Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Waiting for Euphoria

When Matt and I were first married, we wanted to punch people in the face who were like, "Sooooooo....how's married life? Are you loving the honeymoon phase??"

Okay, maybe "punch people in the face" is a bit strong, but I think you quickly can conclude that our first year of marriage was not the state of amazing bliss that everyone said it would be. It was GOOD but it was a lot of work. Sometimes more work than we bargained for at the time. It wasn't him, it wasn't me, it was both of us, and God was doing a lot of work in us and using our marriage to do it. He still is. Safe to say, though, it's gotten better every year. :) But what frustrated us was that after we revealed to people that yeah, we had arguments and rough times and stuff like that, they were like, "Oh yeah, our first year was probably one of our toughest too."

Well, why didn't you SAY SO in the first place? Can we please be real??

I've been to a lot of deliveries in the past however many years that I've dealt with the sub-ten-pound set (unless you're that woman in Texas who had the honker kid, oh my word). I know a lot of people cry and shout for joy when their baby is born.

I know I was really happy he was out, but I didn't cry, nor do I remember shouting for joy.

I was just like, Oh. Sweet.

I was very happy he was healthy and crying and normal. But I had always imagined I'd be sobbing with joy, ecstatic, etc etc. In some ways though, I felt like I was at work. Because in a way, I was. I just happened to be the one in the gown rather than in the scrubs, and my coworkers were weighing and wiping off and banding my baby.

My baby?

So this is an honest post about how I felt after having Levi. Because not everyone experiences the euphoria they think they're supposed to feel. Some plunge into a very dark depression. I didn't. Not at all. But there's, I think, a very common in-between mix of feelings that I guess I didn't really expect. One dear friend, right off the bat, seemed to read my mind and told me that how I felt was normal. And I think that just hearing that, the day after Levi was born, was all I needed to know. My spirit sighed with relief.

First, I have to admit that Matt and I really, really thought we were having a girl. Everyone seemed to think we were having a girl. So in my mind, I was totally geared up for having a girl. Save for the fact that every time I prayed for the baby, I automatically said he and him. So when Levi came out a Levi, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed. And it took probably a couple days to wrap my mind around the fact that I had a little boy and not a little girl.

I knew I loved him. I knew it. But I didn't feel ooey-gooey for him. I knew I wanted to take care of him and protect him and meet his needs, and I really enjoyed doing those things. But sometimes, yeah, I felt like I was going through the motions, or maybe it was just that I felt like I was at work.

Taking home a newborn is like taking home a grenade. Or a fat, bald, short little boss who is well-versed in negative feedback techniques and is more than happy to let you know that you just ripped a hole in the universe. I felt like we had a very ill-tempered guest with terrible manners and sleeping habits in the house - except he would never leave or give us a break.

I felt like I had sat on an atomic bomb and my legs and feet were so swollen they would have made a troll shudder.

And doesn't it just beat all that you barely sleep through your third trimester...either you have insomnia, an teaspoon-sized bladder, or raging heartburn - or all three! - and then you go through the most exhausting workout of your life to have this baby, and congratulations!!! You get to now enter the most exhausting time of your life. No break, no nap, just hit the ground running...well, after your epidural wears off anyway. Please don't hit the ground before that. It gives your nurse way more paperwork than she already has.

The first week home, I was horrified. Matt had taken the week off and helped. me. SO. MUCH. that the very hormone-filled thought of him going back to work in several days dissolved me to tears. I had no concept how I was going to do this alone. I could barely figure out how to make time to go to the bathroom, let alone pick up all the stuff I normally did around the house AND take care of this...this...negative-feedback grenade.

There were moments that were fun, but there were times that were very frustrating and discouraging. How on earth could you not want to sleep, little one?? Do you have any idea how much I covet sleep? It's hard to bond in a way with someone who doesn't look you in the eye, can't smile, and works you to the bone. I felt guilty about everything too. Was I holding him enough? Talking to him enough? Often I'd find myself staring off into space during his feedings, and then thinking OH MY WORD!!!!! I'm going to have a linguistically challenged kid because I'm not TALKING to him!!!! How is he going to MAKE it with ME as a mother?!

But eventually, you do make it. Ish. I'm still figuring out how to balance playing with Levi, with looking well to the ways of my household, with putting my relationship with God first and then my marriage, with keeping up with the laundry, with maintaining my friendships, with making it to Meijer at *just* the right time of his day. As soon as I get it all sort of figured out, he changes the routine up again and I'm back to square one. Sometimes I feel like such an idiot. The kind of mom and wife I want to be are so far removed from reality, I guess.

And falling in love with him was a gradual thing. I guess for me it was like getting to know anyone else. I knew in my heart he was my baby, my family, and I loved him. But I also knew he was his own person, one that God created uniquely, and I had to get to, well, become acquainted with him. He had gone from being this faceless stranger to an actual person with preferences and needs, and figuring him out was a roller coaster!

It took time to love being a mom and the identity shift that came along with it. I could no longer be the friend I wanted to be. My time was most certainly not my own. Matt and I couldn't just do whatever we wanted, we couldn't be spontaneous with our time, and we rarely had uninterrupted minutes alone to talk about...anything. I grieved that a little bit.

And poor Molly has been in an 8-month-long pout. But she's dealing okay. ;)

Anyway, anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I am ca-RAZY about my little boy. I love him to absolute pieces and like I've said before, now I want a house FULL of little boys. I said to Matt the other day, "I wish I had known how fun Levi would be and how much we would love him, because it would've made going through labor that much easier." But those feelings took time to grow, and if you're going through that process right now, it's okay. There is a land between the total euphoria that many parents feel...and the lonely, desolate road of postpartum depression that some people have to walk. I suspect that many of us end up in that betweeny place. Don't beat yourself up over it if you miss the time you had with your husband alone, the life that you were able to live even just weeks ago, and sleep! Matt reminded me over and over again (and still does!) that this is just a phase. Eventually they do smile at you and the world feels right again. Eventually they do sleep through the night. Eventually you do break down and get a sitter and go to your favorite restaurant.

Eventually you do realize that you love them with that indescribable love, and it was worth the wait.


Cara said...

Thank you for this! :)

Autumn Fawne said...

Jenny! I just had to comment on your blog--for some reason, I decided to check it out several weeks ago (oddly enough, I went into labor that night!)and cannot tell you how much I appreciate your raw and honest account of initial motherhood. I actually came back and read it a second time, Avery is almost 1 month now, and I couldn't have said it better myself. Being a mom, especially a first time mom, has been the most unexpected, challenging, exhausting, yet beautiful experience of my life!! I just wish that more women were as open as you about the not so fun parts~thanks so much for your post :) Hope you and Levi and doing terrific!! Love, Baloo