Friday, May 9, 2014

Enjoy Every Minute

It all started when Luke was born. They put him on my chest, and I waited for the feeling. You know, the euphoric feeling that you are supposed to have. "I know you!" "Love at first sight!" "You're mine, and I'm yours." But that feeling didn't come. And instead of spending that time meeting someone for the first time (it is the beginning of a relationship after all), I spent that time questioning -- why wasn't I feeling the way that I was supposed to be feeling?

Before I had my son, and in the first few months of his life, I had countless people tell me: "Enjoy every moment!" Well, I definitely did not enjoy every moment. I suffered from postpartum anxiety for the first couple of months after Luke was born. I would get panic attacks every night around 6pm that would last for hours accompanied by horrible insomnia. Luke was "normal" in pretty much every way, but of course nothing is normal when you have your first child. My thoughts were consumed with if he was getting enough to eat (even though I was producing plenty of milk), having enough wet diapers, if he had GERD or reflux issues, etc. etc. etc.

When I was in the depths of these issues, we returned back to church. Without fail, everyone I talked to said something along the lines of "savor every minute! They grow up so fast!" I left in tears. On top of everything else my mind was preoccupied with, I was now racked with consuming guilt. Why wasn't I enjoying every minute? Why was this so much harder for me than for everyone else who can have and infant and enjoy every minute? I was enjoying some moments, sure. His first smile. Falling asleep in my arms. Nursing him (well, sometimes). But was I enjoying every moment? Was I savoring it? Definitely not. In my first-time mom mind at the time, this meant I was failing at motherhood.

In the midst of all of this, I happened upon an e-mail that my cousin sent me a couple of months before Luke was born. 

"Some people enjoy motherhood right away. I did not :)  If you have a struggle at first, just know that it gets better and better.  And give yourself a year of vastly lowered expectations per baby."

Those words spoke to my soul. I suddenly had someone telling me that it was okay to struggle with this! Looking back on it now, I'm pretty sure that other people had told me similar things, but this note was so simple, sincere and vulnerable that I finally felt like I wasn't alone in my journey. It was a turning point for me, and (just like she said!) things did get better from there.

Luke is now 18 months! He is absolutely hilarious and makes me laugh every day. Plus he sleeps through the night. Hallelujah! We still have our hard days -- and I'm sure there will be plenty of hard days yet to come -- but for the most part now I'm enjoying it, certainly more than that first year.

So to sum it up, I honestly believe that the rhetoric of "enjoy every minute" is well-intentioned advice, usually from older women with grown children who miss the days of having little ones in the house. I get it. It's easy to suppress memories of the all-night cry sessions, the horrible sleep deprivation, and the confusion and just remember the coos, smiles, and that adorable, straight-from-God tiny body. I, however, found it to be destructive and guilt-inducing. Let's be real with each other instead, like my cousin was with me. Please, let's admit when times are hard, so that others won't feel so alone when their times are hard. 


Chance said...

well said, Emily.

I hope your next post deals with the "one-uppers." You know, those days when you're absolutely exhausted and a friend or relative with more kids asks how you're doing and you respond with "I'm just so tired," only to hear them say "tired?! You don't know tired! Wait until you have as many kids as I do, then you'll know tired."

Hksedwick said...

Amen Sista!! You are amazing. It is healing to hear that you aren't the only one questioning every decision.

Bethany said...

Oh, Em! I relate to this so much! As you know, those first few months were VERY hard for me, but things are much better now--in part thanks to your friendship and reassurances! Though I still have tons of anxiety and self-doubt about every decision. Also, I can't believe Luke is already 18 months!!!

jennybhill said...

The first night we had Spencer home from the hospital, I was pretty sure he was going to starve to death before I had a chance to take him to his pediatrician's appointment the next morning. The first while was pretty miserable in some ways, all exaggerated by no sleep. I'm sorry I didn't talk with you more about things -- maybe we often assume other people are stronger than we are. I'm glad that email helped you.
Yesterday I was talking with a friend who had a miscarriage last summer. The due date for that baby just passed and she said that day was really hard. She said she feels like there is some secret club that you don't get to know about or be part of unless you've had the experience yourself. She wished it wasn't that way, for the same reason you wrote at the end. Would love to talk to you more whenever you like.

holtkamp said...

i wish i had read this 2 years ago! it was difficult with brent at first (not because of him but because of me) but with baby #2 it's been totally different and i'm so wrapped up in the 'enjoy every moment'. crazy hormones ;)

Kristen said...

Thanks for writing this, Emily. I feel like you are being the change you are hoping to see in postpartum culture by sharing your experience. You are a very good writer and I would recommend any pregnant or new mom to read this!