Resentment

Ooh la la– sharing the first ever image on this here non-mommy blog. I saw this on @expectingandempowered’s Instagram this morning and thought, “How did @psychedmommy get into my head and put my thoughts into a photo?!”

Maybe not all of these will ring true for you in parenthood, but it’s likely many of them will. Resentment towards your partner after the baby comes is inevitable, no matter how much you think you two are the exception. As the birthing person, the baby will need you more. Period. You are biologically hardwired to do more for the baby. Things will come naturally to you– stuff you’ve never once thought of before and didn’t even know were buried in your animal brain– that won’t come as easily to your partner. This will cause resentment.

The baby needing you for food while your partner sleeps soundly will cause a well of anger deeper in your sleep-deprived soul than you ever thought possible. The fact that your partner gets to leave the house unencumbered while you have a maxi pad the size of a canoe between your legs and your boobs are leaking and you don’t know why the baby’s crying but you do know that leaving the house is just not possible will make you seethe with jealousy. I describe it as my husband getting to cut & paste an adorable baby into his normal life while everything in my life changed on the cellular level. This is likely an unfair description, and some day it would be worth getting my husband’s perspective (he felt helpless & unsure of himself & also sleep deprived) but it takes a far more evolved person than me to not get petty as hell about, “How could you possibly have not noticed he needs a new diaper????”

My biggest advice is to communicate. Say it aloud. I absolutely told my husband more than once, “I was up at 4:00 really resenting you.” “I’m feeling very angry at you right now.” He’s allowed to talk back– it is supposed to be a dialogue– but the important thing is getting it out. Feeling resentment, then feeling bad about feeling resentment so keeping it inside and beating up on yourself, is a surefire way to cause more problems down the road for both your relationship and your mental health. This isn’t carte blanche to verbally berate whomever is helping you out with baby, but your feelings are valid and putting them out in the open takes away a lot of the weight immediately.

Your partner will eventually say something innocent like, “I’m so tired.” It is at this point you will weigh the pros and cons of committing first degree murder. You will wonder how someone could be so shockingly insensitive as to say to you, the NEW MOTHER, the MOST TIRED PERSON EVER, that they’re short on sleep. Try to be a decent human being in this moment. You being tired doesn’t negate your partner’s tiredness. It’s not a contest. It’s not fair to expect your partner to not also be open about what they’re going through (lack of sleep, stress of the baby, wanting to connect as a couple) because it might set you off into a “well I’m the most tired” rage. That’s not a cute look.

Beware of becoming a martyr. When you are doing the most– because you are, and it’s hard not to notice– don’t take on even more things because “well I’m doing it all anyway and he’s a piece of shit and if I continue to not ask for help I will eventually have a laundry list of things to throw back at him.” Believe me, that vindication feels good! It feels great to demand to be seen for all you have sacrificed. But what feels even better is asking for help and acknowledging when you feel put upon instead of one day boiling over from burnout. Remember, everyone involved is feeling fragile and no one is at their best. One day you’ll look back on The Cottage Cheese Incident as a fun marital story to laugh about even though you went to bed not talking to each other that night. (How in the F*CK was I supposed to know the seal on the cottage cheese was broken when I bought it and what the HELL do you want me to do about it now?!)

Postpartum Hormones + In-Laws

I was going to text Natalie about this instead of making it a public post, but this blog is about things I wish I knew, and this topic is definitely something I wish I knew. After talking to other new parents, turns out I’m not the absolute bitch monster I assumed I was, and many people have experienced the same. I know many pregnant people right now who don’t have the great relationship with their in-laws that I do, yet this still happened to me, so they may need a double heads up. If you are one of my in-laws reading this, hopefully you’ll realize the point is that you never did anything wrong! My brain just decided you were scary thanks to the insane amount of who-even-knows-what pumping through my new mom self.

I have a great relationship with my in-laws: they’re lovely people, I want my son to love and have fruitful relationships with them as he grows, and hopefully in a post-COVID world they’ll be a reliable source of occasional childcare… basically zero reason to expect anything would be different I gave birth. And yet! While I was comfortable with some of my own family being around the baby, something inside of me became very anti-my partner’s family. They never did anything wrong– if anything, they were far more respectful of our new parent boundaries than my own family. But thanks to postpartum hormones, it felt like the baby was mine, and they couldn’t get it on it.

What was I afraid of? Nothing that could be well articulated. That they were going to steal my baby? Push me out? Overstay their welcome? None of the above, and yet all of the above. Like most things postpartum, it’s hard to describe– it was just a strong motherly urge; another feeling that made me feel absolutely crazy on top of the sleep I wasn’t getting.

I read a theory that this happens because your primal parent instincts come rushing in, and even though your in-laws might be the warmest, most respectful people on the planet, they’re not your tribe. When the cavewoman hormones flood your brain, your family is safe while the clan you partnered into is unknown. They’re not your blood; they might eat or steal your baby. Is there any science to this? I have no idea! But it makes a little bit of sense to me, and I hope you read this in time to know it might very well happen to you.

So what do you do. If you have truly overbearing in-laws– the kind that are wildly inappropriate or don’t respect your boundaries for COVID protocols or anything else– you are completely justified in drawing a hard line and not budging. I’m not saying you have to keep your baby away forever, but this is a fragile time for your new family, and if trying to force time with them is going to put you over the edge, please prioritize your baby and your mental health. If it’s too much for you to be around but you value your in-laws getting to meet baby, consider having your partner take the kid for a visit, or you going out for an errand while the in-laws come over. If the in-laws are over and it becomes overwhelming, you can either exit the room solo for some downtime, or you can excuse yourself with baby to go nurse, put them down for a nap, or just get your mom hormones back down from “internal rage” by taking the baby to snuggle yourself. Does this sound selfish as I type it out? Yeah, kinda. But you’re already giving 145% of yourself to someone else; your mother-in-law can deal with not getting to hold the baby for her entire visit.

This is a great time to lean on your friends who are already parents. They will 100% understand if you send a text “sister-in-law is here plz help.” You both know your sister-in-law is only excited for you and over the moon to meet your kid, but a great friend will respond, “SHE’S THE WORST” even though they’ve probably never met. You can do a lot of loving kindness meditation towards your in-laws later once the hormones clear and you realize they’re actually extremely helpful to have around (hopefully.)

Baby Blues Advice

Since I’ve had one child and am extremely qualified to give all the parenting advice in the world, here’s the much anticipated follow up to my experience with the baby blues period of being home with a newborn. If you missed that, click here to read it first, duh!

So. You are extremely overheated and underslept and possibly undernourished– what do you do.

  1. Know that what you’re going through is normal* and it will get better. This is absolutely the shittiest advice to get because WHEN will it get better and HOW will it get better would be much more helpful, but just know that it will. *People far more well-versed in postpartum depression, anxiety & psychosis will thankfully give information and warning signs on that before you leave the hospital. I’m using “normal” as a relative term; if you’re ever scaring yourself with your thoughts, PLEASE say them aloud to your partner or a medical professional. Do not keep it inside and assume “it’s hormones, it’ll pass.”
  2. Give yourself all of the grace in the world. This is the time to strip everything in your life down to the basics. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you are starting from the bottom. You get to accept all of the help you need and turn away all of the extraneous people and to-do’s that you want. If you post a picture of baby on Facebook and receive a record number of congratulatory comments, you don’t have to respond to a single one. It’s more than ok to not respond to texts, or to tell people “No, we’re not receiving visitors any time soon.” If it’s going to give you a blip of joy to fall down a TikTok rabbit hole, don’t feel guilty doing it. The first few weeks home are the wild west of doing or not doing whatever most benefits you and your baby.
  3. Communicate. Mind reading wasn’t something your partner could do before baby came; it sure as hell isn’t something either of you can do now. Saying “come take the baby” to your partner when you’re done nursing, or texting your mom “bring orange juice at 12:30 and put the load of clean clothes in the dryer when you get here” is so much more helpful to you and your helpers than them trying to guess what you might be needing right now.
  4. When baby is sleeping during the day, ask yourself, “What will I be most upset I didn’t get done if baby wakes up early?” and then go do that thing. If the answer is take a nap yourself, attempt it. If the mess in the kitchen is absolutely driving you bonkers, load that dishwasher (or communicate to someone else to do it!) If you need to pump, this is your time. My answer was usually to take a shower. It was the one thing I definitely couldn’t do while holding baby. You will absolutely astound yourself with the amount of things you’ll figure out how to do one-handed, but showering is never one of them. And since you’re always weirdly hot and sweaty, a daily shower will generally be warranted!
  5. Don’t rush “normal.” I was hell bent on proving to the world (and myself? why??) that I hadn’t fundamentally changed as a person after becoming a mother. I wanted to do All The Things and get back to my old routine, hobbies and habits to prove having a kid wasn’t a major disruptor. Reader, I am an idiot. Having a kid is a major disruptor to your physical body as well as your brain (and your relationships, but that is a whole separate post for a later time.) Six days after baby was born, my mom came to watch him while my husband and I went grocery shopping. We were in the canned foods section when I had to tell him, “I’ll push the cart, but I need you to make all the decisions,” because my brain could NOT focus on the task at hand. I should not have been making pantry choices at that moment. I wanted to get back on my feet and be in the world, but my brain sat my ass back down.
  6. Don’t overthink it. When you’re crying, just let it happen. Wondering why you’re crying is probably moot, and it will pass. Don’t worry your gorgeous brain one second beyond the moment that’s happening in front of you. At some point you will have the thought, “I could never do this again,” regarding any subsequent children, and honey, this is NOT the time to be thinking about that. Getting pre-sad about when they start daycare or wondering what color they’ll want to paint their room when it’s no longer a nursery is a waste of this current moment when you can be staring at their squishy face that everyone assures you doesn’t look like an alien but you’ll look back on in a couple months and realize that actually it totally did. All newborns look like (cute) aliens.

On Parenting in a Bubble

At the time of this writing, I’ve been a mother for three months and one day. When I found out the blessed heir was on his way, coronavirus was still something happening half a world away. There was no talk of stateside quarantines, masks or vaccines; I was thinking about baby shower hosts, where the hell a kid would fit in our bungalow-style house, and when my magical bigger boobs would arrive (spoiler alert: NEVER! Turns out you gain pregnancy weight in the usual areas you gain weight. So I just looked like a 14-year-old boy with a round face and ham hocks for upper arms.)

The only upside of living in a red state with very lax COVID restrictions is that my husband could attend all doctor’s appointments with me. I know that’s not the case for most people, and I truly feel sorry for those who had to experience those exciting and sometimes scary appointments and tests alone.

I was able to have a lovely Zoom baby shower, but will never get to have the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” themed baby shower I’ve been secretly planning for at least seven years. I fully recognize there are bigger problems in the world– hundreds of thousands of people are dying, so many couples are waging the war against infertility– but if I learned anything from my mother-in-law’s death two years ago, it’s that grief is not a contest. Truly unthinkable things can be happening to others, and you’re still allowed to be sad for losses in your own life.

You lose so.much.sleep. over “how will I keep my baby safe?” “I want my parents want to meet him, but my mom is getting her hair cut a week before my due date and how do I know her hairstylist wears a mask in the grocery store?!” “WAS THAT A COUGH OHMYGOD I’M CLEARLY PREGNANT PLEASE FALL DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS LADY AT THE OTHER END OF THE PARKING LOT.” Followed by pre-delivery virus tests, not getting to leave your hospital room, and, God forbid– laboring in a mask. (Which I didn’t have to do! But was so real for so many people!)

And then the baby is here. And it’s a Saturday night and he’s been around long enough that you’ve just started thinking, “I’ve… maybe… got this?” And in any other year, you’d be meeting up with friends at a brewery so they could hold the baby, or having your cousins and their kids over for dinner so you could all be like, “lol wasted on half a beer #momlyfe” but you can’t. And that’s what’s been the hardest. All of the texts and Instagram DM’s and FaceTimes from other moms and family have been a lifeline, but you can’t replace the in-person village.