Becoming Mother

A book and a blog for first-time mothers

Tag: first-time mom

Terrifying Moments in Parenting: In Random Order

Labor

When you hit the beginning of the transition stage of labor and think, Oh. So this is what it’s like to be torn in half.

Three Years Old

When you walk into the garage and see your child in the driver’s seat of your car. And you have a manual drive car.

When your child slips out of the house at bedtime while you’re watching TV in another room. And wanders around outside of the house, looking for the other parent.

When your friend looks into your child’s playroom and asks, “Should she be allowed to have that?”

One Year Old

When your toddling child grabs the edge of the tablecloth to pull herself up, and all the dinner dishes nearly land on top of her.

When your child wakes up in the middle of the night, shrieking hysterically, vomiting, and struggling to breathe. Later at the hospital, they tell you, it’s okay, it’s just croup and you think, Are you f–ing kidding me? Just croup? I was praying to gods in universes beyond human comprehension!

Two Years Old

When your child stretches overhead, reaching for whatever is on the countertop. And it’s a knife.

When your child drops your hand and darts away from you in the parking lot of a grocery store on a busy Sunday afternoon.

When you see your child walking down the stairs, holding a long blanket that she is about to trip over and fall all, the, way, down.

When your child succeeds in falling all, the, way, down, the stairs.

6 Months Old

When your child makes a choking sound in those first weeks of trying solids and you wonder if you could really perform the CPR technique you learned when you were 34 weeks pregnant.

When you run to the other room to get something and when you return, you see that your buckled-in baby on the changing table has actually flipped to her stomach.

Newborn

When your child nearly falls out of your hands while you’re giving her slippery football-of-a-body a bath.

When you realize it has been four hours since your child last ate. And you haven’t heard a sound.

When you get out of your car at Target and realize, holy shit, the car seat didn’t latch into the base.

When you’ve tried everything, literally everything, and nothing makes her stop crying. And you think, Oh my God. I really cannot do this. I’m not cut out to be a parent and now I have a baby. What am I going to do now?

When you realize that they were all right: You really do love this child more than you love yourself.

And then your imagination glimpses upon the possibility of your child dying before you.

And the utter emptiness that she would leave behind.

And you wonder: How could someone who just moved into your life leave behind a hole so large?

It defies everything that you’ve learned about love.

It makes you wonder, what else is possible?

Mother's_Love

Baby Registries: What to Add, What to Skip

Now that my daughter is almost three years old, I wish I could go back in time and re-do my baby registry. Wouldn’t it be great to know the things that would end up being a waste of resources and the things you ended up using all the time?

So that’s what I’ll do in this post. Obviously, every household and every baby is different, so I’ll try to keep this list to items that seem pertinent to most parents I know.

diaper_cake

Don’t Just Add: Get Several of Them

1.) Car Seats

If you live in a household with two cars, register for two car seats. Even if you’re thinking, Well, we’ll save money and just drive the kid around in one car. There are far too many situations that are guaranteed to happen when just one car has a car seat. (If you both work, the person with the car seat has to leave to pick up a sick child–end of story.)

We registered for one convertible car seat and a stroller/car seat combo. Our rationale: A convertible car seat isn’t great for newborns. You need to purchase extra padding to fill the car seat before you place the baby. We also wanted to have a car seat that could be easily detached from a base without having to unstrap the baby. That was actually a good idea because it helped preserve her naps if we took her out and she fell asleep in the car.

Here’s what we ended up using:

Convertible Car Seat: Britax Marathon (Cost: about $230)

Britax carseat

 

Stroller/Car Seat combo:  Britax B-Agile (Cost: about $250)

Sat, Feb 19, 2011 2:40:02 PM

Oh, and you’ll need to buy a car seat base for this puppy. They don’t advertise that important fact too much. Here is the base (Cost: about $65). You’ll need two of these if you have two cars.

car seat base

The cost is adding up, right? See why you should register for these?

2.) Swaddle blankets: Register for several packs of these

swaddle

If you’re a first-time parent, trust me: You will want to learn how to swaddle a newborn. It chills them out so many times (as long as their not in pain or hungry, at least in my experience).

We tried several kinds of swaddling blankets, including the ones with Velcro that seemed that they would be the easiest to use. But truly, I thought it was easiest to use the very large, durable muslin blankets by Aden and Anais. They were not hard to fold and wrap, the swaddle was tight enough to keep her little limbs from breaking out of it (most of the time), and they washed so, so well.

But these aren’t just swaddle blankets.

They are…

  • car seat covers when you’re outside
  • nursing covers
  • impromptu burp cloths and bibs
  • comfort blankets that your child can use well into toddlerhood
  • Place them on the ground, fill them with dirty laundry, collect the four corners, and they are a lightweight laundry basket!

A sound investment.

Cost: About $50 for a pack of 4

3.) Bibs

Most bibs are just bibs. But not this one.

burpy bib

Behold Aden and Anais’s Burpy Bib.

As you can see, this bib provides a whole cape of protection. Which you want. Your kid won’t just stare straight ahead while he eats. He’ll look around, rest his chin on his shoulder, you get the picture.

We got three of these guys and we used them all the time from about 6 months to 18 months, washed them regularly, and they held up beautifully. And they’re reversible! Cute patterns on both sides!

They are secured in the back with a single, durable, snap closure. The name “burpy bib” comes from the fact that this doubles as a nice burpcloth that you can put over the shoulder. Too bad we didn’t find this bib while we were still using burpcloths. I’m sure we would have used them all the time.

Cost: About $22 per pack of 2.

4.) Sheets

These ones specifically.

crib sheet

Once, again Aden and Anais have created a light, breathable, durable sheet that washes well over and over again. While we had other sheets that lost their elasticity and tore at the corners, these have held up over time. And the patterns are so damn cute.

Cost: About $25-30 per sheet. (That’s why you register for them.)

Add!

4.) Becoming Mother, a.k.a, my book

Book-Cover-Becoming-Mother-Kindle

Okay, so I’m a bit biased here, but really, how many pregnancy books share with you the actual, nitty-gritty experience of becoming a mother? Don’t expect a guidebook or a handbook. Here, you’ll find just the plain, messy truth.

Read some published reviews about it here. You can add it to your Amazon registry or you can buy it now here.

Cost: Print, $12.99. Kindle, $4.99.

5.) Highchair

We thought we would be fine with just an attachable seat that we would strap to a dining room chair. But it turns out that I really wanted her to be at my hip level while standing, not my knee level. We usually pulled the highchair into the kitchen where we could wipe up the spilled food more easily, so I spent a lot of time standing in the kitchen, eating, and cutting up pieces of avocado and banana for her.

We liked Graco’s Duo Diner. The tray was easy to detach if I grabbed from the front or the side. My husband hated the detachable white surface because you could pull it off, and there might still be food stuck on the side that presses against the baby’s belly. (That never bothered me though.) The liner washes well, so when your child inevitably makes a mess or vomits, clean up is easy.

Cost: About $150.

highchair

6.) Snoogle

I slept with this every night from 4 months pregnant to 6 months postpartum. A true lifesaver for all the wonky ways that pregnancy realigns your organs and spine.

Cost: About $50

snoogle

7.) White noise maker

We had one for her car seat to help her sleep if we needed to be out of the house with her during a nap. They did wonders for blocking out sound so she wouldn’t wake up. We used Cloud B’s Sleep Sheep.

Cost: About $28

sleep sheep

At home, we used the MyBaby SoundSpa Slumber Whale. Sound options include a heartbeat, ocean waves, white noise. Music options include Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Rock-a-Bye Baby, and Braham’s Lullaby. It also has the ability to project images on the ceiling, but we didn’t really use this. You might though.

Cost: $30

white noise maker

8.) Crib & Mattress

We weren’t a co-sleeping family, so she went to a crib fairly early in life, right around 8 weeks. We got a 4-in-1 convertible style crib that could morph into a toddler bed and later on, a double bed. I can’t remember the exact model that we purchased, but once you’ve seen one crib, you’ve kind of seen them all. Here’s one like the one we have:

crib

Cost: About $200

We actually spent more money on the mattress. Here’s the one that we got.

 

mattress

Cost: About $250

9.) Baby book/Memory album

I mean, really, this is what you’re going to hold on to. Not all of those onesies that you’ve stashed in that one container because you’re too sentimental to let go. You know what I’m talking about…

Everyone has a different level of involvement in creating a baby book. I wanted something structured, but that still had a lot of space for personalizing. I also wanted one that would hold information for the first 5 years. Here’s the one that I got.

baby book

10.) Glider/Rocker

You’re going to be doing a lot of this, so you might as well go big. Here’s the one that we loved.

glider

Cost: $500 (yeah…)

11.) Baby monitor

Some people want video monitors, but I’ve found that an audio monitor was almost always sufficient. We had a model that was sold by VTech, but it must have been discontinued. Figures. It died on us at when our daughter was about 14 months old. It couldn’t retain its charge.

So we bought this one by Philips. And it has been wonderful. Wish we had started with this one.

monitor

Cost: About $100

Meh…

… because they were valuable for brief windows of time.

  • Baby Gyms

A cute purchase, but putting a blanket on the floor giving them toys might have been just as effective.

  • Jumperoo

A cute purchase that kept her occupied when she was between 6 months and 1 year old. After that, she wanted to be out and about, all the time.

  • Co-Sleeper/Bassinet

I have to admit that it was nice to have her sleeping right next to me at night when she was a newborn. A co-sleeper gave her a separate space to sleep, while still remaining close. But she outgrew this by the time she was 7 weeks old. If you’re interested in this getting a co-sleeper, I can say that this was a decent one.

  • Pack N’ Play

I think if we had different lifestyles, this might have been a useful purchase. But we strongly preferred for her to sleep at home. We did end up buying a Pack N’ Play when we needed to travel to Minnesota for a funeral and she was about 10 months old. We didn’t think any of us would sleep well if we all shared a bed. We also used it when we were moving and didn’t have her room completely unpacked yet. Other than those instances, we didn’t usually find ourselves in situations when we needed a Pack N’ Play for her to take a nap.

  • Diaper Bags

I found that what I needed to take with me changed so much that I ended up buying three different diaper bags as time went on. I guess you can register for one, but be open to the likelihood that you upgrade and downgrade through the first three years.

Don’t Add…

…because these will only be used for brief windows of time.

  • Puj Bath Tub

A great concept–a baby bath tub that folds away for flat storage.

puj tub

But only while your baby is small. Our daughter was a 7-pound 11 ounce baby at birth, which placed her at 50% percentile. However, her growth accelerated in the first two months. At three months old, she was already 15 pounds–and way too big for this tub. We ended up buying a tub made by The First Years and used it until she was about a year old.  Then it was big-girl bath time.

baby bath

  • Bumbo

Like I just said, my daughter tracked high in height and weight early on. So she barely fit into this contraption by the time she finally had enough head control to sit in it. The first time I put her in it, she immediately vomited. Guess her stomach wasn’t used to being compressed that way.

I duly gave it away after that.

I’ve met more than a few other mothers who were equally meh about the Bumbo. Some swear by it. I guess you can’t know until you have an idea about how quickly your baby is growing and whether you’ll have a need for it.

bumbo

  • Baby Walkers

I’m not such a free-range parent that I’m morally against putting my child in some kind of “containment furniture” (I admit, sometimes, it is nice to have them in something that they can’t get out while I’m doing something else). But my daughter didn’t really get the point of these.

She would sit in it, and try to jump in it, as if it were a Jumperoo. I tried to show her how to use her little legs to move it, but I don’t think she was motivated to make it go. She preferred to just crawl. Even when she was learning to walk, she didn’t want to be in this thing. Honest to God, she preferred to use my husband’s shoe horns as her “balancing sticks” and would toddle along with one in either hand. Aw, memories.

walker

  • Shopping Cart Cover

First, I hated taking my daughter grocery shopping because I could never figure out a good way to put her car seat in the cart. I heard this position was a huge no-no.

Shopping-Cart-Diagram-Dorel

And the safest option was to put in the cart, where I was going to put all my purchases. Which means I couldn’t do a week’s worth of grocery shopping at one time. Plus, I was fairly strict about being home during her naps. So until she started staying awake longer than two hours, shopping with her wasn’t happening very often.

So most of the time, my husband and I took turns grocery shopping without her. It wasn’t until she was a year old that we started considering taking her grocery shopping with us. And by that time, I think we might have used the cover 5-10 times before it was just more trouble than it was worth.

But hey, maybe I would have used it more if I needed to take her grocery shopping. Who can say.

cart cover

 

…because every baby is different.

  • Bottles
  • Pacifiers
  • Diapers
  • Baby carriers (try them out, return the types your baby hates)

Instead, use gift cards for these to try them out.

 

…because people are going to buy them for you anyway.

  • Clothes, shoes, socks
  • Burp cloths
  • Baby shampoo/lotion
  • Diaper cream
  • Towels/washcloths
  • Books
  • All toys, including teethers

 

The key to making a great baby registry is to

  • provide a variety of choices with different price points ($10-$25 range; $30-$50 range, $50-$100, and above $100).
  • register only for items that you’re fairly certain you’ll use
  • make sure to list gift cards as options on the registry

Finally, gratefully accept whatever gift anyone gives you, even if you end up returning it. Baby shower gifts are one person’s good wishes for you and your baby and the last thing you want to do is hurt a relationship over a gift. It’s your relationships with others that will get you through the tough times, so be good to them.

Happy registering!

A Response to “Meternity” author, Meghann Foye

Few things incite my anger as quickly as the characterization of maternity leave as “vacation.”

In a recent interview with the New York Post about her new novel, Meternity, author Meghann Foye suggests that maternity leave allows mothers to take a step back from their lives and find their focus. She reports that she felt “envious” that mothers would leave the office to pick their kids up while she stayed behind to “pick up the slack.” Her sentiments led her to believe…

… in the value of a “meternity” leave — which is, to me, a sabbatical-like break that allows women and, to a lesser degree, men to shift their focus to the part of their lives that doesn’t revolve around their jobs.

After reading this interview, I was infused with rage and resentment. I ranted about this interview to some colleagues (because I read it at work–where I actually have a few moments to read something on the Internet).

I am far from the only one. Here’s what Jenn Mann, author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat, posted about MeternityAnd if that’s not enough, take a look at the Amazon reviews for the novel that started this whole mess.

meternity

Understandably, hoards of American mothers have rushed to the social media crime scene of Meternity to put in their own two cents about Foye’s misguided attempt at humor. Many of their comments focus on their frustration about the fact that Foye has completely misrepresented maternity leave. This is true. Foye presents “meternity leave” as a parallel path for women without children to take in order to focus on self-discovery.

But she misses the mark completely.

Her concept of “meternity” isn’t parallel to maternity leave–it’s the exact opposite.

Which is why mothers are so freakin’ pissed.

***

Contrary to what Foye assumes, when I was on maternity leave, I had never before thought so little about what wanted in life. What I wanted–nay, needed!–in life was at the very, very bottom of the priority list.

Time for reflection? When?

Here’s 24 hours with a newborn. Midnight-1:00: nurse, change, soothe. 2:00-3:00: nurse, change, soothe. 4:00-5:00: nurse, change, soothe. Etc. And that’s when everything is going well. Throw in some bouts of baby gas, constipation, colic, the fact that you haven’t showered in three days or that you’ve got four visitors in your home… I think I may be preaching to the choir on this point.

The first time I was able to finally step back and reflect was when I returned to work and my daughter was in daycare. While Foye sees “meternity leave” as a way to reflect on her life, the reality is the privileged American mothers who actually have maternity leave need to end it in order to have the time and space to reflect.

And let’s not forget all the American mothers who don’t get maternity leave, be it paid or unpaid. Then, there’s the mothers who must return to work ASAP because they’ve run out of vacation days and sick leave (two unfortunate misnomers that feed the ignorance about maternity leave). And what about the mothers who stay home and are immersed in care-taking day in and day out? Are their lives full of reflection?

It’s no wonder that so many mothers are absolutely incensed that (once again) care-taking has been written off as a kind of leisure activity.

***

Meghann, let’s level with each other. It is especially hurtful to hear maternity leave compared to a vacation when it comes from another woman. I’m assuming you’ve experienced times when you’ve been the target of presumptive, uninformed judgments from men who don’t have a clue.

But let me be fair, Meghann. You have indeed made a spot-on observation about maternity leave:

From the outside, it seemed like those few weeks of (new mothers) shifting their focus to something other than their jobs gave them a whole new lens through which to see their lives.

You are right, Meghann–but it’s not because new mothers simply have time off from work, which is how you envision “meternity leave.”

The reason that mothers emerge with a new focus is because they have been plunged into a nonstop, grueling training program that schooled them in quickly distinguishing what was important and what was simply window dressing. Through pain, blood, and tears, they learned how to put aside hunger, frustration, exhaustion, and self-doubt in order to find the strength to keep mothering.

They learned how to get rid off all the noise and distractions in order to find a place to drop the anchor so they could hold on while the storm waged on.

That’s how mothers redirected their focus. That’s how they “found” themselves. Not by traveling and thinking and reading and ruminating. They did it through boots-on-the-ground training, every hour of every day for weeks. And then for months. They did it through self-denial, arguments with their spouses, and constant reassessments of how and when they could have social lives and personal time.

Becoming a mother is an ongoing lesson in humility, beginning from that obvious (yet still surprising!) realization that your baby cannot thank you for getting up four times at night. Your baby doesn’t thank you for suffering with a torn vagina just so he could emerge into this world. In fact, your baby can’t even really have a conversation with you for another two years.

So those early weeks of new motherhood are training for a lifetime of not being thanked or even acknowledged. And while we continue to feel annoyance and frustration about this, new motherhood does a remarkable job of tempering our emotional reactions.

But everyone has their limits.

So maybe you can understand why we get pissed when one of our own gender joins in the obliviousness of calling maternity leave a vacation. We get frustrated because what we do during our leave is often done in the dark, with no thanks or acknowledgement.

In fact, that is one of the reasons that I wrote my book, Becoming Mother. When I was pregnant, I noticed that there was a true dearth of books that actually took a pregnant woman into what it’s like to become a mother. There were plenty of books about the physical side, but nothing really that dealt with the emotional and mental upheaval, which is truly what makes maternity leave so necessary for coping with new motherhood.

When I was experiencing those first weeks of motherhood, I kept thinking, “Why doesn’t anyone talk about this? This is insane! This is so unbelievably hard that I can’t believe no one talks about this.” And while there were plenty of books on first-time motherhood that took the shape of humorous confessions, no one was really being real with me.

So I wrote a book that would be real with new mothers.

Book-Cover-Becoming-Mother-Kindle

I wrote it to cast light on the hidden side of maternity leave.

I did this so that others could sympathize and perhaps even advocate for new mothers. After all, the United States is one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t have paid maternity leave–and that won’t change as long as this country holds onto the myth–even jokingly–that maternity leave is a vacation.

***

While everyone seems to be having their pound of flesh over the absurdity of Meternity, I’m looking for my compassion for Meghann.

Okay, she doesn’t have children yet. Okay, maybe the closest she has come to someone who has taken maternity leave is her view of the empty desk that she sees at work. But the gravest error that Meghann has made is choosing a subject that she doesn’t know much about. And then going so far as to write a novel about it. And then approaching that subject from an angle that provokes the ire of millions of mothers.

Put simply, her gravest error is a lack of humility.

But I’m venturing to guess that she might be learning that lesson now.

I could have written off this whole concept of “meternity” as very poor taste and a lack of social awareness. I could have just rolled my eyes, stewed at my desk while eating my lunch in fifteen minutes (so I could finish grading final exams–because I don’t have time to grade at home), but this is too important of a moment to let it go.

This is the moment when we need to say something. This is the moment when we say, “Knock it off with the vacation comparisons, already.”

It’s not funny.

It’s not even cute.

At best, it’s feeding a culture of misunderstanding.

At worst, it mocks what mothers of newborns actually experience.

From My Desk to Yours…

To celebrate the first six months of publication, I’m giving away two signed copies of “Becoming Mother” through Goodreads this month. Enter any time between February 8th and February 26th. Feel free to share with friends!

IMG_20160208_201842.jpg

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming Mother by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Becoming Mother

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Giveaway ends February 26, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

 

Book Tour Stop # 2: LLLatch On and Breastfeeding Celebration

11954737_10101477442211156_2674318543777270612_n

Last Sunday after I came home after pitching my book to 200 strangers at a baby fair (where I wasn’t allowed to sell books because it was an “educational event”), I got a message from a friend who suggested that I might want to look into being a vendor at the La Leche League’s Latch On and Breastfeeding Celebration.

She was kind enough to acknowledge that this might not be my cup of tea–since (as you’ll find out in the book) breastfeeding damn-near killed me–but, hey, there would be a lot of moms there. And it was only $15 for the space to set up the table.

But enough time has passed since those desperate days when I spent far too much mental energy rationalizing why I formula fed my baby.

So I signed up.

I enjoyed this event more than last week’s baby fair for a few reasons.

  1. I was allowed to sell.
  2. The stream of people was more laid back and I could spend more time talking with potential readers (which allowed me to better tailor how I pitched the book to them).
  3. I got a chance to walk around and speak with other vendors.

I sold a handful of copies, but about a dozen people took information with them. A couple of doulas who wanted books to recommend to their clients. A couple of people who wanted to buy it later for a possible baby shower gift. And a few who preferred to read on a Kindle, but didn’t want to forget the title.

I talked to a mother who still managed to show interest in the book while balancing a baby and trying to visually track where her second child was. She mentioned that she belongs to a book club in her church and that this might be interesting for them. She passed me some money for her copy and said she would pick it up on her way out. She did. And as she walked away, she was already flipping through it–still balancing her baby, still visually tracking her other child.

That’s skill.

Another woman glanced over the book as I pitched it to her and she interrupted me to say, “Is this about postpartum?”

“You mean postpartum depression?”

“Oh, yeah, that’s what I meant.”

“No, I didn’t have postpartum depression.”

“Oh, so–”

“It’s a reflective memoir about–”

“I just thought maybe you went through something, or worked through something hard, or something like that.”

In my head, I guffawed loudly.

“Well,” I managed to pivot, “Becoming a mom for the first time is going through something hard. It’s a complete identity–”

“Oh yeah, I mean, I have a nine-year-old so, I know.” She started to turn away at this point, distracted by something else. Then she turned back for a moment. “Thanks.” And then she was gone.

The thing that’s hard about these events is that while other people are selling lotion, books, soap, and handmade crafts–I’m basically selling my soul.

I’m getting better at allowing disinterest to not sink in too deeply. I tell myself that not everyone likes reading.

That maybe she’s not interested because she has three kids already.

That maybe this first-time mom with the 1-week-old baby doesn’t need a cheerleader in her life. Maybe she has enough support. Maybe that’s why she’s not jumping at the chance to buy this book.

But it’s hard.

Today, as my mom and I packed up our table and chairs, I focused on the positive.

Four books sold.

Yes, that’s all.

But the book is now in four more people’s hands than it was before the day started.

Onward we go.

“Becoming Mother” Book Giveaway on Goodreads!

Want a free copy of “Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity.” I’ll be giving away 15 copies on September 1st. Click here to enter today!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming Mother by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Becoming Mother

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Giveaway ends September 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Or just go and buy the book here. ($12.99 print, $6.99 Kindle.)

If you’re a first-time mom, trust me: this one is worth every penny. If you need a little more persuading, check out these early reviews. Makes me feel like I did something right.

Please share with any first-time moms whom you think want a more meaningful “What to Expect” book, one that takes them beyond the physical changes and into the mental and emotional changes.

On natural childbirth: An honest confession to first-time moms

If you try to give birth without medication for approval or respect from others, you probably won’t make it. You will reach a point when you don’t give a shit anymore what anyone thinks of you.

In the hardest hour of labor, my husband said to me, “I’m so proud of you.”

Do you know what I said?

Fuck pride. I don’t care about pride anymore.”

About an hour before the transition stage (or "when the shit really hit the fan")

About an hour before the transition stage (or “when the shit really hit the fan”)

And I so did not.

So what kept me from getting the epidural?

It wasn’t because I had read enough books and blog posts about the benefits of natural childbirth.

It wasn’t because I didn’t ask for one.

Oh, I did.

I got to my point when I begged my husband and my doula. I was in full transition mode, complete with 45-second double-peaked contractions, with only 30-second breaks between them.

I was in agony.

But my doula said, “The worst part is over! You’ve only got another 45 minutes before you can push. Let’s get you in the shower.” (She was right, but I didn’t know it at the moment.)

So why did I listen to her?

Time.

When you only have 30 to 45 seconds of pain-free moments at a time, the last way that you want to spend them is on making decisions. You spend the first 15 seconds in complete gratitude that the pain is gone. Then, the next 15 seconds trying to enjoy the sensation of nothingness. And only in the last 15 seconds do you think, Oh no… It’s coming back.

Pain unleashes the animal in you—and animals don’t really make decisions based on higher order thinking.

So don’t admire me.

Or if you want to admire me, admire me for the ability to cope with pain until it became unbearable. Because I don’t deserve any admiration for being able to cope with unbearable pain. I didn’t cope with it. I was just completely incapable of doing anything besides letting the pain come.

This isn’t to say that I regret having an unmedicated childbirth.

Because as a result of this unbearable pain, I encountered a truly transcendent experience in which I felt connected to God. I won’t go into detail here—I’ve already done that in my book. (Help a mom out and buy a copy here!)

But I want to clarify that I didn’t decide during my pregnancy, “You know what? I want a spiritual awakening. Yeah. I want to experience a spiritual rebirth while I’m giving birth to another human being.”

Give me a break. Who does that? Not this one, I assure you.

The initial reason that I wanted to give birth without medication was because I had read a lot of books about the phenomenon of “cascading interventions” in childbirth. Oh yeah, Business of Being Born and Ina May Gaskin and Dick Grantly-Read. All of them. And after that 20-week ultrasound, my maternal instincts started kicking into high gear. I wanted to do whatever I could to protect this child. But that rationale only survived as long as my ability to reason. And once pain pushed me into a mental space where I couldn’t rationalize anymore, anything was possible.

Perhaps this is why a 1999 study of mostly white, highly educated women in their early 30s (i.e., me) found that 43% of the women who said they would “definitely not” get an epidural—indeed got one.

I am not shocked at all by this. Neither do I judge. Because, ladies, the only thing that stood in my way from an epidural was time and my birth attendants. My husband and doula knew what rational Sharon had previously decided and they had promised to give me support as long as I was willing to accept it. It wasn’t my incredible willpower or my amazing capacity to be a “good mother.”

Good grief. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re a good mother because you of something that you did.

Hear me out on this one. You’re not a good mother because you had a natural childbirth, or breastfed your baby, or never let your baby cry, or never felt ungrateful in the face of new motherhood challenges.

You are a good mother because of who you are. Not because of what you do. Or don’t do.

As Rachel Martin repeats over and over again on her blog, Finding Joy—You are enough. What you are—all of that—is what makes you a good mother.

Please don’t fall into the trap—as I did early in new motherhood—of deriving your value as a mother based on what you do.

Because you will fall short.

Over and over again.

You will forget the diapers at home when you go out. Or feed your baby—God forbid!—formula when the breastfeeding struggles are more than you can bear. Or maybe you’ll be the only mother at the playgroup who doesn’t know that many kinds of rice contain arsenic. (Oh my God! I’ve been feeding my baby arsenic!)

If you value your worth as a mother based on what you do and not on who you are, then you will constantly be beaten down by all those messy and imperfect moments of motherhood. They will beat you to a pulp and drive you into an incessant loop of I’m a terrible mother. I’m no good at this. This baby deserves better than me. It’s my job to protect this child so they will get through life perfectly, and I’m failing!

Don’t give in to this self-destructive script.

You are a good mother because of who you are.

Not because of anything that you do.

Don’t reduce the experience of motherhood into a checklist rather than seeing it as it really is–meaningful and contextualized interactions with your children. That’s where the nurturing happens. That’s what kids remember later on–not all the other stuff that we waste our time obsessing over.

Wholehearted motherhood is so not a competition—and that is actually what the experience of laboring without medication taught me.

Because when you are in the hardest hour of labor, you can no longer compare yourself to anyone else. You can’t see anyone else vying for first place. You can’t even see yourself. And all you care about is the present moment.

But if you insist on treating motherhood as a competition, you will lose every single time. You may not show it to others, but you will feel the sting of failure, over and over again. And then you will plan how to make everyone else believe that you are still a winner.

Oh, so exhausting.

Why not save your mental and emotional energy for something more important?  Why not learn this lesson now before you become that too-perfect mom that no one relates to? It’s so much better to hang out here down in the masses of messy motherhood than it is to be floating high above everyone, dangling from a thin string, just waiting for the helium to run out.

Come on down.

Join the crowd.

***

Like this post? You’ll love “Becoming Mother.” 

Book-Cover-Becoming-Mother-Kindle

A down-to-earth journey into new motherhood and a great gift for first-time moms.

Goodreads Giveaway: “Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity”

Want a free copy of “Becoming Mother?” I’m giving away 15 printed copies via Goodreads this month. Enter by September 1st and you might be one of them! (Pssst… This is a great baby shower gift for a first-time mom!)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Becoming Mother by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Becoming Mother

by Sharon Tjaden-Glass

Giveaway ends September 01, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

“My Gift to You, First-Time Mothers”

Here we are, dear readers.

I’m allowing myself to be seen in all moments, not just ones in which I had overwhelming gratitude and joy for motherhood. Not just ones in which people would see me as “a good mother.” I showed myself being ungrateful and whiny and vain.

Because that is real motherhood, especially new motherhood.

You are constantly caught between who you once were and who you are not quite yet. And in that tension, we feel shame over and over again that we are not good mothers. That we fail. That we feel ungrateful and selfish.

And that is not okay. It is not okay to feel shame so often in those first months of motherhood. You have enough to deal with. You should never feel ashamed that you are not further down the road than where you are at that moment.

You are where you are. You are not where everyone else is. And you know what? Everyone else isn’t all gathered together in the same place either.

We are all scattered around different points on this rugged terrain. But when you’re on the top of the mountain, looking down, it’s easy to push a few stones off onto the climbers below you when you’re just flexing a bit of muscle and clout. It’s easy to forget how easily new mothers bruise from being hit by these stones. It’s easy to lose all perspective and empathy for new mothers after you’ve emerged from its grueling initiation.

But don’t.

Don’t lose your empathy for what they are going through.

Don’t lose your ability to cry with them when they desperately tell you that they haven’t slept well in eight months. (That desperation is so real!)

Don’t lose your ability to listen without offering advice. They don’t want your advice, damn it. Unless they pointedly ask you for advice, you know what they want?

A hug. A freaking hug. That’s what they want.

To be heard and to be loved.

The last thing they need is to be shamed (“Well, I never had that problem”) or to be belittled (“Oh, wait until they’re 2! They’re hellions!”) or to be ignored. What they need is for you to tell them 1) that they’re doing a good job, 2) that they are strong, and 3) that you’ll come over and give them a break so they can do something that they want for once.

I wrote this book because I want so much for new mothers to feel understood, loved, heard, and championed. I want them to know that what makes them good mothers is simply getting through that first year—no matter how they get through it. I want them to know that someone out there respects and appreciates how unbelievably hard that first year of motherhood is.

Our government and our jobs may not care. And our partners may not completely understand. But other women who have been down this road can completely empathize. They’ve felt the frustration of having no weekends or holidays “off” for months and months. They know what it’s like to have your existence reduced to nothing but caretaker.

They know. Oh, they know.

So, here is my gift to you first-time moms.

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Let me take you into moments that new mothers don’t like to talk about—but that we should. Not to scare you—but to help you feel less alone if you find yourself in similar situations.

We all crave connection, especially in times of uncertainty. So let’s go on a journey together. Let’s tell each other our stories.

I’ll go first.

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