Last week I wrote about not being able to form, let alone speak in, complete sentences since become a mom. Mainly, my brain is fried from having to keep mental tabs on another human 24 hours a day, and I’m generally pretty exhausted by the emotional and physical labor that goes into motherhood. Most moms can relate. Having a kid that looks and acts like you is (mostly) great, but there’s just something about it that sucks the life out of you and makes you really excited for bedtime, theirs and yours. And, while these topics often come up in conversations with a laugh and a stifled sob amongst moms, we rarely get into the nitty-gritty of how moms’ brains can change and how hard – and scary – those changes can be.
We joke about not having time for our husbands or being touched out after having the baby on top of us all day and night, but rarely ever talk about how painful it is to see our dejected spouse shrink back onto the couch after realizing that we really, like really, can’t stand to be touched. How we want to scream, “I want you too but I don’t have the mental energy and I’ve had a toddler attached to my boob and hip all day and the thought of anything entering my personal space right now infuriates me!” How much we wish we could shake the layers of exhaustion off and be fresh and welcoming for them, but that requires a hot shower and a major offloading of feelings about how the day went, and we still have to do the dishes and put the leftovers away and then before we know it, the baby’s awake again, frantically looking for the boob, banishing you back to the bed with him when all you really wanted was that hot shower…
Another thing that I rarely get out of my mouth before I’m being shushed and told not to think such things are the awful thoughts that pop up randomly throughout the day. If you’re a mom, you know what I mean. Sometimes, when the baby is playing, I imagine him moving the wrong way, and the TV falling on top of him, or his head smashing into the hard tile. I see it in my head; the blood, the bones sticking out, I hear the crying, the gasping for air. I still wake up in the middle of the night, my heart pounding in my ears – if only for a second – and check if he’s breathing, especially when I haven’t been woken up in more than 2 hours. One night – and the only night – when A slept 5 hours, I woke my husband up in a panic and insisted on waking the baby, too, just in case he was breathing but there was something wrong. Sometimes when I leave him with someone else so I can go to the bathroom or if we need to make an emergency shwarma run (yes, there is such a thing!), I imagine the person dropping dead and A crying until we come back, traumatized for life by what his little mind saw. Or what if they hurt him, or kidnap him, or let someone else hurt him?
My body physically reacts when he falls, when he cries, when he’s not feeling well. This is how we were designed, this is what connects us to our babies, even though they can be autocratic jerks most of the time. The thoughts that come and go, the visceral reactions to our baby’s discomfort are uncontrollable, and just because they’re ridiculous doesn’t make them any less scary. The constant stream of what-ifs can really take a toll, and – I should actually consider myself one of the lucky ones. Some mamas who struggle with these thoughts can’t actually see reason and find themselves consumed with horrible images, and unable to function. Their fears of the unreasonable grip them by the throat, leave them crying on the bathroom floor, and make momming even harder than it already is. It can be compounded by pre-existing health conditions, Postpartum Depression or Anxiety, lack of support in their journey through mamahood, or just a Type A personality that is having a hard time adjusting to the chaotic, sleep-deprived nature of being a mom and can’t compare to the perfectly curated shots she sees on her Instagram feed.
I’m not sure why as a society who’s so connected by this thing called motherhood refuses to talk about the ugly sides. I find it comforting to know that another woman is going through the same things I am; it takes the edge of the craziness that I see when I look in the mirror. I also think it’s important for those moms who may not have control over those thoughts to know that they’re not alone!
So next time your mom friend wants to talk about the uncomfortable side of this new life, try comforting her in a different way. Instead of telling her that it will all be OK, and not to think so negatively (I get this one a lot…), tell her that you too have those thoughts, feelings, crazy-lady moments, and thank her for being brave enough to share it with you.