Saying Good-Bye to the Dream


Say Good ByeI’ll be the first to admit; I was probably the world’s most naïve first- time mommy. In my defense, I didn’t have a lot of firsthand experience with newborns, or babies in general, as many of my friends were younger and hadn’t started their families yet. But, I’d seen tons of movies and TV shows with couples in-love welcoming beautiful, smiley bundles of joy into their lives (and professionally designed nurseries). My pregnancy had been a breeze, so, clearly I was also going to breeze through this whole motherhood thing.

I imagined how it would all go down. Our beautiful baby boy would come into this world and be this happy-all-the-time, sleeping-through-the-night, eating-like-a-champ perfect child. He’d only cry when it was obvious what he needed, and his cries would be small and sweet. He’d happily attend all family functions with us, and be relaxed as he was passed from one adoring relative to another. And when he was tired, he’d simply lay his head on my shoulder and fall asleep. I’d lay him in his crib; he’d nap for 2 hours, and wake up with lovely baby giggles.

Nighttime would be our favorite time. We’d quietly rock for a few minutes while he blissfully fell asleep, then I would lay him down and join my husband on the couch for a movie and a glass of wine. After the movie, I’d go to sleep in my oh-so-comfy bed, and wake up the next morning, take a shower, and await the sound of a joyful, well-rested baby.

Man, oh man, was I wrong.

My happy, easy-going, “dream baby” turned out to be (almost) the complete opposite. He was happy…some of the time. (Usually, when he was at home with just my husband and me.) A highly sensitive baby, he hated being around large groups of people, and he let you know it. (I spent my first Thanksgiving as a mom in a dark bedroom trying to soothe him as he screamed for an hour. I never did sit down for that meal.) He never ate well (still doesn’t). When the nurses laid his handsome body on my chest after he was born, he had no interest in latching and taking those first tastes of “liquid gold.” Breastfeeding proved to be a huge challenge, so I turned to pumping and formula. Then the spitting up started. Oh, the spitting. I’m talking “Exorcist” style, expecting-his-head-to-spin-around spewing. For his entire first year of life.

And the sleeping…whoever came up with the phrase “sleep like a baby” certainly didn’t mean MY baby. We had a classic, albeit intense, “4th trimester,” with my son refusing to sleep anywhere except in the arms of another person. At about 4-5 months old, we achieved the coveted “sleeping through the night,” but it took until past 12 months before he actually figured out the whole nap-thing.

So, I cried. I cried because I thought I was failing at this whole motherhood thing, and my baby clearly hated me for it. I cried because I felt like I was solely responsible for caring for him and was ashamed to ask for help from anyone else (even my husband). I cried because no one wanted to hang around my baby (or so I thought), because all he did was cry for his mama. But, most of all, I cried because my new mommy life looked NOTHING like I had imagined. I didn’t sleep in my own bed for four months, my baby hated hanging around other people, and my clothes were all stained and smelled of formula spit. I just didn’t feel like myself.

Yes, it turned out to be postpartum depression. Thank goodness I had wonderful friends and family who noticed I wasn’t myself and kindly convinced me to talk to my doctor. But, there was something else I needed to do to get on with my new life. I had to say good-bye to my dream. Say good-bye to my fantasy of how my life as a mom would look. But, more importantly, I had to say farewell to my “dream baby,” and hello to the beautiful, sensitive, loving, headstrong baby boy I held in my arms. I had to learn to let go of who I imagined my son would be and love the amazing boy he was (is). And, it’s a lesson I’ve had to re-learn throughout my motherhood journey.

I’ll always have naïve expectations. That’s just me. I have to learn to let them go and embrace the wonderfulness of reality.