We Need to Tell New Moms How Crazy Hard Having a Newborn Is
by Caroline Hand
Photograph by Twenty20
“Your life is over,” she told me. I let out a nervous laugh.
Glancing at my six-months-pregnant belly, she repeated, “You know your life is over, right?"
“She” was comedian and actress Judy Gold, with whom I was working on a TV show. And until that moment, the news of my pregnancy had garnered nothing but joy and excitement from everyone in my life.
That night, I mentioned her comment to my husband, who was indignant. “She shouldn’t say that to you,” he admonished. “We should be excited.”
A few months later, after our daughter was born, Judy’s words came back to me and I thought, “Damn, she was right.” A slightly less terrifying way to put it might be “Your life, as you know it, is over.” Because, if we’re being honest, it kind of is.
Those early weeks of motherhood are brutally hard. And I know I'm not the only one that feels this way. If they weren’t that hard for you, bravo, I commend your mental state. But I seriously thought I was losing my mind.
I went from working steadily as a freelance TV producer and regularly seeing friends for dinners and events, to sitting at home trying desperately to nurse a baby who didn’t seem at all interested in my boobs. Not to mention trying to nurse myself back to health after a scary bout of pre-eclampsia.
Yes, I had signed on to be a mom, and yes, I theoretically knew what I was getting into. But when you’re pregnant, all everyone wants to tell you is how excited they are for you and that this is the best news ever. And it is—it’s a miracle and it’s wonderful. But once the baby comes, it’s also really, really freaking hard, and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.
Sure, I’d read the books and taken the classes, but they didn't prepare me for the reality of it of all.
I was late to the party when it came to starting a family, so that might have been part of why I felt like my world had turned upside-down. I had a lot of friends with kids, but I knew nothing about what it was really like to care for a baby. Sure, I’d read the books and taken the classes, but they didn't prepare me for the reality of it of all.
I regularly reminded myself that I was hardly in a desperate situation compared to so many other moms. I had money—not tons, but enough. I had supportive friends and family nearby, a postpartum doula advising me on all the breastfeeding problems and an attentive husband, who, aside from being at work all day, was very present and willing to help in every way he could.
But I still felt miserable and alone.
New moms joke about the spit-up, the projectile poop and the fact that you won’t get a good night’s sleep for months. They’re full of stories about blown-out diapers and how they never have any time to shower. But they’d be doing their friends a bigger service if they mentioned all of the real challenges.
We should talk more about how hard it is. How taxing it is: emotionally, physically and mentally. It wouldn’t have changed my mind about having kids, but an honest conversation about the difficulties of it all would have gone a long way. I mentioned this to a friend who has three kids, and she said that mothers don’t want to tell their pregnant friends the cold hard truth about motherhood, because it’s too frightening. “We don’t want to scare the new mommies."
But I say, tell us! We need to know.
Tell us about the day you didn’t think you’d make it until lunch time, much less bedtime. Tell us about the day you thought you’d made a huge mistake by having a baby and you wished you could have your old life back. Tell us about the fights that new parenthood brought on between you and your partner. Tell us about the time you wondered if you’d ever leave your house again.
If you don’t, we’ll think we’re the only ones having scary thoughts. We need to know we’re not alone, and that all new moms struggle to some degree.
All this is crucial information to a new or expecting mom. Talking about it more will only help us with the transition. Please don't keep us in the dark.