September 10, 2009 at 10:17 am , by Louise Sloan
Here’s what I want to know: Are happy new moms just lucky, or are we also a wee bit simpleminded?
These days, it seems like all the cool new parents complain—bitterly and hilariously—about having an infant. In memoirs, essays and blogs, they debunk the cruel myth of that blissful first few months with a cooing, snuggly bundle of joy. That’s Hallmark-card hogwash, they say to their relieved readers, who find their honesty refreshing. These writers adore their kids, but let’s get real, they write: A newborn means being in a 24/7 state of extreme worry and panic, plus crushing boredom, plus guaranteed post-partum depression and the most searing pain you can imagine when you attempt to breastfeed. Miracle, yes, but also…nightmare!
The latest book I read on this topic was American Parent, a memoir and cultural history by my neighbor Sam Apple. As Sam wrote wittily about the extreme terror and tedium of being a stay-at-home dad with a colicky kid, I laughed out loud. I also recently devoured the beautifully written parenting memoir Waiting for Birdy, by self-described “catastrophizer” and LHJ contributor Catherine Newman, laughing so hard at one point that the other people in my doctor’s waiting room started edging away.
I have a shelf full of other great books that smash the oppressive myth of maternal bliss, like Mothers Who Think, Mommies Who Drink, The Bitch in the House and Perfect Madness. Never mind the many excellent blogs—shout-out to my internet buddy Tertia Albertyn, author of the hysterical and heartbreaking infertility memoir So Close, who now writes lovingly but often crankily about her newborn and her 4-year-old twins on her popular blog.
There’s one problem. I enjoy this kind of writing. It’s funny. But I don’t quite relate to it. At the risk of becoming America’s Most Hated Mom, I have a confession to make: I actually loved having a newborn.
Sure, the kid woke me up every two hours. And he was a bit colicky until I quit eating dairy. But I expected that sort of thing. Perhaps because I helped raise younger siblings—and because I’m not Type A in the slightest—I wasn’t freaked out at the idea of taking care of him. Breastfeeding was easy and painless from day one, a possibility that wasn’t even presented in Parents magazine’s March article, “How Women Really Feel About Breastfeeding.” I didn’t experience the baby blues. I wasn’t bored at all—I was delighted to be hanging out with my son. I was super-weak from loss of blood during delivery so we mostly couch-surfed, but once I got my strength back I put him in a sling and took him everywhere. I didn’t care that I was behind in my housekeeping and failing to write the Great American Novel during maternity leave. I was just happy. Blissfully so, I’m afraid. It felt—dare I say it—pretty easy. (Now, his terrible twos were a different story.)
So—am I alone, here? I know I was extremely lucky to have a healthy, fairly easygoing baby instead of a screamer who couldn’t latch on. And, having chosen to have my son as a single mom at the advanced age of 42 (full story in my book), I was perhaps extra thrilled to be holding him in my arms. But the more myth-shattering parenting horror stories I read, the more I wonder if I was truly alone in my bliss. The myths have been shattered so successfully, it’s as if my enjoyable experience just isn’t in the menu of options anymore. Was I just too stupid to be bored, too clueless to be worried, too bovine to struggle with breastfeeding? Or is it more that a purely happy new mom doesn’t make a very interesting story?
Aren’t there any of you out there who had a relaxed, happy, easy time of it when you had your first baby?
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