Struggling with Motherhood By Loren Buckner
I totally enjoyed nursing our daughter. The difficulty was in getting her to take a bottle. I tried various shaped nipples, pumped breast milk, and tried several brands of formula. She was more likely to take a bottle from her dad than from me but not always. So I worried whenever I left her.
One afternoon I had a doctor’s appointment and planned to be back before she woke from her nap. Just in case I was late, my husband was ready with a bottle. I didn’t feel great about going out, but I had to go.
When I returned home, my husband was holding her over his shoulder with an empty bottle in his hand. He turned so she could see that I was home. She took one look at me, threw up, and cried furiously until I sat down to nurse her.
I was completely amazed and overwhelmed (in a good way) by how important I was to her. I couldn’t get her to my breast fast enough. Physically, I needed her. I wanted to feed her as much as she wanted to be fed. It was an emotionally intense experience and one I’ll always remember.
I treasured the experience of nursing. Quietly feeding my baby as she melted into my body was joy incarnate. Nourishing her in this intimate way created a fulfilling bond. At the same time, our daughter needed me on demand every two hours, twelve times a day, seven days a week. Neither my body nor my time was my own any longer.
In addition to the demands of an infant, I also had a two-year-old son who needed me too. He still wanted me to revolve around him and wasn’t too keen on sharing his mother’s time and attention with his little baby sister, no matter how cute she was.
Mothers, a bit more than fathers, often feel that they practically belong to their children. Between feeding, changing, and playing with them, I barely had time to shower. I don’t know how long it was before I went into the bathroom alone or ate a hot meal. Almost every minute revolved around my kids.
Although meaningful and satisfying, in the darker moments, disturbing resentments and fears about losing myself began filtering into my awareness. There were times when I had to restrain myself from screaming, “Stop crying!” or “Leave me alone!” Or I wondered, “What have I gotten myself into?”
These darker moments are scary. And although we need our partners to be attentive and actively involved, their love alone isn’t enough to keep these disturbing feelings from coming up. (Uninvolved or absent fathers do make the situation a lot worse, though.) This maternal experience requires an internal struggle where mothers must re-find and re-define themselves, which is not an easy thing to do.
Being a mother is an awesome responsibility. Most of the time, fulfilling this role is wonderful and rewarding. But sometimes, it’s almost too much. As our old self disappears, we can feel taken over and smothered.
Immersion in babyland and finding the way out isn’t a smooth path nor is it a direct one. There are days when we feel like the luckiest people in the world. But there are also days when we wonder if we'll survive.
Guest Author Loren Buckner, LCSW, Psychotherapist in private practice in Tampa, Florida. She is also the author of ParentWise: The Emotional Challenges of Family Life and How to Deal With Them.