What Have I Done :: Navigating Early Motherhood

What have I done?” It’s been a really long time since I’ve heard or thought those words. When the neighbor lady said them, it flooded me with fear and relief all at once. She had said it in response to having baby number two. It transported me back to those early days as a new mom, covered in sweat, milk, and tears, asking myself over and over again “what have I done?”

Motherhood comes naturally for some women. Those women are true heroes to me because that process turned me inside out and upside down for a solid year.

The second I met my son I melted with an overwhelming amount of love and bonding that scared me to death. I remember his nose, and his sweet smell and his adorable little toes. I remember my husband gazing at him with tears in his eyes and a heart so full I could see it beating across the room. I do remember the beautiful things. But I had a sense of loss for my previous life, my relationship with my husband as I had known it, and a huge piece of myself.

Many will say that being a mom is the ultimate gift. Yes, it truly is. The biggest miracle on earth, in fact. But while some people transition smoothly into parenthood, the journey is a bit bumpy for others. As full as I was with new emotions and responsibilities, I was fragmented by those same emotions and responsibilities. Mommyhood didn’t complete me, it broke me apart and forced me to reconcile my own inner battles. While it was a beautiful transformation to those watching from the outside, it was a scary place from time to time here inside myself. Mostly because I knew that I would be harshly judged for admitting that I was overwhelmed, lost, frustrated, lonely. No one wanted to hear about that. They wanted me to be washed away with so much joy over my new baby that I couldn’t feel any other emotions. So I felt them privately.

I missed my husband. Immediately. In the hospital. I knew that the carefree life we lived as wanderlust Austinites had come to a screeching halt. I knew that our late night decisions to hit the beach, alone, would be replaced with late night feedings and early morning diaper changes. I was excited for this new adventure together with our amazing little boy, but I was also deeply saddened that what was once us, was going to change forever. In most ways, it changed for the better, which did come as an awesome surprise. I loved waking up to my little family, at all hours of the night. My husband was a trooper on all fronts and, as a couple, we handled that crazy first year with a lot of grace.

I feared the lack of alone time would kill me. I had absolutely no idea how much time it took to care for a newborn baby and I have never, not ever, been that present for anything in my life before. I’m introverted and I love time alone, all the way alone. Yes, I’m a total jerk for thinking that I could parent a baby and still be introverted. But the truth is, until you’re a parent, actively parenting, YOU DO NOT KNOW. You can’t describe to someone what 61 days of sleep deprivation feels like. You can’t explain the overwhelming number of thoughts it takes to raise a young child, and how all of your extra gray matter will be filled with sippy cups and nipple sizes and the BRAT diet. You simply can’t expect a new mother to ‘just know’ what it’s like to be in care of a tiny human life, something so miraculous and needy. Miracle, food. Miracle, water. Miracle, doctors appointments. Miracle, diaper change. Miracle, a nap!

When I heard the neighbor lady utter the words “what have I done?” I knew exactly how she felt. I didn’t judge her. She was simply stating that it’s A LOT and it’s amazing all at once. Parenting is no joke, especially if you plan to parent well. I do have admiration for the few women I know that didn’t even bat an eye at this amazing mess that is Mommyhood, but that wasn’t me. I had to struggle through the selfish spots and the tired times and the ugly bits. I had to get right down to my bare bones and see that my amazing child was exactly what I had done. I had forever changed, for the better, the world. We all have.

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