A year and a half ago Kate* gave birth to her daughter. She will not hesitate to tell you she hated being pregnant. She also doesn’t hesitate to tell you what so few will, the enormous frustrations, guilt and changes required to be the mom she wants to be.
Here is a bit of her story.
You hated being pregnant?
I did not like being pregnant at all. I was such a bitch the entire time. When I found out I was pregnant, I quit smoking and drinking immediately, but I was not the one that was going to follow all the rules. There was only so much I could take. Nobody liked me when I was pregnant. I slept in a different bedroom than my husband during my pregnancy. I felt sick the entire time. I was big and uncomfortable. I was just like, ‘This is fucking stupid. What on earth is going on? Something else has taken over my body.’ My body just felt strange. Your body is not your own. It is very invasive.
What is the worst part about pregnancy?
I think the discomfort was more emotional for me. I didn’t think it was fair. Pregnancy is all about, ‘You can’t do this and you can’t do this and you have to do this and this and this.’ I was trying to do everything I could to be good. Ross*, my husband, would come home and be like, ‘IT IS FRIDAY!!’ And I would be like, ‘I don’t give a shit. What am I supposed to do, pop a non-alcoholic beer and be happy about it?’ Come on.
I couldn’t use face wash, so I got childhood acne being a 30-year old pregnant woman. Pregnancy is about rules and regulations. I was just an emotional hot mess. I almost never cry and I cried almost every other day while I was pregnant. Over absolutely nothing, anything would set me off.
It has been really challenging to get parents to talk to me. Even when I tell them they can speak on the condition of anonymity as I am with you, it is still almost impossible. Why do you think that might be?
I say the more the merrier when it comes to this conversation. I would hate for the one person out there thinking they are the worst person in the world because they can’t believe the way they feel about being a parent. And you know what? It is normal. I think people don’t want to talk because of guilt. The guilt of wanting to be the perfect parent and not wanting people to know how being a parent and having kids has affected them.
I would love to talk to someone that feels the way I do because I know most mothers don’t. They [other mothers] think this is so much fun. People need to know that as long as you do not want to hurt your baby it is ok to feel that your world has other pieces to it other than the baby. You are still your person. You are still you without being a wife, girlfriend, mom or husband. You are still you and you are entitled to your opinion about your life because you are living it. I think this is a sensitive subject because people do not want to admit their faults. They do not want to say something is wrong.
Do you think the people who say they love being pregnant are full of shit?
I can’t ever imagine loving being pregnant. But keep in mind that I was a smoker and a drinker. I wasn’t a chain smoker or an alcoholic, but I did like to go out. I think people really do like being pregnant. I don’t see how they can. I felt like there was an alien inside me.
Did you share your feelings about hating being pregnant with others?
My friends would be like, ‘It is a beautiful thing.’ And I would be like, ‘Really??! I don’t feel beautiful. I feel fat and ugly and gross and I want it all to end. And guess what? It is not going to end because when it does end I am going to be weirdly shaped and with a child that is screaming their head off.’
How did pregnancy affect you and your husbands relationship?
I was a miserable bitch. It was horrible. In the end, I told him, ‘I don’t want you to be down there while I have a baby.’ And he was like, ‘I don’t want to be down there either.’ But when it came down to it he was holding one of my legs during child birth. And afterwards he said, ‘I don’t ever want to see anything like that again.’ And I said, ‘I told you!’ And he said, ‘The nurse told me to grab a leg. What was I supposed to do??!?’ I think it brought us closer.
You are in the hospital. You just had the baby. How do you feel?
I was afraid and wanted to cry.
What were you afraid of?
That I was in charge of this little creature and I was in pain. I had an epidural and it was still the most painful thing I had ever experienced. It is like someone shot you, you just had surgery and now you are supposed to be on the ball 24/7. What? I don’t understand.
Why did you choose not to breast feed?
I know that is a sore subject. But I was like, ‘Listen folks, my boobs are mine and I don’t want anything on them because I think it is strange.’ I don’t think there is anything wrong with breast feeding. For those women who can do it – props to them. I don’t want a baby on my boob. My boobs are mine. Her body had already taken over my entire body. I didn’t pump. I didn’t do any of it. I have had a lot people say that they got a lot of trouble from their doctor, but I was straightforward about it from the beginning and I never got a hassle from my doctor about it.
How do you feel about motherhood?
I would never give her back in any way shape or form, but I do get overwhelmed by it really easily. My husband and I always liked our alone time. We never felt like we needed to spend every second together, but when you have a baby you don’t have alone time. Ever. That has been a really big challenge for us. He and I have had challenges coming to terms with our world revolving around her. We just went on a one week vacation without our daughter and people are beside themselves that we would do that.
What surprised you about being a parent?
The biggest thing is when people always say, ‘When they nap you nap. When they sleep, you sleep.’ How do you sleep? You have this little tiny creature who you don’t even know whether or not she is breathing and you have never done anything like this before and you are in charge. Really, how do you sleep? I couldn’t sleep. Ever. How do people keep their houses clean when they have kids? How do you take a shower when you have a child? How do people eat together? I don’t know how people schedule.
How did the first year go?
I felt all of this guilt that I should feel overwhelming joy and at points of course I did, but I would say the first year I primarily just felt frustration.
What was most frustrating?
It was all consuming. Your life completely revolves around a baby and you are in pain. Some people do not experience the pain or the recovery process. It was miserable. She would be crying and you don’t know what is wrong or she wasn’t pooping or she wasn’t on the right schedule. It is a guessing game. Now she is better at telling me what is wrong, but this age is also when she starts learning ‘no’ and having meltdowns.
Also, for a while she would not sleep so my mom would take her overnight for us. You feel the guilt like you are bad parents because you let whoever wants her take her. It is just so frustrating. You don’t know what to do. They just cry and you don’t know how to make them stop.
We are lucky because we have a girl now that comes to the house to watch the baby and we also got a cleaning lady. We decided to get a cleaning lady so we wouldn’t fight about it. All of our decisions are based on what is the least frustrating route that won’t start a fight or get us upset.
How many of these frustrations were things you did not expect?
It is something you can’t grasp until it happens. You hear about it. Everyone wants to tell you their story when you are pregnant. I was like, ‘I didn’t ask you.’ You don’t really understand until you are in it. I was a hot mess even after. My hormones were completely out of control. I was crying all the time. I went to the doctor and got on Celexa, an anti-depressant, for a year. When I decided I wanted to get off it I started getting migraine headaches.
At what point did you decide that you were not going to have a second child?
Pretty much as soon as she came out. My husband said, ‘I don’t want you to ever be pregnant again.’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to be pregnant ever again.’ I told him that we would think about it for a little bit but not long after I came to him and said, ‘We can barely handle one kid.’ He agreed. The procedure was covered by insurance and I just wanted to have it done so we did not get any fun ideas in the future. It is done and I am glad it is done. If we wanted another one we would just adopt and probably an older child.
Like a 17 year old?[Laughing] Exactly. One that can get a job maybe.
Now that your daughter is here, how is she affecting your relationship with your husband?
It has been positive and negative. I think we are always secretly keeping tabs on who wakes up on what mornings and whose turn it is to get up this time. But, I think we both appreciate each other more. We are good at teamwork, but we are also fucking tired all time. It is like, ‘Hey let’s go have sex.’ And then you are like, ‘Ehhhhh, I am tired. It is ok.’
We have the same outlook on kids. We realize when we have hit our limit. I got inserts in my tubes maybe about six months ago. We are one and done. When you are married everyone says, ‘When are you having kids?’ When you have one kid everyone says, ‘When are you having the next?’ And I was like, ‘Listen everyone, back the hell off.’
Is it hard for you and your husband to have real quality time together?
Yes. I get home at 5:30. The baby eats. One of us plays with the baby while the other makes something to eat. Then it is bath time and bed time. We are off the buzz of a busy day and then we just blankly stare at the TV, go to bed and then it starts all over again.
We are lucky because my mom or aunt always want to have her and they will take her overnight so we can sleep in and not have to lay in bed thinking who is going to wake up to that baby crying. I think sometimes there is animosity between us, you know, ‘I can’t believe you slept until 8 and I was up at 630.’
This recent vacation we just needed to get away, just the two of us. I just don’t think that he and I had the chance to get to know each other and have the alone time needed prior to getting pregnant, it was too quick I think. We thought about it once and boom! We know if we want to have a happy family we had to have a happy us. You have to like each other. We have worked on that and talked about that. We each have our own ways of doing things with our daughter. We try not to tell each other that the other is not doing it right. It is what it is. We have agreed to disagree about a lot of things. It makes it a neutral playing field.
How was going back to work after maternity leave?
I was happy to go back to work. I was very happy.
What advice do you have to couples that are thinking about whether or not they should have kids?
I would be like, ‘What the fuck is wrong with you?’ [Laughing] No, just kidding. If you think you are busy now or your life is stressful now, multiple that times 10 and let me know if you think you guys can handle that together.
I don’t know how parents do it. Actually I do know how they do it. Their kids look at them and say, ‘Hi, Mama,’ and then you are done. You melt. People need to realize it is fun and cute 10% of the time and the other 90% is a lot of work.
Is forming a relationship with the baby after she is first born something that comes naturally?
No. I sometimes said to her about her and I, ‘We are in a fight. You are not sleeping. We are in a fight.’ And honestly I was in a fight with her the first few months. I felt like shit and the only time I was happy was when she was sleeping. I would beg to get somebody to watch her for a minute because I needed to breathe.
What do you think the biggest misconception is of having children?
That having a child makes you have a family. I think a lot of people decide to have kids when their relationship is in trouble because they think having a baby will bring them together. I will tell you what; if you do not have a strong relationship before having kids will split you apart immediately. Immediately. This is no joke. I think people think babies are all cute and sweet and they do everything the baby books say they do. They don’t do anything those books say are supposed. Those books are wrong.
People need to really, really think about it. I think there should be a class on what babies are really like and not the class about the warm fuzzies of having a baby, but a class about the cold pricklies. People need to understand the cold pricklies.
What about the good moments?
One of my favorites was when she would sleep on Ross’ stomach. To see that was the sweetest thing ever to me. It was awesome. I think it is more when they start to talk and realize who you are and say, ‘Mama. Mama.’ That is awesome. And when she gives hugs and kisses. When all of the sudden you realize she is copying you. She is hysterical and she is a dancing machine. She loves music. She loved music when I was pregnant. It is amazing to see all of the work we have done to teach her coming together now. She understands things. It is amazing now. She is amazing. She is frustrating as all get out, but she is amazing. She is a person, a little person. It is crazy.
*Real names are not used.