Why I Wasn’t Ready To Be a Mom

We were out in New York City with friends when we decided we were ready. A packed bar downtown, the kind of place you forget. We’d both had way too many nights like this one: too many watered down vodka sodas, nights spent shoving through the crowd, competing for the bartender’s attention.Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 8.29.39 PM.png

This wasn’t the scene for us anymore, it was easy to see.

I don’t remember who brought it up first, but it was as if we’d read each other’s mind.

“We’re going to have a baby!” he shouted over the music, grinning big.

I remember how I felt right then, the moment I realized this was the biggest step we’d ever take as a couple. The excitement ran through me like electricity. I felt so ready.

But what I didn’t know back then was that I wasn’t.

Fast forward 10.5 months:

Sore, chapped nipples and stitches taking too long to heal. Chest pains each time he cries. Being afraid of nighttime because there is no sleep involved, nights are just long and lonely. Being afraid to move because the bed will creak and it’ll wake him up in the bassinet next to me.

I wasn’t ready for all of that.

The reassuring words that don’t work, that just make him cry louder. My own tears blending with his because there’s no use fighting them anymore. Hearing myself sob, “I can’t do this.” Engorgement pain that feels like bruises. 2am calls to the pediatrician because the cries aren’t normal, there must be something wrong. Bouncing him until he falls asleep, still clinging to my breast. Twinkle twinkle little star, again and again and again.

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 8.31.19 PM.pngI heard that you’re never truly “ready” for your first baby. The timing is always off somehow. But who could’ve prepared me for this? Not Pinterest, with its registry infographics and newborn photoshoot ideas. No childbirth class could’ve prepped me for what was to come after childbirth. No one could’ve.

But what I learned, eight months in, is that you become ready. Giving birth, then having a newborn, is like an academy, a training camp. It molds you into a mother. The blood, sweat, tears, and all. You give it all you have those first few months, every last drop of it,  and when you’re about to break, that’s when you know you’ve made it. 

When the calm finally settles in, you have to remind yourself to relax your shoulders. That you can take a deep breath again. Your baby is sleeping in his own room now. He won’t wake up until the morning. 

You’ll forget all about the pain of childbirth and how hard it was to breastfeed that first week. You’ll end up missing those night feeds. Those quiet, tender moments that are just yours. You’ll creep into your baby’s room to watch him sleep. And on those rare nights your baby does wake up crying in the middle of the night, you’ll happily scoop him into your arms, reminded that you once had a tiny little baby who needed you that way, every night.

To all expecting moms out there… 

I have so much respect for you. Because you’re not ready yet, you’re just excited, like I was. You’re idealizing everything that’s ahead of you, and that’s a good thing. That’s a beautiful thing.

Some days, you are going to cry. From exhaustion, frustration, but also from happiness. Because you love your baby so much it hurts, and because you can’t believe you created such a perfect child. Some days, you’ll wonder why you ever thought you were strong enough to do this. But you are. You’re becoming a mother, changing as we speak. You’re becoming ready, one day at a time.

There is no journey that is more challenging, yet more beautiful, than motherhood. Don’t feel guilty about the hard days. For saying you weren’t ready. That you didn’t have what it took to be a mother.

You’ll look back on them sooner than you think, and smile.

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Johanna Riehm teaches in the department of Communication and Media at Manhattanville College and in the department of English at Mercy College. She teaches courses in the history of communication, public speaking, and social media, as well as creative and technical writing workshops. Johanna’s work has been featured in Graffiti Literary Magazine, The Write Place at the Write Time, The Bangalore Review, Cactus Heart Press, and the LaMothe Review. She is working on her first longer work, a creative nonfiction novel called We Carved Our Names in Tamarind Trees.

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