Say What You Need to Say

I’ve been thinking a lot about resentment lately. I suppose that’s normal when your entry into motherhood is a crying-filled, sleepless smackdown and you subsequently have a second baby who offers you the sort of experience you expected to have when you became a mom. At least it’s normal for me.

“This isn’t the experience with motherhood I wanted you to have,” I remember my mom saying to me one day while I cried on the phone to her when Connor was a baby.

It wasn’t the experience I wanted to have either. It’s not that I thought having a baby should be lullaby perfect, but I didn’t want it to be filled with quite so much despair.

The moment my mom said that to me is a milestone in my motherhood journey. From where I stand now I see that moment like a marker stabbed into the sand on my path, noting what came before and what would follow after. This is how the beginning will always be for you, says the sign next to it. You can’t relive those earlier months and your motherhood picture will always be shaped by this experience. You don’t get to do it again and have it be easier, more fulfilling, more fun.

No, I don’t.

But do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

***bench-and-blue-sky

I danced with Ethan this morning.

He was full of smiles when I went to get him out of bed to start the day. I fed him and then he played happily in his high chair while I had breakfast. He splashed in the bath, experimenting with what happens when he kicks his feet.

We’ve been working on sleep lately and this morning, not for the first time, he had a nice, long nap. He woke up, pink-cheeked and laughing. I fed him and then thought he might like some play time on the floor, but he didn’t. So we danced.

“Say what you need to say,” sang John Mayer, as I held Ethan around the waist and placed my hand in his small chubby one. He put his nose in the crook of my neck and leaned his cheek against mine. He let me sing and he stuck to me as I swayed, breathing him in.

***

If Ethan had been my first baby, I wouldn’t have spent so much time bouncing a screaming baby. I wouldn’t have logged hours in his room trying to get him to sleep and wondering at what point my sanity would actually break. I wouldn’t have been anxious about doing errands or shopping for groceries in case he had a colossal meltdown in public.

I would have been able to go to play dates without dreading having to go home and deal with him by myself. I would have had more hot meals. I would have had more meals, period. I would have cherished the time and his laugh and those slobbery, open-mouthed kisses without wondering why the lovely baby stuff had to be overshadowed by so very much hard stuff.

That sign in the sand is right. I don’t get a motherhood do-over, though my experience with Ethan has given me a glimpse of what might have been.

With a different baby, my early days of motherhood might have been more peaceful. They might have been more fun. They might even have been diaper-commercial sweet. With a second, very different baby, I can see it now.

***

Do I resent Connor?

No, I don’t.

I don’t resent him, neither the baby he was nor the boy he is now. But do I resent my introduction to motherhood and wish it had been different?

Sometimes. A little bit. I do.

Say what you need to say.

 


 

Comments

  1. Love to you, Robin. And of course you can resent what those days were to you without resenting Connor. Your words will help other women; they will help people forgive themselves and seek out help and come to terms with their own beginnings (and maybe middles or other stages), but I still wish you wouldn’t have had to take the path you did to get here. xoxo

  2. Love. Truth is always okay. Sometimes it’s what makes *us* okay. xoxo

  3. Robin, I do get this in a way. I didn’t have colicky babies, but I had BABIES. My fantasies of running about town with my baby, stopping for coffee, enjoying normal day to day activities were all dashed because I was so scared to take TWO babies out. And maybe they would have still been dashed if I’d only had one baby, but I’ll never know. So you don’t the children, but it’s okay to resent the experience. Your description of the sign in the sand hurt my heart a little because I get it. And I’m sorry you had to go through that. xo

  4. Oh, I so get this. While I don’t resent my kids at all, there are parts of the experience that I do resent. I wish we didn’t have to go through this, but I know that you words are helping others through their own experiences.

  5. My first year as a mother compared to my 2nd time with a newborn? Polar opposites. It had as much to do with my boys as it did with me, as a new, clueless mother versus a more experienced one. I don’t resent my first, but I do wish that I’d done things a little differently, because I think, maybe things will be easier for my 3 year old now if I had. But we’ll never know, so I *try* not to dwell on it.

  6. I am new to posting blogs and I do not know if this shows up on my Facebook page. I am early on in my pregnancy and we have obviously not told all of our friends. Let’s see how this works! I must say that reading this totally hit home. Thank you Jenny for tuning me into this blog! Jill

  7. Robin, you always seem to write my experiences. Thank you once again for putting down your rare honest truthful experience. I am so lucky to have stumbled on your blog (in a fit of rage). My first year of motherhood was hell and yes I wish I could go back and do it all over again with less of the bad and more of the good. I am not sure if I will be brave enough todo it all over again – but thank you for giving me hope……JUST incase. xoxox

  8. I think this is how it goes for many mamas, Robin, myself included. My first was VERY HIGH NEEDS. I didn’t really know any different though. When my second came onto the scene…complete opposite. Just a very go with the flow type of baby. Those first babies. Shoo. Love those first babies, but they often come full of lessons to teach us, no?

  9. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my introduction to motherhood as well, and I’m worried about the things that I am attached to as a result of my entry.
    I’m writing about it in the near future.
    Vague, I know, but I’m not sure right now where I’m going with my new discovery, but what I do know is that my PPD did not shape a healthy view of mothering a new born.
    sigh

  10. Every time I look at my 13 year old sons face I am so relieved and so grateful I didn’t give him away like I wanted to so desperately when he almost broke me 13 years ago. The brink of sanity is something I understand. Resentment in some form is something I understand too. Years and years from now you’ll look back on all your years of motherhood and this will just be one spoke in the wheel. It’ll be a fuller circle and the sacrifices you make now with your mind and soul and body will make much more sense. I would like to promise you that but all I can say is that this has been my experience.

  11. This was beautifully written – so descriptive. I think back to my neighbor across the hall (we’re still friends even in different countries now) whose baby was born 2 months before mine, and boy did she have her hands full. He never stopped screaming. I had that with my second, but not with my first. And I look back and wonder how she did it, my friend.

  12. Oh Robin. So, totally okay. I feel the same way about my first. Love you. xo

  13. Truth is important. So is perspective and resilience. You inspire me with all three. Love.

  14. Hugs, Robin. Huge, huge hugs.

  15. I hate feeling resenment, but I do. Mostly, it’s toward myself. I resent not doing things in a different “order”: marriage, kids, career, fun. Now, at nearing 40 I feel out of whack, wondering what I’m supposed to be doing, when my feeling of comfort or relaxation will come. I look at my kids and they’re so…old. I resent time for going so quickly but I don’t resent the ability to see each of them in these ages, the chance to get to know them all over again as they age. I know what you mean about resenting perhaps the entrance you were given into motherhood, not the motherhood itself and certainly not the child.

  16. I hear you sweetie. I wish my first time had been different too. And I am fiercely protective of my oldest because I’m afraid that being glad that this time is different is a slight to her.

    It’s not. Our feelings are valid and they don’t affect our love. You have every right to be good and mad about a situation that sucked for both you and your fiery, sweet eldest boy.

  17. One of my favorite quotes is “Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.” I think it applies to a lot of those “signs in the sand” moments in our life. We can look a back at them and say, “there, that’s what shaped me. That moment is what made me this way.” That part is easy, the looking back. The hard part is the moving forward. That’s the part that takes the time and the work. Last year when I wrote the series about my dad I thought that I would never heal, that I would never be able to look back on those moments without an ache, but the sharing it has allowed me to move forward and the resentment is fading. Will that happen for you, with this? I don’t know. Does it need to? I don’t know that either, but I do know that you are not alone, and that you are helping people by sharing your journey, and that is a good thing. A really good thing.

  18. Did I resent my son when he was born? Totally.
    I thought that if I got rid of him, things would go back to normal.
    Over time, I grew to love him and I began to resent the illness. I don’t for one second think that he did something wrong by entering this world. He is my world.
    He was also a little shit when he was a baby.

  19. My experience is similar to yours – first baby was ‘tough’ and the second was a dream. I don’t resent my oldest either and my experience with her has shown me my true self. I owe her a lot.

  20. Thanks for keeping it real, and saying what you need to say! It honestly makes me feel like I am not alone in this.

  21. Wow. You are an amazing writer, Robin. Thanks for hitting a close to home subject for many.

  22. Glad you are saying what you need to say. Truth and courage. Life is often not what we expect and I just relearned for myself that the path I choose is usually more crooked than I hoped.

  23. For me, I was lucky – REALLY lucky – to have an easy baby. It was ME that was the issue, with postpartum anxiety, insomnia, and general freaking-out-ness. Either way, I regret not having the first months of my dreams, and I totally understand what you’re saying. xo

  24. I so get this, my son was a colicky infant and I constantly wondered when my sanity for the endless crying and the sleeping struggles and the panic over a simple trip to the store would end. And it makes me sad that those emotions and experience encompassed so much of his first year. And I hope when I have another that it is different, that I’m different and that I can enjoy it the way I always imagined I would.

  25. Touching and well written post… not something I can relate to myself, but have seen it in friends and family. Good stuff… it is realistic and honest and human to feel all this, and good on you for sharing.

  26. I had such a similar experience. My first baby wasn’t colicky but oh did that introduction to motherhood not turn out at all as I had planned. The beauty and the joy and the happily moving about with baby in tow… they didn’t happen. But the tears and the wondering what I had done to my life did. My second – complete opposite and feels like redemption. I believe that I wouldn’t be the mama I am today or have had a lovely experience the second time around without the struggles of the first. Thank you for sharing this. It’s always good to know we are not alone.

  27. It is okay to say it. I resent my start a bit too. I wish I had made some different decisions from the get-go and that things could have generally gone more smoothly. But it is what it is and we move on. I am glad you have been able to as well… xo

  28. When we dream about having babies, it’s always the cuddles, kisses and snuggles we imagine. You know, holding that warm little sleeping body. I think having a newborn, colicky and fussy is a huge adjustment to our expectations and it is never easy. Thanks for sharing…

  29. I look back at the baby years with my oldest, and I wish I could turn back the clock. It just seems like it was too long ago. I was very young and very NOT prepared. Most of the early years were spent finding my way. But, I guess that’s what we have to do no matter what age we are or what baby we’re blessed with.

  30. Such an honest and heartfelt post… thank you for writing it.

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