Euphoria Can Wait: Motherhood’s Incubation Period

Monday January 5, 2015

You might not feel like a mother right away, after having a baby, and that’s absolutely normal and also fairly common.

From online forums, this seems to be something some new mothers feel guilty over. For others, like me, it’s merely a surprising thought as you march through the early feeding-diaper-sleeping-staring-feeding cycle. I was one of those women who didn’t think I’d feel differently as a mom. Just me, now with a kid.

So, in a way, those early days, I thought what I felt was completely normal — I felt like me.

When mothers of older children visited me, I could see in their eyes that they were holding back. I would make some comment about motherhood or babies; they would pause before offering me some sweet reply. I know now that they were looking at me, realizing that the enormity of the situation hadn’t sunk in yet.

Then it was my turn. At a birthday party, we met a couple with a 2 week old newborn. And didn’t you know it…they were still doing everything they did before baby. They felt like just because you have a baby doesn’t meant you can’t keep doing everything you did before, you know? Oh my God, have you been to the new place that just opened up on Chestnut?

I saw myself in the mother’s eyes. She was feeling good about things; she felt like herself, just now with a baby.

That feeling of “oh HAHA, they just let me walk out of a hospital with a baby.” For weeks, it felt like an extended babysitting gig; surely, the baby’s actual mother would one day show up and life would go back to normal. If anyone wanted to hold the baby? Sure, go for it, she’s kind of squishy and snuggly, right? When Bean sighed happily and curled into my shoulder, I’d think, “oh my God, this baby thinks I’m her mother.” When Dave and I went on a trip around the 4 month mark, we both had this giggly moment of, “don’t look now, but there’s a baby sleeping in the corner of our hotel room.” It all seemed absurd.

You could say the stereotypical maternal fierceness and protectiveness took a long time to kick in.

The catch, of course, is that it did steamroll in somewhere around the two month mark, and then continued to gain momentum like an avalanche curling down a mountain. At which point it seemed impossible that people continue to function in society after having a child, because the feelings of love and joy and worry and euphoria and fear and pride are just so strong they eclipse nearly everything in its wake.

So, to all the expectant and new mothers out there, wondering if this is how it’s going to feel…just wait. It might take some time.



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