Motherhood May Surprise You
When I first saw a second pink line fade into view on that pregnancy test, I whisper-shouted at it, “No, no, no no no. Stop it!” It wasn’t a complete shock to me — my husband and I decided to start trying for a baby, but that was just a few weeks ago. Surely, life couldn’t change that fast. And yet, despite the knowledge that this could indeed happen, it felt like an out-of-body experience, and one that I was entirely unprepared for. That tiny test strip had just changed my and my husband’s life as I knew it. Forever.
Once our little stowaway was public knowledge, friends, family, and strangers would routinely enthuse with me: “You must be so excited.” I would force a grin back, “Yep, we’re super excited.” Bubbling up under the surface were the things I couldn’t say aloud: “I feel depressed. This happened so fast that we didn’t have time to second-guess the decision. This feels unplanned, even though it wasn’t. I still feel like a kid sometimes, myself. I’m scared to lose my independence. I still want to travel and build my career. I don’t want to turn into a harried housewife who has lost her identity.” So I just smiled, and answered with a generic pleasant response.
Each month, it got harder to deny the obvious: a baby really was coming. I found joy in decorating the nursery, musing over names, and watching our little guy bounce around on the TV during ultrasound visits. He slowly transitioned in my mind from being a future idea to a present reality, even though he’d been real and present even before the moment I knew of his existence.
As terrible as it sounds, I began to resent my sweet baby for the change he would be bringing, and for my increasing discomfort. The swelling, difficulty breathing, crowded stomach, heartburn, inability to enjoy quality sleep, low libido, and constant tiredness made me feel like I’d be pregnant forever. I began to cry over stupid things, and would sob if my husband and I argued. I teared up at Christmas songs on the radio. I hated this newfound sensitivity—I had always prided myself on reining in my feelings and saving emotional displays for truly significant events. (I later discovered I wasn't alone—antenatal anxiety affects over half of pregnant women and about 20% of pregnant women experience antenatal depression. In our later articles, we will delve more into antenatal mental health care*.)
Finally, I began to get excited about my son’s birth, not because I wanted to take care of a newborn, but because I didn’t feel like I could go on another day with every part of my body compromised in some way by this pregnancy. Surely, having him on the outside would be so. much. easier. I devoured Reddit posts and articles that agreed with my own feelings, shamelessly embracing confirmation bias in all its glory.
My son’s birth came with its own challenges. Though we desired a hospital birth from the beginning, many unexpected interventions were necessary because our baby had late heart rate decelerations, likely caused by cord compression. Despite my nurses and doctors attempting every other option, we ultimately decided to have a c-section to avoid what could quickly become emergent one. Hearing that he was struggling to get enough oxygen was all I needed to feel one of the strongest motherly instincts I’d ever had: anything was worth it to protect my little guy, and suddenly, I was dying to meet him.
I was 25, healthy, did not have gestational diabetes or any other risk factors, and yet here I was being wheeled into the OR for an urgent, unplanned c-section. To make matters worse, my epidural was converted into general anesthesia after I repeatedly felt the edge of the scalpel cutting into my belly. Yep. Three times, I felt the knife on my lower abdomen, before the anesthesiologist decided to put me under completely. I didn’t get to meet my son until an hour and a half after he was born, and even then, I was groggy from the gas. There was no time to feel robbed of the birth experience I’d expected: I was simply consumed by a sleep-deprived and medicated bliss. Seeing his sweet face and feeling him on my chest was a moment I will always cherish.
Here we are now, 7 months since his birth, and I can say that yes: everyone is right; motherhood is hard (especially those first few weeks!) But, for me at least, my sweet son has a way of making me care less about the challenges and changes, because he himself has been the best and most beautiful change I could have ever imagined in my life.
If you’re an expectant mom, or thinking of embarking on the journey of motherhood, I will agree with the adage that you’ll never be ready. I’ve never been a baby-crazy, kid-obsessed woman, and I certainly was not ready. Yet, here I am, completely obsessed and in love with my little man. My heart melts when he rests his head on my shoulder and snuggles into me for comfort. I can't even describe the elation I have when he smiles at me. His mere existence gives me such positive and loving feelings that I cannot even put it into words.
Everyone says motherhood changes everything, but I did not know in what way. It is not even the sleepless nights, the dirty clothes, the diapers, or even the suddenly-truncated freedom I’ve been experiencing, that has surprised me most. The biggest shock of motherhood, for me, is how much I love it.
*This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to replace medical care. As always, check with your doctor to discuss your feelings when pregnant to make sure the feelings you are having are normal and not antenatal depression.