Right before I went on maternity leave, a colleague asked me a very pointed question: “How do you think you’re going to find having a baby?” She was referring – and not especially subtly either – to my tendency to be a control freak.
I thought I had hid that tendency well, or at least at work, anyway. But she had me pegged and while I was willing to admit she was right, I didn’t see how it related to my impending motherhood.
Little did I know.
I think being a control freak is one of the things that made my experience so difficult. I don’t know if it necessarily caused my postpartum depression, but it certainly didn’t help it. My feelings of rage were at their worst when things didn’t go as planned – when I had difficulty feeding him, when things conspired against me as I was trying to get out of the house for a much-needed play date, or, worst of all, when he didn’t nap.
I don’t know why I thought I could control those things. Maybe because I had the theory down: steam food, puree it, feed it to small child on a spoon. Simple, right? Except no one told me he’d like peaches one day and spit them at me the next.
Getting a baby out of the house should be simple. In theory. Fill the diaper bag with necessary supplies, make sure you’re both dressed (how good either of you looks is not important), buckle him into the bucket seat, and plunk the bucket seat into its base in the car.
I can hear you laughing.
Don’t get too carried away, though. I know you’ve been right there with me with the napping thing. It doesn’t matter what you do – sometimes you just CANNOT get a baby to nap. Why didn’t anyone tell me that?
Or maybe that’s the issue. Maybe it’s not a control freak thing. Maybe it’s just that we don’t know enough about what to expect when we become parents. There are endless baby books with almost equally endless philosophies about how to feed them/care for them/get them to sleep. But underlying all that advice is one common thread: being a parent is REALLY hard.
I think we need to talk about that more. Not to freak out glowingly-pregnant women and their gonna-be-a-great dad husbands (or partners or whatever), but to be more realistic about what it’s like, what to expect, and how to cope with the hard stuff.
Or maybe it’s not that simple. Maybe motherhood is just one of those things you really can’t understand until you get there. Maybe all the warnings and advice and honesty just won’t make a difference.
I don’t know. All I know is that 3 ½ years in I’m still not in control.
What do you think?
~ Robin Farr, Farewell Stranger