The Price of Motherhood

Fresh from the pediatrician, I come to you, my readers with my heart ripped out and going bam bing bang boom at the bottom of my stomach.  Fear not – nothing is wrong.  Some possible jaundice but in the scope of things that go wrong, that’s really nothing.  But I just died one-million deaths watching a blood-taker with dubious talent turn little Mr. Smith’s arm bright purple with a tourniquet and then not be able to find his vein and switching to the other arm and bright purple-ing it  until he was so out of his head with pain that he stopped screaming, his eyes glazed over, and he stared at the wall.  I swear my baby went to his happy place and neither I nor the dubious blood taker were invited.  Not invited FOREVER.

And in all my life I have only almost passed out a few times, each time associated with watching one of my children in pain.  How do these little weird creatures nest themselves so deeply in our hearts, digging in so deep that it manifests physically?  I really don’t know, but they do.  They just do.  To my great relief, I rallied and did not pass out, mostly because I was holding Sheppard and I couldn’t reconcile dropping him on the floor so I stared at the same spot Smith was, and counted backwards.  Not all that helpful for Smith but it did the trick for me.  One hour later and I still feel slightly buzzed.

Now the boys are napping and I have to approach something that is weighing heavily on me.  I received an email this past week from a reader who didn’t give me permission to share her words so I won’t.  But the jist of it was this: she’s a new mom as well.  This reader is a new mom and is struggling with her feelings of mourning her life that she had before.  She feels guilty for wanting the ease of childlessness back, she feels inadequate to calm and comfort her child, and thinks that she’s failing her child.  The way she’s feeling is being compounded by reading what I write.  She sees me enjoying my children, photographing each moment and praising my husband and older child endlessly.  She’s essentially looking in from the outside and wondering how she doesn’t have what I do.

My big secret: I’m willing to bet she has exactly what I have.  When I write for Pistols, it is many times to celebrate the moments I’ve experienced of joy, or of humor with my family.  That is not to say that each moment of every day is full of joy and celebration.  I tend to not detail the times I’ve gone into the kitchen and lost my mind in tears and sobs because I’m overwhelmed at all the things that I’m now on task to do.  I tend not to write about the times I’ve snapped at Roan, bringing him to tears because his mom has lost her patience (again) and being only six, he doesn’t know how to act perfectly, all the time.  I rarely indict myself and my crimes against my husband, where I desperately need someone to be mad at and his existence in my life is all the cause I need to list his faults.

I don’t write about these things because they are not the things I remember when I think of my life, but they do exist in full-blown living color, probably more often than I’d like to admit.  And when I got this email from my fellow new mother, I felt like a big fat fraud.  I do have an amazing life, one that I’ve built and constructed into something that I am so happy with.  But I also fail at being the best person that I want to be, daily.  Hourly.  I have a hard time looking at my own faults and an even harder time showing them to the world, but I think it’s a disservice for me to pretend that everything is roses, all of the time.  Being a new mom is hard.  It is a big huge fat chunk of reality that sometimes seems much too much to take on.  There are things we have to give up, things that are precious to us.  There is a lot of sacrifice in being a mother, and sometimes we don’t feel like sacrificing anymore.

Yet, it’s all worth it.  Which doesn’t take away the reality that there is a certain loss that comes with motherhood.  And because you may be aware of that loss in no way takes away from your ability to be an amazing mother.  It doesn’t mean you don’t love your child, and it doesn’t mean that anyone else on the planet is doing it “better” than you are.  It just means that you’re honest enough with yourself to feel things that maybe a lot of people won’t admit to.

But I will admit it.  To any of my readers (and specifically the one who took the time to write to me) who are new mothers or old mothers or thinking about becoming mothers, I am here to testify: I love my children with all my heart.  But I do miss the things that not being a mother means.  Time to myself, impromptu dates with my husband, friends who would call and say “Come out with us” and me saying “I’m on my way…”.  Quiet time at home with no clock counting down the minutes until someone needs something from me.  And I think that’s pretty ok to miss these things, because I would give them all up, plus one million other things, for the instances that you read about here.  My stories that I write are not the sum of my whole life.  But they are absolutely the things that matter the most to me.  The way I get to laugh, enjoy, and love my family are easily worth the things that have left my life as the price.

And now, because the overwhelming majority of you are letting me know that you’re here for one thing only, a moment with the dudes:

Smith + Sheppard, doing what they do.

I mean, really. How can I complain?

Twins share everything. First the womb, now appendages.

Shepp + Smitty.

25 thoughts on “The Price of Motherhood

  1. thanks for being so incredibly candid and wonderfully honest; your empathy towards your reader is admirable. and thanks for sharing with us all the joy of your family and your life :)

  2. You nailed it my sweet sister. It is hard, trying, desperate and ever so worth it. It never becomes not hard. We spend our whole lives loving, caring, serving these kiddos and then they grow up and we worry even more! And love them all the more.
    Thanks for the photos….kind of love these kids of yours already!
    Have a good day with the boys.

  3. Dear Jodi’s reader with unmentioned name,
    You may have my number (seriously) and call me any time to discuss the woes of motherhood. I looked forward to having a baby my entire life. I literally daydreamed about it as a little girl. After my first son was born I suffered from the most awful postpartum depression and I never thought it would end. My guilt at feeling so awful and missing my old life was just as bad as the depression. Motherhood is still so incredibly challenging but, as they get older, they give back more. There is more of them to enjoy and this helped ease my feeling of loss of my old life. Many days it even takes it away completely! I am always open about my struggle with motherhood because I know that, no matter what they tell you, EVERYONE struggles with it to some degree. When you see those moms in the park who look so perfect, just know that they are struggling too. Seriously, if you need a stranger/new friend to talk to, I’m game.

  4. Gawd!! Those boys are just so gorgeous. I want to pick them up and snuggle with them. :) My baby is getting ready to turn 1 year. I miss holding those perfect tiny bodies. Precious!!

    I would wholeheartedly agree with what you said to your reader. As a parent of 3 (10 yo, 2 1/2 yo, and almost 1 yo), you almost never have time for yourself. It’s hard to not have those feelings of resentment at times (and especially in the beginning when you are not getting a whole lot of sleep). Cut yourself some slack and don’t make any important life changing decisions anytime soon. :)

  5. Jodi, that was so beautiful! Hey, tell your friend that she is NOT ALONE!! Sometimes I wanted to throw my kids out the window, but I didn’t. When my son was six weeks old, I called my husband at work and I guess the tone in my voice scared him so much he was home in 20 minutes. Tell your friend to hang in there for the beautiful moments, they will come. Tell her to keep talking about her feelings, and tell her that she’s totally normal.

  6. One of the discussions I’ve been a part of for years amongst the blogging community I frequent most is that many of us tend to blog mainly about our problems, because that’s what we need to work out in our heads and we appreciate advice from our online friends. Of course we’ll mention some fabulous thing when it happens. But our everyday fabulous things? The blessings we should be counting, but often take for granted? Yeah, we don’t post so much about those.

    So blogs like yours, and the Pioneer Woman, who consciously frame their posts in a positive manner, are bright spots in our blog reading. I think many of us realize when you speak in passing, often humorously or ironically, about less than perfect parts of your life, that what we see here is only a small part of it.

    Rather than look at your posts as a standard to live up to, most of us would probably be better served by looking at it as a better way to frame our own perspectives. Focus on the positive, whenever possible – and it’s almost *always* possible. And try to reach the point as quickly as possible where the negative can be viewed with humor…or, at least, without heartache.

    Your blog is a record of sorts, that will be incredibly wonderful for you and your family to go back and read years from now. It does contain heartbreakingly sad events you’ve had to face. But overall, it’s a beautifully positive look at the lives of a lovely family.

    What I’ve recently come to realize is that giving space to rants and vents in cyberspace is just extending and expanding the lifespan of negative energy. What you do here is so much better. It’s not the saccharin Pollyanna sweetness, which can get a little wearing, but more of a little edgy positive outlook – which is cool.

    Nobody, and no family, is perfect – not even close. But focusing on the good stuff keeps the bad stuff from taking over. Having a first baby, just one and with no other children, can be absolutely exhausting. Twins, particularly in addition to another child, can be completely overwhelming. My sister did that, so I got to see it first hand. What makes it harder, too, is that afterbirth hormones are still a little out of control.

    I wish you and the reader who e-mailed you, and every other new mother everywhere, the most joy in their babies, that it may make the hardships more easily bearable.

  7. How is it possible that Roan looks even more gorgeous in the light of his brothers? Wowza!

    You can see the love and happiness shining… xoxo

  8. Oh much love to your anonymous friend. Gawd, it is so fucking hard sometimes to reconcile the freedom of the childless years with a newborn. Mine are older, but there is not much easy about having a newborn. Even things that should be easy are now hoisted upon you and you’ve had 0 consecutive hours of sleep. Yes, it is wonderful, amazing, and just so full of love; but it is also one of the hardest things you’ll ever do.

    Jodi, thanks for sharing pictures of the boys and give Smith an extra squeeze (and get one in return!). I always ask for the best bloodsucker in the building if you’re poking my kid (advice from a friend after a bad one).

  9. Super sweet pictures! (sorry for the owie arm…..kudos to you for not high kicking the fool that hurt that little pumpkin) My two are 18 & 16 and it seriously seems like yesterday that they were this tiny and precious. I do however recall that even though they were always precious as how could such a small amazing bundle be anything less that precious………the experience was not always so. Our son (now 16) had colic. It was a nightmare. Seriously. My husband spent time with our daughter when he got home, fed her, bathed her, put her to bed and then spend the rest of the night in the garage building stuff. Night time is when our son cried the worst. I was depressed, my family all worked and sisters & friends had little ones of their own, so I never reached out…I felt helpless. I cried a lot right along with my son many nights as I held him tight and just wished each night away. All while having to be Mom to our daughter and finding a minute to brush my teeth for the day before dinner…oh yeah, and trying to not stick at being a wife….all things to all people right? At three months, it was as if someone had flipped a switch and my baby was happy. He was so happy. (and is just the most amazing young man) I was happy, hubby was happy and had many wonderful pieces of furniture to show for the months in the garage. (Garages are better than Bars so I really counted my blessings). The bottom line is, we all get it. We do. It is really important to find someone that can not only help you, but encourage you as get thru this time. I wish that I would have had someone just be there for me like my husband just couldnt. For some reason, as amazing as he was and still is….he could not cope with the crying and he really missed his wife. I should have asked someone….maybe if they knew how bad I was feeling, someone would have helped. Stay strong unidentified reader; we all get it and we are right there with you! Be blessed & know that it does get better…..it really does!!

  10. I, too, prefer to read blogs that do their best to frame their lives positively, however false a narrative that inevitably is. I think your reader, in the battlefield of small-child parenting (because it IS kind of a battlefield, isn’t it?), is only able to see her flaws reflected in your sunny posts, but most people who aren’t so deeply struggling probably understand the grace behind your careful selection of your blog material.

    That poor mom, though – I know how she feels. I had some deep postpartum sadness with my second child, sadness that I was on the verge of seeking professional help for, before it magically dissipated one day (seriously. hormones are the weirdest). The guilt I felt for not being happy was worse than the not being happy. Some days I’d scrap it all for my old life back. When that feeling comes, I try to picture myself one day, relaxing by a pool and reading a book for, like, a whole uninterrupted HOUR, and how when that day finally comes I’ll probably let my book fall and daydream about those lovely days when my boys were little, and loved and needed me over everyone else in the world. Then I’ll miss their little fat sticky hands and snotty nose faces, even though now I grow weary of constantly wiping and washing and tucking and training and on and on and on. Putting myself THERE helps me appreciate HERE a little more, for as interminably long as the days can sometimes be, the back of my brain knows that my days with my boys under my roof are numbered and precious.

    And when that visualization doesn’t work, a beer usually does.

  11. Someone needs to educate me on what ‘normal’ is!! Mothers everywhere can understand your unnamed reader. We have all been there. We make it out on the other side and have, as Jodie has said, the most wonderful of memories to think about. My oldest is 32yo and has given us great grandkids. I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything. Giving up the millions of things was easy, and now I can’t even remember what I thought was so important. OK, don’t blame my age on that!! Let me assure you, now that I have reached this point in life, I long for time with them all, kids and grandkids alike. Try hard to live in the now. I tell the oldest, that someday, you will miss stepping on the plastic army men with your bare feet!!!

  12. Every day is difficult with a newborn. I always say I wish they could just be born at 6 months, because I thought things got easier then. They are not quite so helpless at that point. And you start to see the fruits of your efforts. I would say to your reader, try to get though each day, taking it day by day, but also try and enjoy some things that you used to. Toss the baby in a carrier and do some things. And ask for help. Accept offers from friends and relatives. I didn’t when my baby was born, because she was very sick with a heart condition and I didn’t want anyone else to watch her. And I do not accept help from others easily. But it makes others feel just as good if you accept, so do it. I regret that I did not accept more help, because I really needed it.

    Join a play/moms group. Socializing will never be the same, so accept a new norm. And as the baby gets older, you may find that s/he is your new best friend!

    Again, in my opinion anyway, the newborn stage it the hardest! Jodi just makes it look easy!

  13. Oh Dear Reader…you are not alone. You are not messed up or awful. You will get through it and it might be a hazy recollection, but I know each hour seems endless. Especially this time of year. I had my first baby in November and grew to hate the sunset because each night brought darkness and loneliness and emptiness. You have a whole world of mommas out there that share your feelings, even if we don’t talk about it much. Please find a way to boost your omega 3 intake…(I’m not a doctor!) but have mentioned this before in a comment because it so easy, and potentially so helpful for your brain in the post-partum stage. Sometimes it’s really hard to see it, but each day with your baby is a special gift. Oftentimes the gift has poop on it, but still…

    Keep up the good work Dr. Popcorn…all around.

  14. It was really nice reading this and, at the same time, having you and many others say that even the tough times are worth it. I’m at the end of my second trimester now, and I’m really scared not that things will be hard, but that I will have bad days when I feel exhausted and annoyed and hopeless and like I’m losing myself – and that I will show my frustration over these things. I know this is normal, but it took me nearly two years to get pregnant, and so I actually feel like I can justify any complaints so much less than other parents can – I’m so thankful that this pregnancy happened at all, so how could I possibly ever be upset about something I wanted so much and tried so hard for? So, yeah, this scares me a lot. But it helps knowing that it’s normal, and that there are a lot of parents who STILL think having kids is great (I am also tired of reading articles and seeing polls that show that, apparently, most parents think that caring for their children ranks below cleaning the toilet in terms of tasks they enjoy).

  15. As a therapist, my inclination is to recommend some short-term (or long-term) counseling to this anonymous email-writer, so that she gets the support she needs, the space to explore these scary feelings, and validation that it’s quite normal to feel ambivalence and sadness. A significant number of women experience something more intense and extreme and professional help is quite necessary and helpful in many of these situations.

  16. I had dreamed of having a baby since I was a little girl. I was so incredibly excited when I was finally able to have children. Everyone tells you that as soon as you hold your baby, it is love at first sight. This was my expectation, and it was shattered when my son was born.
    I did not feel like I loved my son for a long time. I have a degree in human development, and I had taken lots of parenting classes, so I knew what my baby needed, but I felt like everything I did was based on instinct, not love. I just went through the motions and tried so hard to feel what everyone said I would feel, but I was left feeling angry, guilty, and frustrated because I didn’t love my baby. I just knew that I had to take care of him.
    I wanted more than anything in those first few months after his birth, to divorce my husband (Which didn’t make any logical sense; my marriage was great!)I felt like if I got rid of him, then I would have my old life back. I truely had to talk myself out of leaving him and our son over and over.
    I am pregnant right now, with our second son and I am hoping for a better experience because I now know more about myself. I also know that when I get overly tired, my “fight or flight” instincts kick in and fleeing is what I want to do. Try to get some sleep. Have someone take your baby for a couple of hours so you can just sleep.
    And know that after a time, you will feel better.
    I LOVE my son now! He is hilarious, he is smart, he makes me smile DAILY! Even on the days that he drives me crazy!
    The joy will come. Even if you don’t feel it today.
    And with all of the caring that you are doing for your child remember to take care of you. Find a support network. Reach out. Let someone know that you are frustrated and that you need help. Even if you don’t know what you need, telling someone that you need something will start you out in the right direction towards figuring out what you need.

  17. Jodi, your entry was just beautiful and so honest. I just loved it and the pictures are so beautiful. I can’t wait to get my arms around those two little ones. I am so thrilled that you are enjoying them along with all the hard stuff too. Love you…

  18. Jodi, to your mysterious emailer, she is certainly not alone. For the first 2 years of my son’s life, I constantly wished for my “old life”. Was I suffering from post-partum depression? Probably. Did I get any medical help? No. I couldn’t “allow” myself to acknowledge that I might need medicine to help me. My son is now 12. I regret not getting that help, I lost out on those 2 years, because when I look back at them, I don’t remember joy. I remember sadness. I hope your emailing new mother is able to reach out and accept more help if she needs it. If she is a brand new mom, it may truly be just hormones, but I hope she will be able to see if it is more than that.
    P.S. I can honestly say I love and like my preteen. He is part of my heart, without him I would be a lesser being.

  19. My years of raising babies are long behind me, but I remember the pain as clearly as the joys (later painful child-raising years are not so far back and less sprinkled with joy, but that’s for another time). I realize now that this was one more of those life secrets nobody tells you, probably because they don’t think it would help to tell scary stories about stuff most of us have to get through anyhow. Better to know, though, that it’s all there so you don’t feel like a monster: The exhaustion, the claustrophobia, the boredom, the guilt, the frustration, the rage and the longing for when you were child-free, punctuated by the sweet smell of a baby’s head, and suddenly the smile that’s only for you. A witch’s brew, for sure, and who said enchantment was all fun?

    Glad to see you’re all doing well. Dotty encourages me to let you know how much I enjoy your blog. All the best.

  20. How can I not comment after my mother? Yet another woman whose words slay with me their precision.

    Jodi, I am such a huge fan of your writing and your honestly and your humor and your outlook. You have been a beacon in the blog world for me and, I suspect, so many others. What you write you write from the most truthful and tasteful place. This post only highlights that, as well as the adoration you have for a fantastic family who you love fiercely and work hard for.

    Just by being who your are and typing what you typed you may have given your anonymous reader the courage to tell you how she really felt. Maybe in that split second of sentence structuring she became a little stronger and a little calmer and maybe she’s on her way out of the hole we’ve all fallen into after tripping over the parenting pebble.

    Thank you for being a girl’s girl and a mom’s mom and a great pen pal. So happy that all is going so well. And those boys, all three are like little Jelly Belly’s in a crystal bowl ready for tea time! Sorry I have been out of touch. The year has been grand but grating. Lots of good and lots of not so good so we are ready for the ball to drop and 2011 to climb into our coats.

    xxoo,

    Dotty

    P.S. Love that my mom loves your blog as much as I do. Apparently, great taste grows through my tilting family tree.

  21. Pingback: Pistols and Popcorn » Breasts Not Boobs

  22. Gillian’s comments were most like how I look at it. I second what Gillian said.

    I hope your anonymous emailer/reader knows it’s okay to tell her friends/family how she’s feeling because she will be surprised at how many who are also moms/parents will agree with her! The ones who don’t acknowledge similar experience or reactions, well, they are just plain lying. It’s hard, very hard, to be a parent, especially to babies/toddlers, and we do grieve for our past life (& freedom) no matter how much we want(ed) the child/ren.

  23. Hi Jodi–I don’t remember how I found your blog but I think was drawn to the story of your loss. My first baby, my precious Loic Emmanuel, was stillborn at 25 weeks. That was ten years ago, and even though I am blessed with two healthy little boys, I am still drawn to stories similar to mine. I can understand why you see your life as defined by the happy moments…when you have travelled a heartbreaking path to motherhood, I believe that the sweet moments are even more so. When my son Evan was born, and sleep deprivation was at its peak, when I though it would be impossible to peel myself from my bed in the middle of night to nurse, I told myself–it’s a wonderful thing that he’s crying…it means he is breathing, that he is alive and healthy this time. These thoughts didn’t prevent me from falling onto the bed in sobs from exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed from time to time, but nonetheless, they helped me through the difficult moments. Thanks for your post! Elizabeth

  24. Hi Jodi – the message writer might also be suffering from PPMD or Post-Partum Mood Disorder (10-15% of women do) – in which case, some of her feelings would be explained. It could be a lot more than just a glass half empty issue and why it’s hard for her to relate to the possitive feelings of others. Good for her for giving voice to them and hopefully if she does have a PPMD, she will seek and find help.

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