I hear a lot of talk about people having less-than-ideal birthing experiences. It amazes me how much is put on this one event – yes, it is a big event, perhaps the biggest of a person’s life. But, like a wedding that costs a lot and leaves something to be lacking in both the event and the marriage that follows, it seems that too much emphasis is put on this one event and not everything that comes after. (By the way, I am not trying to minimize anyone else’s birthing experience, positive or negative – I know that how the birth happens can have long-term effects on both baby and mother.)
I don’t regret or look back sadly on either of my birthing experiences – they simply are what they are. Things happened the way they needed to for my body, my baby, and my family. What I do hold a bit of regret over is the ensuing first few months of motherhood – the so-called fourth trimester. I had dreams of what my maternity leave would be like and how it would be this great opportunity to bond with baby while also being super productive around the house (yes, I hear all the other moms out there laughing at me). Am I disappointed that I didn’t get more items checked off my to-do list? Not really. Do I feel that my bonding with baby was less than ideal? No. In fact, we got to watch all of the first season of This is Us together. Talk about bonding!
What I do regret is wasting so much time, effort, and yes, tears, on trying to live up to my own unreasonable expectations. I regret that I wasted my energy trying to keep my house looking somewhat tidy on a regular basis. I feel like I spent too many days trying to organize files, clean out closets, or cleaning up my resume; all the while stressing that the baby was going to wake before I got to everything. I may even have been frustrated that I seldom took a shower without it being interrupted by a crying baby (my Valentine’s wish of taking a bath alone was granted by my husband at 2 months post-partum – who needs jewelry?).
You see, I didn’t spend enough time just savoring the little moments with each of my new babies. It has been said before and it will be said again, but it goes by so fast. My youngest (and most likely my last) child is now five months old, and already I feel the baby time slipping away. I enjoy nursing-time cuddles when I come home from work and am getting better at just accepting that the bottles may not get washed until 10 p.m. and that I may be a zombie at work tomorrow. I take the time to just look at my infant son, to take in how adorable and amazing and precious he is. I watch as my older son plays out a daring rescue of his Lego men from the coffee table top, in awe at his imagination and ability to role play.
I share these feelings because I think many of us – especially those moms who are overachievers like me – try too hard to do everything, right from the start. So to all those other new moms out there – take it easy. You just created life. You may have just had surgery, or other medical complications related to the birth. Your hormones are all out of whack. There is no need to conquer anything right, other than just learning how to be a parent and getting to know this new little person.
And to those moms that have to return to work a bit earlier than they’d like, hats off to you too. I know it’s tough. Just try to get through those first few months. No need to lose the weight faster than a Hollywood A-lister, no need to ensure homecooked meals are out each night. And you certainly don’t need to try for that elusive promotion at work right now. Just savor those little moments and accept that the house is dirty, your toddler had chicken nuggets for the third night in a row and you just ate your dinner from a Mickey Mouse plate while nursing a baby and watching HGTV. Just make sure you look down at that precious little baby and take a moment to really enjoy him. He’ll be talking back before you know it.