The Other Side of Motherhood

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A few weeks ago, my Unexpectant cohort, Stephanie, and I had a rare opportunity to get together. Being that we haven’t lived in the same state since college, our time together is infrequent, but always treasured. This time around, we had all five kids and no hubbies with us, which meant we got to speak in 5-minute increments (if not fewer) before being interrupted. We did get onto the topic of the reality of newborns. I was telling her how I had recently seen a pregnant woman and instead of feeling joy for her, I began to wonder if she had any idea what lies ahead.

Of course the initial reaction of discovering someone is pregnant is typically excitement and celebration. Rarely does anyone say, “Good luck with those sleepless nights.” Or, “Breastfeeding, though natural, can stress you out more than you ever imagined.” How about, “There will come a time when your baby just won’t stop crying and you will suddenly feel sad and alone and angry. And then ashamed for ever having those feelings.” Yet, this is precisely what many women experience.

Stephanie said that she was having an honest discussion with a co-worker on the realities of newborns. Her metaphor was not a typical one, saying that sleep deprivation is a form of torture (literally) and yet that is exactly what most every new parent experiences. But through that deprivation, we must go on taking care of these little people. That’s not to say that all moments are that dark, but let’s face it, we’ve all had them at some point and they can be some of the most isolating and difficult moments of our lives.

So when I saw that pregnant lady, I wanted to share in her excitement, but I wanted to say, “It’s not going to be easy.” In a way, I feel a responsibility to better prepare women for what lies ahead. We all know about the first smiles, first steps, the chubby cheeks and the cute coos. But what about the other side? What about the cracked nipples? The inexplicable crying? The baby that won’t sleep? Or the showers (among other things) that you just won’t have time for? Is there any way to prepare someone for that?

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