From the moment my little chubster entered the world, I was deeply in love in a way that felt eternal and familiar. He slipped so seamlessly into my life that it was hard to remember a time before his existence, as though I instantly knew the little person in my arms as intimately as I know myself, as if my being recognized that this was the person that had been carefully slivered off of my own soul for cuddles and zerbers. Despite this undeniable joy, I recently found myself so unfathomably upset that I was faced with an uncomfortable notion: this mom life is freakin’ hard.
It was a Monday. It was mid-morning nap time, and we had just begun our usual routine of bouncing to sleep. Suddenly, my boy arched his back and pulled away from me with a screech so painful and urgent-sounding that my mom heart dropped straight into my butt. I ran through my mental checklist: he’s fed and burped, he has a fresh diaper, I’m holding him so he isn’t asking for comfort; he must be having tummy troubles. I laid bubba down and began furiously pedaling his legs, which provided no release from his belly and no relief from his screams, which were piercing. I unzipped his sleep sack and massaged his little tummy, which made him cry more. I felt his head for signs of fever, but he was cool. I racked my brain but came up with nothing, and I felt overwhelmingly insufficient as bubba cried. And then, all at once, I was raw with irritation.
I sighed my complete annoyance and picked up my child, and I began to bounce him with vigor and purpose. Bubba stiffened his back and pushed away from me so hard that he almost slipped from my arms. I tightened my grip and my resolve and bent my knees deeper as we bounced. Bubs screamed, his eyes closed tight, and kicked his legs and waved his arms. I growled, angry that baby was fighting sleep, and put him on the bed. I fastened my baby carrier wrap and snuggled bubs securely into its folds, and I began to bounce again as he writhed, and my jaw clenched and my brow furrowed. My puppy boy cried so hard that he made himself gag, so I hastily pulled him out of the wrap. I stood still and cradled my baby in my arms and registered the tears that wetted his sleep sack, and I felt both sympathy and hostility as he cried his little heart out.
It was then that big, hot tears of defeat fell from my eyes. I threw my head back and yelled my frustration to the heavens. I set my baby on my bed and felt my entire body tense up. I covered my face with both my hands and sobbed. I screamed out loud at my helpless three-month-old to “SHUT THE FUCK UP PLEASE!!!” and watched, mortified, as my sweet and innocent baby boy stopped crying and stared quizzically at his angry mama. My twisted face softened, and I sunk to the bed, tears rolling down my cheeks. Then my remarkable puppy boy smiled and cooed, no doubt thinking mom had been playing a game, and in that moment I was broken. Humbled by my baby’s love for me and confused by my own outburst, I curled my body around his and hugged him close. I felt humiliated and deeply horrified at my inability to cope with bubba’s crying, and as we laid cuddling, I sunk into a sort of numb self-loathing: I was the horrible mother I had always feared I would be. I cleared all loose blankets away from my baby boy, and I pulled my weary body off the bed, and, as bubba began to cry again, wanting mama to come back and cuddle, I walked away and stepped into the shower with a heavy heart and the thought that my baby was better off without me in that moment.
I wish I could say my shower made me feel better, or that bubs had fallen into a peaceful sleep by the time I returned to him, but neither result had occurred. Instead, baby cried as we bounced, and I soldiered on, sad, and with no other tricks to try. Baby did eventually fall asleep, and my numbness did eventually wear off enough to allow for some truthful self reflection. I googled postpartum depression, hoping for a solution to the day’s horrors, but discovered only that an afternoon of terrible feelings is insufficient evidence of a deeper problem. I sighed and scrolled through pictures of my cutie boy on my phone. Looking at his squishy little face made me smile, but it also made me cringe with self-hatred.
That night I faced the difficult and unflattering truth that I had yelled at my baby. When Husband came home I confessed my sins through snotty sobs, and he hugged me close and let me cry. He admitted that he sometimes gets frustrated with the baby too, and, in his infinite wisdom, he pointed out that it’s possible the baby sometimes gets equally frustrated with us. Hubs reminded me that we are all new to this family gig, and sometimes learning is hard. (Love that guy. He’s always providing such clarity.) I cried more tears than I knew I had, and then, when my eyes were swollen and my heart finally unburdened, I forgave myself.
The next morning puppy boy woke with a grin, as always, and I scooped him up and zerbered his belly and kissed his cheeks. It occurred to me as I stared at my drool boy that perhaps this boy mom thing would be a bit easier if I were to endeavor to show myself a glimmer of that simple and soulful love that I have had for my baby from the moment he was in my arms. I squeezed my boy tight and settled in to feed him his bottle, and as he slurped, I thanked him for his love and patience during the hardest day, and I promised to keep trying to learn how to be the really good boy mom that he deserves. Then I rested my forehead on his and he cooed and giggled and burped, and, once again, my heart flooded with immeasurable joy and deep, eternal love, and I knew already that it would be a better day.