Sometimes I feel guilty about how often I complain about the difficulties I faced during the first few months of John’s life. I was horribly sleep-deprived, depressed and anxious, and could barely look at my sweet baby boy as I struggled to bond with him. Those first few months with my son were hard, and my transition into motherhood was not pretty. And if that wasn’t bad enough, my colicky firstborn was followed by his little sister, a unicorn sleeper, fantastic eater, and generally happy little baby. Felicity’s first year was a cakewalk compared to my first twelve months with John, and my stories about my children definitely reflect that fact.
I don’t want my son to think that I love Felicity more than him because she was easier. I don’t want him to think that I hated him during those first few months. I don’t want him to suffer because of the tales of his infancy. John is my firstborn son; he made me a mother. He introduced me to the world of motherhood, and while there’s been a lot of change from one child to the next, this stage of my life will always begin with the birth of my son. He holds a unique place in my heart, and it was the depths of my love for him, as it overflowed and overwhelmed me, that convinced me that we were ready to have another child. John, and my love for him, opened my heart to the possibility of Felicity. After facing my fears and anxieties regarding the birth of another child, love won the day and new life was born.
My first year with John was difficult. John spent most of those first few weeks in other people’s arms because I hated having him in my own. I hated myself because I hated motherhood, and I hated holding John because he was a constant reminder that there was no going back. There were a lot of tears, sleepless nights, and phantom cries in the silence, and I was miserable, depressed, and terrified that I was in over my head. I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and desperately in need of help for which I was too frightened and embarrassed to ask.
Life with John did get easier in time. He’s charming, well-mannered, and generous with hugs and kisses. We have come miles from where we began, and these past years have overshadowed those first weeks and months with the overwhelming amount of love, sweet smiles, hugs, and kisses. More than four years later, my love for John is overwhelming at times, and it’s hard to imagine that our beginning was so rocky. But it was, and that just increases the sense of guilt. How could I have ever hated my sweet baby boy? As John grows up, he will inevitably hear the story of his birth and my struggles in the face of new motherhood. But John didn’t make me hate him; my postpartum depression did. Our struggles made me feel weak and incapable, but our survival made me strong. John made me strong. I didn’t give up; I didn’t give into the temptation to quit, to embrace the whispered lies that I wasn’t good enough, that I was ruining my child. So whenever I tell the story of my beginning as a mother, I will also tell the story of the baby boy who showed his mother just how strong she was. He revealed my strength. And even now, when I look at my son, I know I love him with all my heart. We had a rough patch, and we’ll probably have others as he grows up, but I know one thing for sure: I will love him forever, and while that love will grow and transform, it will always be enough.