I remember reading a blog post while I was pregnant, a new-ish mom talking about having reached the other side of the postpartum abyss. She described it, "I feel like I spent the past few months upside down being violently shaken." (Elise Cripe, this post) I read that from the naive, safe place of a first pregnancy, and I thought "SHIT." And then I thought, "That sounds terrible. But it won't be like that for me. It won't be like that for me. I hope it's not like that for me... it won't be like that for me."
It was exactly like that for me.
I thought of that line so many times during my first days, weeks, and months as a mom. I wished I could find another way to describe it, but nothing captured it quite as well as "upside down" and "violently shaken."
Plenty of our days were good days, but I had trouble enjoying it. I felt adrift and unsure what to do. I was always certain that something was about to go wrong and I wouldn't be able to handle it. I couldn't figure out how to shower or feed myself among the baby's constant feedings. I felt panicked. I needed to know how it was going to work! Who am I now? What will my days look like? I wanted to bring order to my life by finding my new routines. I wanted to make it make sense.
Looking back now, I realize how desperate I was to just settle into my new life as a mom.
But I was grasping for something that didn't exist yet. Having a newborn is not the same thing as "your new life as a mom." The newborn phase is one long transition.
It's like moving across the country, the kind of move where you need to take a week to drive your U-haul to your new home. You want to know what your new life will be like. You want to know where your new favorite grocery store will be, and where your new neighborhood coffee shop is, and what parks you'll like the best. But you simply cannot discover those things until you get there.
You can't panic on Day 2 of your drive because you don't know where that coffee shop is. All you can do is keep driving.
But I was panicked in Week 2 of motherhood, because I didn't understand what the rest of my life as a mom would look like.
I didn't realize that the newborn phase was, well, really just a phase. Hazy but ultimately short. I didn't understand that I was in a time of transition. I thought I was already "there," but I'd only just begun my journey into motherhood. All I needed to do was keep going.