sorry! There is nothing like the sheer bone-grinding fatigue new mothers (and fathers) experience for the first few months.
I knew I would be awakened for nightly feedings and diaper changes for the first couple of weeks, but after week 10 or 12 or longer, the sleep deprivation of getting up every few hours starts to wear on the best of us.
I remember living in a fog of confusion for a long while after giving birth, just wishing someone would take the baby and let me snuggle down and get some z’s for an extended period of time (a week might have proved sufficient). Part of the problem was my own fault. My mother, the most capable and caring of parents, recognized my glazed expression, and did attempt to take the baby off my hands so I could sleep. But every time he even whimpered my new-mom alert went off, and I bounced out of bed to see what was making my little darling cry.
Another thing I was completely flabbergasted about was how much breastfeeding hurts. Absolutely no one mentioned the torture inflicted on your breasts, when cracked and bleeding, your nipples are assaulted by a surprisingly strong pair of newborn lips every couple of hours, with no long-term relief in sight. Bamboo shoots under the fingernails hold nothing to this kind of pain!
I remember hearing that hungry cry from the bassinet at two o’clock in the morning one day shortly after my son was born, and thinking, “Oh, no! Not again! You just ate, baby. You can’t be hungry already. Please, please don’t be hungry already. My breasts can’t take another round right now.”
It got so bad with my first baby that I remember running through my Lamaze breathing techniques just to get through a nursing session, all the while trying desperately to visualize a child who has all the benefits of being nursed despite the sacrifice to my still recovering body.
A kind friend advised me to suffer through breastfeeding until Day 14, at which point, I would find the pain had gone or at least greatly diminished and nursing would finally feel bearable, if not ideal. Surprisingly, she was right, and I am glad I stuck with it through the rocky beginning, because it really turned out to be a very rewarding experience!
Lastly, and most profoundly, I was completely unprepared for the instantaneous infusion of pure, unadulterated love I felt for each of my children as I held them in my arms for the first time. I remember my own mother getting dewy-eyed as she would tell us of the love she felt for us from birth, but words cannot adequately describe those feelings of tenderness and protectiveness that course through you as you hold your own infant in your arms for the first time.
I remember worrying with my second pregnancy that I might not love this new little one as much as I did my first son. It didn’t seem possible to be capable of that much love times two, but sure enough, I had the same amazing outpouring of love for my second son, and for each subsequent baby, as I did for my first.
Interestingly, the miracle of those feelings of love lessen the impact of some of the more uncomfortable aspects of being a new mom. Perhaps the real reason veteran moms don’t warn new mothers more about the pains and sacrifice involved during the first weeks after giving birth is that they seem sort of inconsequential next to the love you feel for your child.
Maybe that is one of the true miracles of birth, that despite the feelings of fatigue and the assault to your body that pregnancy and childbirth inflict, many of us are willing and eager to sign up to do it again—and sometimes again, and again.
Kelly Taylor lives in Liverpool with her husband, Alan, and their five children. Kelly holds a master’s degree in family studies; Alan is an assistant professor in Syracuse University’s Department of Child and Family Studies. To comment on this article, write to editorial@family times.biz.
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