When I discovered I was expecting my first child I had a vision in my head how it would be…you know…a perfect pregnancy, no complications, no issues with breast-feeding, no postpartum depression…JUST perfection! Unfortunately MY reality was less than perfect, in fact, I had complications mid way through the pregnancy when I started to bleed and doctors were saying I might miscarry. It was only a scare but that immediately bumped me to “high-risk pregnancy” in the doctor’s notes from then on. When I went overdue and doctors tried to intervene by inducing the birth, that only complicated matters. The baby refused to come and I developed an infection that plagued me and my baby when she was finally delivered by C-section three weeks overdue. I had planned a natural birth, but no…it was an emergency C-section. I wasn’t awake when she was born and I didn’t see her for hours. So much for that first minute of “bonding” experience after her birth. She and I developed fevers and she was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care and I was put on a medication to fight a post-birth infection. It meant no breast-feeding until I came off the medication that doctors said could cause adverse reactions in babies. When I was finally able to try breast-feeding, my daughter was already so used to bottle feedings she refused the breast. I experienced the first of many pounding hammers of guilt starting to beat down on me. I walked into my home holding my beautiful baby girl after having spent nearly two weeks in hospital and immediately burst into tears. So much for my perfect vision of motherhood!
The guilt continued to sledgehammer at me each day. I was sore from the C-section, I was tired, my child was a slow feeder so bottle feedings lasted an hour and I never had time to do anything around the house in-between feedings. My house looked like a disaster area, I could barely brush my teeth, or run a comb through my hair, let alone prepare a meal for my hard-working husband. I spiraled into postpartum blues and I cried more than I smiled around my precious child. Another blow of the sledgehammer!
After a routine visit several months after the birth of my daughter to a dentist…yes, a DENTIST, I finally let the guilt get the best of me. I burst into tears when he asked me how I liked being a new mom and he told me to go see my family doctor immediately. In fact, he wouldn’t let me leave his office until I had made the appointment.
The next day, all the guilt and emotional turmoil of unmet expectations about being a new mom, surfaced at the doctor’s office. She gave me her phone number to put by my bedside in the event I felt suicidal, and she went on “crisis mode” with me. To tell the truth, I never realized I had sunk that far down. It terrified me.
I had been very good hiding how I actually felt from my husband, friends and family. Ten minutes before my husband came home from work each day, I would tear around the house, tidying and throwing something together for supper, and throw some clothes on (rather than have him see me in the pj’s I wore all day). I never neglected my child, but I fed, clothed and bathed her without the joy a new mom was supposed to have. I was just going through the motions. I never left the house during the day, I never trusted anyone else to babysit, so I felt like I was trapped inside the house. The only time I did leave was to go to church and there it appeared to everyone that I had my act together. I was a great actress…pride would not have me admit that I was a mess. Guilt, guilt, GUILT!
When I admitted this all to my doctor, she gave me sound suggestions to help me crawl out of the hole I had dug for myself. She told me to stop being afraid to leave my baby with a sitter. She told me to get over the guilt of not having a “natural” birth and not being able to breast feed. I had to stop comparing myself with other “perfect” moms and realize that there is NO SUCH THING! Practically, I was supposed to go on a date with my husband, join an exercise class and commit to doing something just for me at least once a day…read a book, have a bubble bath, take a walk; get out of the house once in a while. She told me to get together with other moms for support and encouragement.
As per doctor’s orders, I scheduled a babysitter and went out on a “date” with my husband, the first time we had been alone in months since the birth of our child. I joined a Mom/Tot exercise class. I didn’t drop any weight but it got me out of the house for an hour. I reluctantly signed up to do a morning craft class at church where I met a lady with a daughter who was four days older than my daughter. I had no way of knowing what a “life-line” that would prove to be for me then and now. Shirley, has become one of my closest, dearest friends. Practical, helpful, non-judgmental, she has been my “go to” person for close to thirty years, and our two girls are best friends to this day! Gradually, I started to climb out of the hole and start to let go of some of the guilt that had weighed me down as a less-than-perfect new mom.
I have learned that one of the biggest weapons the enemy aims at moms is whispering our inadequacies in our ears constantly. “You are a terrible mom because…” and he lists our short-comings, our faults, and heaps the guilt on us every chance he can get. It never stops. New moms, moms with children, moms of teens, moms of adults, grandmothers…yep, he knows our weaknesses and reminds us of them all the time. I need to be reminded, every time I hear his whisperings and can feel the guilt start to weigh me down that I am to submit to God and resist the devil, because if I do he will flee! (James 4:7)
Guilt is a hard thing to let go of. I still feel sorry I wasn’t able to be the new mom I thought I should be with my oldest child…but then again I wasn’t (and will never be) that kind of mom with ANY of my children or grandchildren. I’m not Superwoman, I’m just me!