As often happens in the parenting group that I host on Facebook, there was recently a post where a mother bravely asked if she was “normal”.
It’s a common thread in the group: new moms struggling with the reality of life with a baby, and having difficulty reconciling it with what they envisioned motherhood would be like in their pregnancy daydreams.
I always enjoy watching these conversations unfold. It ends up being a place where people reflect on their own realities in ways they haven’t before. It’s like the light bulbs go on in their own minds as they empathize with another mama in the trenches.
Because as much as we’d like to paint a picture of ease and happiness in the early days of welcoming home a new little person, that’s simply not the entirety of the story for almost every mother in history. Thus, the chance to express the uncomfortable emotions in a safe place with solidarity from others becomes invaluable.
One group member, Regina, reached out to me in a message and said, “I would love to write a post on real talk – expectation vs. reality… as my own last year has been crazy, I would love to share some things I’ve observed and things that helped me get through.”
So don’t take it only from me. Here’s a real life peek into a real life mom’s experience with the postpartum year:
Parenting From the Gap
I pay good money for a therapist so without getting too deep into the woods here I would like to state that much, if not all, of my life has not gone as planned.
When things rarely go your way I have learned you do one of two things: Go completely insane, or deal and move on.
As a parent, you don’t expect the shit tornado to hit your house and to find yourself suddenly surrounded by odd munchkins.
But here’s the deal. You have expectations and you have reality.
The gap, that deep gaping hole of uncontrollable circumstances between them, is where things go wrong. On the map of life, the gap is where it says, “Here there be dragons.”
How many moms have you heard say, “I thought this would be easier…”, “Should I feel this way?” etc.?
Their (and our) expectations are rarely met. If life, the universe, and everything in it were my employee it certainly wouldn’t get a good reference on its search for a new job.
That deep, dark hole between expectation and reality is also where the depression can set in. It’s where the [#mom]guilt and the shame set in. It’s where we claw our eyes out at 2 am wondering why our little heathen monsters won’t latch or why the dog decided to take a big steaming shit right in the nursery.
But it’s not just the dog. It’s not just your husband that decided to play video games through his paternity leave or invite his mother to hang out for 6 weeks. It’s a deep misunderstanding of why you feel the way you do. It’s the culmination of things both big and small, triumph and loss.
You know why they didn’t tell you? The gap is scary. They know and have dwelt in the gap between expectation and reality. They don’t want to scare you, too. They don’t want to let you know that it exists or that they felt betrayed, too.
Or maybe they didn’t recognize that they are sitting squarely in the deepest depths of the gap and they just thought they were the outlier from normal.
Well I’m here to tell you that the gap is real. Sometimes it’s a small crack, easily traversed – almost lovingly skipped over – as you land gently on the other side. Sometimes the gap is wide, deep and scary and it emanates with odd sounds and sensations.
I’m also here to tell you that standing on the edge is inevitable. It will happen.
But as you look across the divide, in the mist that obscures your future, you have strong hands reaching back. Hands that have comforted and loved. Hands that have been wrought with loss. Strong and willing hands, to share and carry and help you cross – you just have to find the courage to reach out.
Regina Colburn is a local #GIRLmom and lover of all things wild. She is married to an elementary school teacher named Brad and together they created the force of nature known as Lillian Claire.
Things rarely go her way but at least the journey is fun. She loves thrifting, Thai food and dogs.