Great Expectations

It feels as if a lifetime has gone by since I sat down to write to you all. August is two months old and in the past week he has transitioned from a scrunchy-faced newborn to a bright-eyed baby boy! Everything changed after that first cry. My god! How sweet. Those emotions could move mountains. Happiness so pure I forgot I was strapped to an operating table. The painful 4 hours that punctuated my otherwise non-eventful labor melted away….though I’d like to forget being wheeled through the delivery floor cursing and crying. I have so much to tell you about our birth, those early days, how we’re holding up and holding on to each other. There’s so much to say and yet, I’m not sure this is the place to share it.

Let me digress.

The past nine weeks have been completely and utterly transformative. They have also been the longest nine weeks of my life. Every little peep and coo and bump in the road feel monumental and with so many “firsts,” each day feels like three have passed. I wasn’t prepared for what my body would look like postpartum or how traumatic certain aspects of birth could be. I wasn’t prepared for the despair that comes with a baby that cannot be consoled. I never thought it was possible to feel so many emotions all at once. But the one that outshines the physical and emotional challenges for me has been true contentment, in it’s purest, simplest form. I feel a deep, deep sense of peace. Life has never been so hard, but life has never been this good. It is whole. It cannot be trumped by any one thing, accolade, or title. Contentment. That’s what can await you at the end of pregnancy. It’s totally, totally worth it. It’s the most valuable thing I own.

Writing about motherhood crosses a line in the sand I drew for myself a long time ago. In fact, Joe and I debated not sharing any photos of August at all. But while I took time away from writing, I thought about you all. A lot. The support, the emails, the one-on-one conversations I’ve had with women who shared similar sentiment about the process of becoming a mother were deeply important to me. You helped me understand that there is no one way to do this motherhood thing and conflicting emotions were totally normal. You helped me realize holding on to the way I was supposed to feel about having children (aka what society deems “normal”) was getting in the way of a really positive realization. For the first time in my adult life, I wasn’t holding myself to any standards.  I didn’t have any idea what life would be like post-baby and that has made all the difference.

My expectations for motherhood post-pregnancy were just to survive, to come out of this with both of us healthy and for my relationship with Joe to remain the foundation of our family. That’s it. But now, two weeks after returning to work, my contentment has started to give way to anxiety, guilt, and fear. Anxiety about going back to work early. Fear of judgement from other mothers. Guilt for needing some time away from the baby to recharge after a long day. Turns out my low expectations for motherhood were in conflict with the great expectations I have for myself as a professional.

In a culture where “success” is measured by the sacrifices you make for your family, it is often expected that we must not only rise to challenge, we must be selfless in doing so. The more time at the office, the better your output. The more time with your baby, the better the parent. It is no wonder women struggle with self care, postpartum depression, and self-esteem issues. Is all this selflessness really about doing what is best for our children and our career, or is it tangled up in expectations for ourselves? Do we feel like we’re doing the best we can if we sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our families?

My conflicted feelings around pregnancy haven’t changed since birth. We need more safe spaces for mothers to be more than one label. Spaces where moderation and self awareness are held in the same regard as selflessness and sacrifice, where we can embrace the gray areas of life instead of trying to make sense of it all. Where the title “mother” is just one of many ways to describe someone who is multifaceted, courageous, strong, empowered, imperfect. Safe spaces for mothers to be women and wives and friends and business owners and sisters and daughters.

So that’s what I’m going to talk about on W&D. It won’t all be heavy stuff; we will also be talking about children’s decor and clothing design. We will talk about dirty socks and mistakes and the struggle that is real but also totally hilarious. There will photos and stories about August but the majority of his personal development will be shared with friends and family and sometimes my private Instagram account. I would love feedback regarding what topics we can discuss around motherhood! A couple topics I have on the back burner: learning to ask for help, postpartum depression, body issues, relationships, and building a support systems both before and after birth. I would love to hear what you’d like to discuss. Your stories and experiences really enrich this platform because without you, I wouldn’t be here, working through these thoughts and feelings. So thank you for sticking with me, and coming back, especially as we move into new territories!

Image: 2ndTruth

Links: Solly Baby Wrap / Article Couch / Otto Fan

  • I’m so glad you’re doing this series. Right now I’m pregnant and found this post so comforting. Thank you, and looking forward to more.

  • I had similar struggles with the identity of motherhood when I was pregnant and in the first few months with our son. I’ve settled on defining motherhood for myself, our family, and my life and career. Your statement that we need to find a way for mothers to have more than one label totally resonates with me and I am really looking forward to what you have to say here!

  • Love this. I have a 7 month old son, and am navigating the line between how to write about this process of becoming a mother and being a parent v. protecting his privacy and identity. I completely hear you on the range of emotions (on a daily basis!), the relief of seeing your baby and leaving (I… really love going to work and I really love my kid, hard to reconcile the two sometimes) as well as the pure joy, peace and contentment that has arrived. Looking forward to more posts!

  • I can really relate to your story. My due date is approaching quickly, and it is refreshing to read your words and truth. For a long time I felt I wasn’t cut out for motherhood, until the day I decided I didn’t have to meet the standards, that I could be my very own kind of mother, quirks and all. However, that’s not always easy to do (and probably even less once the baby is there), as you perfectly describe it above. I think this new direction you’ll take with the blog is a fantastic way to shed light on a reality that is not discussed enough, to break the standards, to help reframe our expectations. I very much look forward to reading your upcoming posts!

    • Same! I think her approach is refreshing – diving into the issues that most other people don’t talk about.

      Although they’re geared towards mothers, I think that they will also have an element that most non-mothers can also relate to, so it will be interesting to see how people deal with facets of these issues from different perspectives.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I have a 13 month old, but thinking where I was exactly one year ago gives me anxiety. Those first weeks were SO HARD. Labor and recovery was so hard, thinking of how my life had changed was so hard- I didn’t feel the deep love I thought I should (or people asked me if I did) for my baby. It took weeks- and then suddenly on a lonely afternoon just the two of us, when the pain from my c-section had started to fade, and breastfeeding was finally feeling “normal”- I felt that love people had been asking me if I felt (and I had been lysing and saying “of course”). Now 13 months later- this life with a baby seems normal, we can imagine our lives without our little toddler, I enjoy being a working mom who can be with “adults” all day (and spent a year pumping in random locations, feeling like I was being judged for “taking a break” from work) and still I race home to see him, and savor long weekends together. I say all this because I appreciate your honesty, I appreciate you sharing with expectant mothers what reality can be like- the good, the bad, the ugly, the amazing. I’d love to read more about all the topics you mentioned!

  • Thank you for your beautiful and honest reflections on motherhood and identity. I am one month away from having our first baby boy, and also in anticipation for what motherhood has in store for me. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of how to hold space for multiple identities as a mother, creative writer, and professional educator. Not “this OR that,” but “this AND this AND this.” Unfortunately, we don’t see too many examples and role models of this nuanced balance, so I’m glad that you plan to address it on the blog. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d also highly recommend checking out Amanda Palmer’s Medium post “No, I am not crowdfunding this baby” responding to the idea that women can’t be both mothers AND artists.

  • Oh I’d love to hear more about motherhood especially in regard to how it changes (or doesn’t change) your identity and how you operate in the creative world. There is so much debate out there about how becoming a mother impacts creativity and the ability to do creative work (it ruins it! it improves it! I never created better before I became a parent! etc.). I’d love to hear more about your experience navigating these waters. Thanks so much for sharing, Kate. Looking forward to it!

  • Thank you so much for writing this. I have an almost 7 month old daughter, and I was lucky enough to get 6 month maternity leave. However, the fist 4 months of that, after my daughter’s birth, I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety. When I finally came to the light at the end of the tunnel after getting professional help, she was already 4 months old, and many days I would feel so awful about myself for not having the euphoria and transformative experience that many women (mostly on social media) described. Now that I’m back at work, I miss her so much, feel guilty for being happy at the office, wonder when I can get some time for myself, go out to dinner with my husband, read a book, and still make sure she is getting everything she needs from me! The struggle is so real. I look forward to reading more of this series!

  • The thoughts behind this post were so well said that it resonated even with me, someone who isn’t a mother and isn’t sure she wants to be a mother.
    i appreciate your deliberation over what to share regarding your son and family and the development of both. i know that i and other long time followers of your blog will support your choice to share as much or as little about your motherhood experience with us. hope the wit and delight community can be that safe space for you!

  • Kate, your spirit shines through in these posts and it means a lot to each and every one of your readers, me included. I’d like to talk to you and other women about work-life balance and the struggle to be zen, minimal, simple in the face of excitement and pressure in owning a small business. I just launched an e-boutique on the side and I’m struggling to manage my time between by partner, my full-time job, my family and friends and of course, my me time. You speak of sacrifice and that’s been on my mind these days. How much and what do we sacrifice?

  • Many things, even opposing things can be all be true. Dialectical.

    Kate, your honesty allows us all to be honest and support one another rather than gather in opposing teams of working mothers and stay-at-home mothers.

    We women must do whatever we require to be happy in order to be good mothers — and beyond basic health and safety — we each may define “good mother” for ourselves and our children. For me, that meant discontinuing breastfeeding earlier than I wanted so I could get back on my anti-depressants and heal my post-partum depression. It meant going back to work and deciding four months later that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. And then freelancing when my son started preschool.

    We need to stop bashing each other for choices different from our own.

    The one thing we all need is connection with our peers and community. Thanks, Kate, for providing connection and community right here.

  • Such a wonderful post—thank you for writing. I don’t have kids yet, nor am I pregnant, but this gives me hope for the future (and knowing that other people have conflicting feelings about pregnancy and motherhood is unbelievably comforting.)

  • This was so well written and completely encapsulates what I’ve been experiencing. My girl turned 4 months old today, so I’m not too far ahead of you. The desire to “have it all” hasn’t gone away. I get such completeness from being a mother and working full time. I don’t want to miss a moment of either. When I’m with her I’m fully with her and while I’m at work, while still thinking about her constantly (sometimes I can’t help it because I’m attached to the pump 3 times a day) but I get fulfillment from being a professional.

    I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

    – Also Kate

  • This was an awesome read. I’m a brand new mother myself and I think we often feel alone in our struggles and insecurities because it seems like everyone else has it right and together. An open and honest conversation about just how wonderful and hard it is to be a mother is just what we need.

  • Hi Kate, thanks for the honest update. It’s easy to glamorize everything about being a mom but in reality, a lot of it (most of it) isn’t glamorous. My son is 9 months old and I’m going through postpartum depression. It’s probably one of the worst things I’ve gone through, and I just want it to be over. I’m seeking support and working through it. Once I come out the other side, I am going to advocate against the stigma and encourage moms to check in with themselves and their mental health. So, thank you for keeping the topic top of mind. I’m local, here in STP, and happy to work with you on content when you’re looking for it. I hope I will have a great story to tell that will encourage any mom going through PPD/PPA to seek the help they need. xo