The overwhelming exhaustion. Yeah, yeah, everyone told me how tired I was going to be -- it's just being tired, right? How bad can it be? Well, now I know. It's one thing to be tired, it's another thing to be tired and also have to deal with your screaming daughter at 4:00 in the morning (night after night after night). Patience and compassion are in short supply (yet abundantly needed) when one is getting so little sleep. Additionally, I must continue to function and make decisions. To vaccinate or not? If so, which ones and when? I don't like my pediatrician, but don't have the time or energy to find another (or navigate the obstacles erected by our HMO). Existing in a haze of fatigue results in dumb mistakes -- like throwing my daughter's new social security card in our paper recycling bin with the junk mail. Luckily, it was found before it was too late. The exhaustion is mind-numbing, life-sucking, and like nothing I've ever experienced.
The loss of myself. I feel as if I now exist only to serve my daughter's needs. I feed her, clothe her, burp her, put her to sleep (only in my arms or on me, mind you), comfort her, play with her. I give her everything I have and more. There is nothing left for me, my husband or anyone else. I exist only for her, and have no say in the direction, timing or tempo of my life anymore.
The isolation. As a SAHM, I am solely responsible for my daughter during the day, and as a nursing mother, also during the night. For about 18 out of every 24 hours, it's me and her and no one else. I sleep as late as I can, since we go to bed late and awaken frequently, so we rarely rise before noon. Many days I don't shower, eat, dress or brush my teeth. The thought of preparing myself and her to leave the house, and the terror of having to deal with an inconsolable infant in public, have turned my home into a prison. At 8 weeks, this is just now beginning to abate, but nowhere near fast enough for my tastes.
It sounds like an awful, terrible job, so why do I do it? Well, for one thing, it's too late to put her back where she came from, lol. But mostly, it's because there are wonderful things too. You didn't ask about them, but I feel compelled to share anyway.
The overwhelming love I feel as I gaze at her sleeping face -- a pool of tranquility, reflecting peace and contentment. The indescribable joy that consumes me when she flashes a grin and hoots in delight. Holding her in my arms as we prepare to nurse, watching her open her mouth like a bird and grunt "unh unh unh", knowing she's about to receive what only I can give her. The amazement of watching her grow and learn by leaps and bounds every day -- mastering new skills and acquiring an awareness for her world. The simultaneous grief and excitement I feel as the days slip through my fingers like grains of sand ... eager to see what tomorrow holds, sorry to let the joys of today go. Wishing I could hold all of it in my hands at once, and not have to lose any of it. Knowing that all that will be left of these days is pictures and my rapidly fading memories.
To steal a phrase from a friend: being a mother is the most frustrating thing I've ever loved