Ever look at a mom who seems so put together and wonder how she does it? Wonder if you were the only one who was having a hard time? Wonder if this mom ever cries in the shower or longs so desperately for one moment of peace? Ever think you’re the only one struggling? The only one who thinks parenting is so incredibly hard?
If you ever have these thoughts, you’re not alone. I was one of those moms who wondered. All the time. Who longed for someone to tell me that they too are having a hard day and that parenting is so much heavier than they ever imagined. I longed for another mom to say these things out loud. To say yes, parenting is magical and heartbreaking and exhausting and too much and not enough. All at the same time.
When I got pregnant with my daughter 4 years ago, people started giving me pregnancy and parenting advice almost immediately. They gave me recommendations for all kinds of baby gadgets and gear. I was recommended lists of books and baby safety articles to read. I felt armed and ready for this baby with all the knowledge and wisdom these seasoned moms were generously giving me. And then I had her. And I had never felt more lost or alone in my life.
What nobody had told me or prepared me for was all the real, ugly, truths of parenting. Nobody told me what to do when I spent hour after hour rocking my upset baby. Rocking her while tears escaped down both our faces. Sleepless exhausting nights rolled into sleepless exhausting endless days and nobody had any answers for me.
My daughter was a very difficult newborn. For the whole first year of her life I swore she would be an only child because I couldn’t imagine going through all this again.
Other than everything that came with having an infant, my daughter had some food intolerances which made feeding her very difficult. Breastfeeding was almost impossible and nobody tells you about that guilt. Even though there are so many options these days, not being to do the natural thing that I was meant to do as her mother, broke me. I tried for 10 excruciating weeks. My precious little baby would scream in pain every time I tried to feed her. The shame and guilt has stayed with me till today.
I couldn’t really talk openly about that though. I was missing someone like me. A mom who had the same struggles telling me it was ok. All I saw were moms who had no problems feeding their babies. Nobody around me was telling me it was ok that I tried and failed. I wondered if it really was that easy for everyone but me. I wondered if anyone else was pretending that everything was ok.
My daughter also never slept. The very first time she slept through the night was on her second birthday. Before that, the most hours in a row she slept was maybe 5. Naps were a joke, bedtime was a dreaded nightmare. Hours rocking and crying and begging and crying. That was how days and nights went by. I was miserable and on edge. I tried everything. Whenever I talked to anyone about it, they would give me the usual look of pity and suggest some things. Like I haven’t desperately exhausted every option available to me. It felt like every single baby other than mine was blissfully sleeping while we were up all night struggling.
My daughter is now a smart, beautiful, loving little girl. But when I think about those infant days, I remember feeling lost. Resentful. Angry all the time. I never had that moment you see in movies where you hold your baby and everything around you disappears and its all magical. I didn’t have that. I didn’t actually bond with my daughter until she was a toddler.
I often wondered, why are we as mothers not honest with each other? Why are moms still carrying the shame and guilt of a less than perfect parenting journey? Why do we ‘mom shame’ instead of mom support? Why not give that frazzled mom a look of understanding instead of a look of judgement? Why not say ‘I know how you feel, Ive been there?’ Why was it so hard to admit defeat? Why do we feel like we have to put on a smile and tell the world how perfect and easy motherhood is? Is the pressure coming from inside us? Or is it coming from every other mom. Wouldn’t it just be easier to lean on each other through the great moments and also the rock bottom moments?
One of my rock bottom moments came two years later, when a happy time became a heartbreaking time. I had a miscarriage at 9 weeks into my second pregnancy.
After it happened all I wanted to do was connect with someone who was feeling the same as me. Someone who really got what it was like to go through this loss. Miscarriages are actually really common and most people have gone through it or know someone who has. It wasn’t this ‘taboo’ subject that I had always thought it was. Why do we think of it that way? I was so grateful for the people who opened their hearts and feelings to me and were able to share their story and their pain. I really wanted to feel like I wasn’t to blame. Like I hadn’t caused this or made this happen. That it was ok to grieve in any way I wanted to make myself feel whole again.
I have never stopped myself from talking about how difficult motherhood is. And I’m often met with a look of surprise and disbelief. As if I’m not allowed to acknowledge that it is incredibly exhausting and lonely? The amazing thing is that once I open up about my struggles, I find that others are more likely and more comfortable admitting theirs too. As if we are all waiting for that one person to start the flow of conversation. I’ve found this to be true time and time again. Some people say I’m brave to even start an honest conversation like this. But it’s not brave. It’s just real.
My journey may not have been the most dramatic or most painful of journeys. There are parents out there battling more serious heartbreaks than sleepless nights and miscarriages. That’s not the point though. No matter how big or small our parenting woes are, I’m finding out that we all need to feel like we are doing our best. Like we aren’t the only ones who are not getting it right. I want to say ‘man this is really hard’ and have someone say ‘I know’. I want someone to say that perfect social media photos and pinterest boards are not all real. That sometimes motherhood is ugly and painful and so very lonely. And that’s why I’m always honest about my parenting experience. Because we as moms need to know that we are enough. That we are doing it right. That just because its not easy, doesn’t mean that we are failing. We need to be true and honest. Because it really does take a village.
Bessy Gatto is from California, and will always miss the sunshine no matter how many years she’s been away.