Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Slow Learner Mom

A few months back, my Dad said something to me that I just couldn't get out of my head.

"You know, you've really become comfortable in your role as a mother. In the beginning, I wasn't sure, but now I see how comfortable you are in that role."

I realize he meant this as a kind observation, but my analytical, negative mind just couldn't avoid noting the connotation that, in the beginning, he wasn't sure. So I asked my sister: what did she think? She said, "Well, you know, the beginning is hard for everyone..." Hmm. That sounds like an elusive way of saying I was a hot mess. I asked my husband, who said, "Well you always knew the baby-stage would be hard for you. I just think it was harder on you than on me. But now you're doing awesome."

Wait. What? So did everyone think I was a complete failure during the first months of my baby's life?

I think back on those first six weeks. To say they were "a blur" sounds cliche, but it's true. I don't remember what I thought, what I did, what I wore, what the baby wore, what the weather was was a blur. I had just had an extremely traumatic birth and then was struggling intensely with breastfeeding. I was in tears more often than not and was doing my best to suddenly be a mom. Was I doing the best job I could do? If I'm honest, no...not really. I was just getting through it. I was holding him. I was changing him. I was talking to him. I was nursing him through bleeding nipples. So, yeah, I kept him alive. And I loved him. I loved him because he was our baby and he was a miracle and his little eyes pierced into my soul. But was I doing the BEST JOB I could do? Was I cooing over him in amazement every second? Was I overwhelmed with happiness from everything that he did? Was I delighting in hold him every single second?

Deep breath. I'm going to be totally honest. The answer to these questions is No. In the first six weeks, I was just getting through. Getting through by the skin of my teeth. Nursing him with my teeth gritted in pain and then passing him off to sleep in his swing so I could...I don't know, breathe? Try to process what had just happened to my life? And typing these words makes me want to instantly delete them because doesn't that mean I'm not a Good Mother? But I'm not going to delete them. It's what I felt. I look back on his newborn pictures and I am amazed by him and I melt in love and adoration, but deep down, there is a guilty feeling because...I hardly remember those days. Like I said, it's a goddamn blur.

After the first six weeks, it got better. The pain of breastfeeding subsided. The trauma of the birth faded somewhat. And I fell more and more in love with him. Now I did cherish every second of holding of him. I stroked his head in amazement while he napped on my chest. All of that new-baby-stuff that for the first six weeks didn't happen as much as it should have in the first six weeks because I was a catatonic invalid.

But was I a Good Mother in the first six months? Well the truth is, back then, I was still resenting the role somewhat. I had decided to be a stay at home mom. I was lonely. I hated housecleaning. I hated not getting dressed in real clothes or not having the time to take a shower. I felt jealous of people who could have "time to themselves." So even though I was completely in love with my baby and I was giving him everything he needed and more, I still couldn't wear the Mother Role with ease.

After those first six months, the shoe fit. Now, a month away from one year, the shoe is like a second skin. So ask me now if I'm a Good Mother? The answer is HELL YES.

But in the beginning? Truth be told? I was just doing the goddamn best I could. I think what my family was gently trying to say is, the role didn't come as easily to me as it does to some. I wasn't able to jump in selflessly. Instead I blearily had to find my way around and then figure out how to be this new person without feeling angry about the things I was giving up. And don't get me wrong. I wasn't resenting my baby. I wasn't doing anything wrong and he wasn't lacking in any way. In fact, if you were watching from the outside, you would say I was doing it all right. But, that little elusive thing that my family all noticed was...I think I just had a bit of a slower learning curve than some.

So, to all you Slow Learner Mom's out there - It's ok. Do the best you can. Love your babies. Love yourself. Give them what they need. And ask for what you need too. Figure out how to be the Mom you are. And don't hate yourself if it doesn't come to you immediately.


  1. I often wonder if those early months will seem like less of a struggle the second time around (if I get to have a second time around). Obviously, having two kids is its own challenge, but I can't help feeling like I'll be able to be more laid back about things. I've seen now how short-lived certain patterns and phases are, and every little choice doesn't seem as important as it did at first.

    For me, though, sleep was huge in being able to enjoy motherhood. I was just getting through the day until M started sleeping at least a few hours at a time at night. And it's gotten easier the better we both sleep.

    1. Yes...definitely sleep was a HUGE part, but even when I have sleep deprived phases now, it's never the same as it was. Also, I totally agree with you about the 2nd time around. That's kinda what got this post going actually. I started thinking how much more I would be able to appreciate it the 2nd time around, knowing what I know why. Being who I am now.

  2. This is so great! Sometimes I feel guilty because being a Mom isn't enough for me. I still need to find fulfilment doing other things. When I started my non-profit, I could tell my Father-in-Law thought I shouldn't be focusing on anything but the baby. I think that if I'm doing things that make me happy, I will be a better Mom!

  3. Appreciating your reflection, honesty, and wisdom. I could imagine the breast feeding pain in itself really upsetting me and making it more difficult to bond. It definitely sound like you have bonded though - I'm really glad to hear your feeling more settled and inhabiting your new life. Happy wishes to you guys.

  4. I needed to read this. I am definitely a slow learner mom. The beginning was a blur, for sure. For me, it's more like the first 3 months. I remember feeling like I was coming out of a fog and a huge weight being lifted from me. My husband says I wasn't completely there those first few months. To his credit, he blames my long recovery from preeclampsia and the c-section. Honestly, I still don't feel 100% comfortable in the mom role and I feel guilty even writing that. I feel like an imposter sometimes. I feel like I struggle where it looks like it comes so easy for others. Maybe that's from years of infertility or maybe because right now I'm not the primary caregiver since I am working and my husband is stay-at-home dad.
    I also feel like if I had another baby, it would be so different. I think knowing what to expect and knowing how fast it all goes by would make a huge difference.

  5. Here from Mel's Roundup.

    This: "I was just doing the goddamn best I could" Exactly sums up the first 6 weeks of my daughters life. I found it so demoralizing. I had desperately wanted to be a mother for so long & then I was just surviving & felt like such a failure. Now she's 3.5 & I feel like I got this motherhood thing. Every new mother needs to read this post.

  6. I think this says more about other people's expectations as to what a new mom should be like rather than the reality. What are they comparing their expectations to? Their own rainbows shooting out of a unicorn's ass experience or what? Your experience is just as valid, just as real, and by some of the comments above, you're not alone.


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