I am a recovering control freak. I pretend to like spontaneity, but what Imean is I like to be spontaneous if I’m making all the decisions. Through counseling, I’ve come to admit that the need and struggle for control are really at the center of many of my harder life experiences.
When we found out we were expecting our first child, we were a mix of contradicting emotions. Like I often do when faced with emotions that take vulnerability to process, I took control of the situation. I went to work researching and planningevery detail of the pregnancy, birth, and the nursery where my little angel would sleep nightly. My pregnancy was fairly easy, and although my labor was long it was fairly normal and progressed following my birth plan.
When they laid my son on my chest, I was expecting a wave of love to rush over me – nothing came. When he first nursed I expected the bond to be instant – nothing came. I was completely overwhelmed, exhausted, and starving. The bond would come later, I was reassured.
When we came home from the hospital all my best-laid plans and ideas were demolished by my extremely unhappy stranger baby. He would not sleep for more than a half hour at a time unless he was in his swing. So, in his swing, he slept. I camped out on the couch ready to nurse him every hour. For five weeks. Everyone jokes about the sleep deprivation of new parents. It’s not a joke when you’re pleading with this unhappy tiny person to PLEASE go to sleep and stay asleep for more than an hour. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” they all say. My baby DIDN’T sleep.
I took him to the Dr, went to a lactation consultant (after going through thrush and mastitis), saw my midwife, and everyone had the same conclusion. He was fine!!! In an effort to calm my fears that something was wrong, they told me he was just fine. My brain heard those words and interpreted that the problem must have been me.
I was drowning on a daily basis just trying to keep my son from screaming his lungs out. I didn’t have the emotional or mental capacity for bonding or doing anything except survival. It was around my 6-week check-up that my midwife recommended a support group for new moms. I initially hesitated (I can barely get dressed, now you want
me to leave the house??), but I did eventually show up. Not having the energy or mental stamina for a positive facade, I laid bare for five other new moms and a facilitator exactly what I was going through. And there in that little back room with a chorus of screaming children, I broke. I sobbed big raindrop tears of fear, anger, despair, resentment, and loneliness. I let
complete strangers wipe my face and swaddle my son.
It was there that I let go of my dreams for how my baby should be and how I should be as a mom. And it was only once I grieved the loss of my imaginary baby that I could see my son as he was. It was only after I let go of any pretense of control that I could ride the roller coaster of parenting with any enjoyment. When you fight the ride, you get whiplash. But if you let go of control, you can start to enjoy the ride.
It’s not easy. Parenting is hard. It’s not supposed to be done in isolation. And if you’re focused on keeping up appearances and afraid to say what’s really happening in your heart – you’re isolating yourself. For me, that isolation prevented me from being the mom I was meant to be. Dominick’s mom. Not the mom you see on the covers of magazines or on TV, but the very unique mom my son needs.
If you’re struggling, please do yourself the honor and tell someone. Tell a friend, tell a family member, or tell a room full of strangers. Please know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to take the first step.
–Bry is mama to Dominick, and lives in Arizona with her husband, Danny.