Feeling, Mothering


August 7, 2017


The first few months of motherhood were hard.

I know people say this, but you don’t really understand until you’re going through it yourself. The whole experience is such a mixed bag of positives and challenges and hormones and lack of sleep that it’s a wonder to me how I survived. This had nothing to do with A and everything to do with my own wreckedness – a deep panic that I couldn’t be a mother, my body would never heal, and everything was terribly wrong.

Like any disaster, you just don’t see it coming, so your own unpreparedness is even harder to reconcile than just the piecing things back together. How could you let it happen? Why didn’t we know more? Why is this happening to me?

I spent a lot of time looking out this window with newborn A nursing on my lap. I remember watching one little squirrel running back and forth, burying food, the rain dripping off of those plants. I remember how much I just wanted to be outside, walking alone, but my body hurt too much and I couldn’t be away from her for long.

I remember taking her out on our first solo outing when she was almost a month old and feeling a spark of something. Bonding? Motherhood? A sense that maybe I could do this? I wanted so badly to show her the world, to fold her into the life I had as me, the person I was before she arrived.

I knew I wasn’t OK and called in all the help I could get – my doulas, sister, husband, friends, family, A’s pediatrician, a lactation consultant, and a therapist.

The therapist was helpful in giving me language for some things and she assured me I didn’t have postpartum depression, but in hindsight I can see I was much worse off than I seemed. The lactation consultant called me three times in one week to check up on me when A had colic and we both had thrush. She didn’t tell me until after the infection was gone that she was worried for us. She was concerned that the pain and frustration of it all would send me over the edge.

I remember telling my doula that I wanted to show A so much more, but we couldn’t even leave the house. She said, “You are showing her your world, it’s just the tiniest bits of it right now. Each room in your apartment is a new to her, every sound she hears is something she’s never heard before.”

That small window view was a metaphor for how trapped I felt, but for A, it was exploring a whole galaxy.

When I think about all of that, I am angry, sad, guilty. I want to travel back as the person I am now and hold that crying baby, show up for her in the way that I just couldn’t then. But all I can do is show up for now, and continue to do so the rest of her life.

These days, motherhood is (mostly) the joy that people tell you it will be. Things are still challenging, but in the way that learning something new is challenging. They’re not hard in the awful way those first few months were. And I’m grateful for this, because I am finally starting to be the mom I thought I could be.

Now, when I’m looking out this window, it’s sitting side-by-side with A. She loves nothing more than to perch right there, banging her little hands on the glass, waving to neighbors, looking at the trees.

And I love nothing more than sitting right next to her, watching her watch the world.

For the month of August, I am posting each day using a prompt from The August Break challenge by Susannah Conway. The prompts encourage a “month of paying attention” which goes hand-in-hand with my new moon intention to focus on my creativity. I’m sharing all my photos on Instagram with #jtaugustbreak

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  • Reply Lindsey August 8, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I’m so grateful for your candor here, and even though the days you describe were a long time ago for me, your words resonate deeply. Welcome. xox

    • Reply jtao21 August 9, 2017 at 11:42 am

      Your words do the same for me x

  • Reply Rita August 8, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    Ah, Justine. I know just what you mean. Glad you’ve turned that corner.

    • Reply jtao21 August 9, 2017 at 11:41 am

      Thank you! Can’t imagine going through it with multiples xo

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