I remember the day I found out I was pregnant. I was so excited. I had always wanted to be a mother, and now it was happening. It took forever for my little bump to show (don’t hate me, but I was still wearing my regular pants at 6 months). All through that interminable wait to look preggo, I wanted to SCREAM from the rooftops: Look at me! I’m knocked up! I’ve got a bun in the oven! I’m having a baby! I’m going to be a mama!
Even when I went into labour, my joy could not be contained. I didn’t care about the pain and discomfort—well, I guess you can thank the epidural for that—because I knew that at the end of my fatigue and agony there would be a big prize: my baby. I didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl, or what she’d look like. Just that she’d be mine and I’d be hers. And forevermore, I would be her mother.
And then she was born. And then the first night she cried. And cried. And cried. She cried so much and for so long that they put me in a private room. She cried so much and for so long that they nurses took her and created a makeshift nursery so that I could get a little sleep. She cried and cried and cried because it took her 30 minute just to latch on to my sore, bleeding breast. She was hungry and uncomfortable and I was tense and tired and uncomfortable. And she was beautiful and amazing and a miracle and I loved her, and I wanted to be the best mother ever, but after listening to her wailing for 4 weeks straight, I felt like a failure.
Especially after 3 weeks when I had to make the difficult decision to stop nursing and offer her a bottle.
Motherhood was just as I’d envisioned in so many ways. Long walks with the stroller, sweet loving baby snuggles, tiny perfect feet to kiss. But motherhood was also not at all what I’d dreamt of. It wasn’t idyllic. It was messy and unpredictable, and unsettling, and HARD.
One day, weeks in, the father came home to find us both lying at opposite ends of the king size bed. She was screaming, and I had my back to her, hands over my ears, bawling my eyes out. Just take her away. I don’t want her anymore. I can’t do this. Words I’d never thought I’d say. Of course I didn’t mean them, even though in that moment I totally did.
After I had my tantrum, I pulled myself together, picked her up, and kept on keeping on. Eventually the crying stopped. It turned out she was lactose intolerant, and once we got that sorted, we became a perfectly imperfect little team of two.
I wasn’t alone. I didn’t know this at the time—probably because there wasn’t really an Internet to look things up on in 1994— but 99% of Canadian moms feel pressured to be a good parent, and 81% of us wonder if what we’re are doing as a mother is good enough. I’m here to tell you that you are a good parent, and that what you’re doing IS good enough. Because you’re doing your best. We all are.
If you’re a new mom, here’s what I want to tell you. You’d better listen to me, even though I know you don’t want any unsolicited advice. I know I didn’t.
Do your damn best, or a reasonable facsimile.
Do what you need to do, and don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.
You know what’s the right thing for your family and your child and yourself. Nobody else does. Not your neighbor, not your Facebook friends, not the mean La Leche lady who doesn’t care how much your nipples are bleeding as long as you’re breastfeeding (true story), not strangers on the Internet.
You and your partner do. Ok and maybe your own Mom. She knows the things, whether you like it or not.
You are a good mother. Or father. Mostly because you’re getting it done, every damn day. The diapers, the late night feedings, the random drives when nothing else will work, the smelling of soft baby neck crevices.
Listen to me when I tell you that you are going to get it done. You’ll get over this hump and then there will be another one. And another. And it will be a glorious disaster.
Parenthood is messy and real and it doesn’t live on Pinterest. It lives in your heart and in the ties that bind you and your child.
All your baby needs is love. The rest is extra.
I’ve got something beautiful to share with you to prove it. In the spirit of Mother’s Day, one of my favourite brands, Dove (did you know my daughter and I were in the Campaign for Real Beauty?) is calling attention to the issue of new parent pressures and encouraging new moms and all new parents to trust their way.
This recently launched national campaign features a gallery of photos depicting the beautifully real moments of first-time parents with their babies. Over the course of 48 hours, world-class photographers Ami Vitale, Lynsey Addario and Eran Sudds each documented 2 new Canadian moms, illustrating the joys, pressures and reality of motherhood taken through a raw, honest and unfiltered lens.
This is Grace. Look at her. I’ve been exactly where she is. She’s a mom of 3 kids under 4 (10-month-old baby, 2-year-old, 4-year-old) and one dog. I know how that feels. I had 3 in 5 years. She’s about to return to work and is lucky to have a multi-generational support system.
This is Shauna. Is there anything yummier than a baby in the bath? She’s the mom of a 4-month old baby and is married to a prize-winning dairy cow and sheep farmer. They’re lucky to be raising their baby on a working farm. Just like me, she had issues forming a latch with her baby, but since she was committed to feeding her baby breastmilk, she’s been tied to a breast pump for the last four months.
Go view the full gallery of photos at: www.dove.ca/beautifullyrealmoms. Try not to cry.
To celebrate Mother’s Day I’m thrilled to offer a little gift to one of you from me and Baby Dove. I want to get your started on beautiful skin early, so enter below to win the full Baby Dove line-up. Prize is valued at $70.
- Baby Dove Shampoo
- Baby Dove Tip to Toe Wash (in both Rich Moisture and Sensitive Skin)
- Baby Dove Lotion (in both Rich Moisture and Sensitive Skin)
- Baby Dove Wipes
- Baby Dove Bar
This post was generously sponsored by Baby Dove. But I’d tell my story anyways. Because us moms have gotta stick together. It takes a village.