What No One Tells You About Early Motherhood

The Truth

So here goes, ladies. It is really, really bad. You do not sleep. You think you're eating, but you're really not (I would find half-consumed sandwiches hours after lunchtime, perched on the arm of the couch where they were abandoned during one disastrous nursing session or another).

Your husband offers to take over on the fourth hour of trying to soothe your crying baby, and you think you've let him until you realize that you're still standing there, unable to lie down. You long, literally long, to do a normal task like paying a bill or folding a towel.

And the worst is in the middle of the night, when you're rocking, rocking, rocking, and pacing, pacing, pacing, staring out the window at other quiet, dark houses and thinking, "Everyone out there is sleeping." Those are the fire-escape moments.

When Daniel was just a few weeks old, we took him to a family party, and a young, childless woman, someone I don't know very well, came up to me and asked me that loaded question: "So, how does it feel to be a mother?" I studied her closely. Did she really want to know? I almost said, "Oh, it's just great." The lie would have been so simple, so soothing to us both, and that may well be why it's told so often. But I rallied. I didn't tell the lie.

I said, "You know, I can't really say. I just feel tired." I puzzled the heck out of the poor girl, a newlywed who probably had quaint visions of motherhood in her head. Forget it, sister. It sucks. And then it gets better. And then it gets even better. Just ask my boyfriend.

Denise Schipani just had her second son. She lives in Huntington, New York.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2005.

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