Descent into Scary Mommyhood

One of my favorite online friends, Scary Mommy honored me with an invitation to guest post for her this week. She said that she thought it might be fun to have “a few people post their scary mommy moments (whatever that may mean).” And apparently, I completely missed the point…

She was talking about not being perfect – those times when you feel like “bad mom.” And I went in a totally different direction. Ultimately, she’s posting something else of mine that is more along the lines of what she had in mind. But since I went to the trouble of writing this thing, I’m posting it here.

So pretend that you are over at Scary Mommy’s blog and pretend that I completely nailed her guest post theme. And then leave me comments telling me what a tour de force this is so I can feel a little less moronic about the miscommunication.

Descent into Scary Mommyhood

When Jill asked me to guest post this week, she mentioned something about “scary mommy moments.” And my immediate thought was, “where do I start?!

I suppose that’s a universal theme of motherhood, with its never-ending firsts, challenges and fears. But along with that comes all of the triumphs, the self discovery and the great gift of testing and proving your merit as a parent. It’s a heady experience.

Being a parent is absolutely the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done. Of course it’s just as terrifying as it is thrilling. And much of the time, it also really sucks.

My initiation into the world of scary mommyhood was the complete upheaval, the world turned on it’s head, the holy crap, what the hell have I gotten myself into slap in the face, otherwise known as bringing your first baby home from the hospital.

The mystery of shell shocked new parent expressions that I had previously puzzled over was suddenly revealed. I now understood. They had just willingly signed away life as they once knew it.

And I think that’s when it starts. Truly, it’s right there at the beginning. Babies may fool you for those first few sleepy days in the hospital…but the minute they cross the threshold of their new home, they turn into mini Terminators on a mission to throw their parents’ once peaceful existence into a state of constant chaos. At least for a little while.

When sleep, something so basic to a functional life, becomes a privilege and not a right, you join the ranks of zombies so easily identified as new parents. And it really gets scary when you realize that you have no idea when the madness will end, if ever.

After one particularly taxing day with baby Oliver, I looked at my husband and said quite definitively, “I don’t know how people take care of multiples – I could never do it.

Epilogue: 18 months later I gave birth to twins.

Another scary mommy milestone would be caring for those twins during my maternity leave. Oliver was a week late and entered this world as a healthy, nine pound bruiser. Sure, he was fussy – but nothing beyond the expected newborn hoopla.

George and Eleanor were born just shy of 37 weeks and were each under six pounds. After my first tank of a baby, I didn’t know what to make of those skinny little things. They kept their wrinkly knees pulled up in a perpetual fetal position (common with c-section babies). And they looked so fragile, that even my 18 months of first baby experience made me handle them with extra care. Their tiny boniness was so foreign to me that when I dressed them in the morning I would often think that it felt like changing kittens.

They had reflux and colic and eczema and…well, let’s just say that I spent more time at the doctor’s office in those three months than I did in the previous 18 months with Oliver.

And taking care of both of them at once! Feeding them in tandem, bathing one while the other screamed, finally getting one to settle down for a nap, only to have the other wake up…When people knowingly advised me to “sleep when the baby sleeps,” I would reply, “oh yeah? Which one?” (The Miss Manners book got thrown out the window during that period of my life…)

But of course, they too eventually learned to sit up and hold their bottles, and entertain themselves and each other. And the scary new mommy phase quietly lifted away – quite the anticlimax to its bone crushing arrival.

I also think we all experience a touch of amnesia when it comes to those early months since the screaming newborn does at some point morph into a charming, cooing infant. Love and smug admiration for our offspring will inevitably win out in the end.

But then there is always something else… Some new scary development to snap us out of our self satisfied torpor. There is no relaxing in scary mommyhood.

My oldest child just turned four, and within that time I’ve experienced the NICU, the ER, hourly wake up calls for nights on end, speech and developmental delays, biting, fighting, tantrums, teething, crying, screaming and screaming and screaming…

But I’ve also experienced peals of laughter, hand holding, I wuv yous, flashes of genius, spirited identity building, earnest honesty, sticky sweet kisses, general center of the universeness and fervent gratitude for every single day that I have with those little monsters.

They have simplified my life and brought my priorities into sharp focus. My dreams for them are infinite, while my dreams for myself drop off somewhere after “showering with the door closed.” But that’s just for now because they are a daily reminder that anything is possible. They have aged me and made me feel young again. And yes – they scare the crap out of me.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the very beginning, they made it clear that no matter how scary life with them can be, every day is worth it. And every day is ours.

21 thoughts on “Descent into Scary Mommyhood

  1. Dana's Brain

    I do love this post! Regardless of it's original intent.

    Your words are so true. What a feeling of terror it can be to leave the hospital. Wait – you mean we have to take care of this thing all by ourselves?!?!

    I remember my younger sister calling me in tears when she came home with her first. She was totally overwhelmed. Now she's days away from her third! (I don't think it gets any easier.)

  2. Babe in Babeland

    Hi! First-time commenter. I like your blog! Mommyhood is super scary. I agree, leaving the hospital with a precious little baby in tow is a feeling like no other. I was nervous, scared, excited, and emotional.

  3. Scary Mommy

    It wasn't you, it was me. I have a history of very poor communication skills– it goes way back. You, however, rock. MWAH!!!

  4. Christy

    Kate you described it perfectly! As usual!

    I was TERRIFIED to bring ours home from the hospital…and then I was a wreck for weeks…months…it was damn hard! But I made it, thank god.

    I am so glad you posted this – I bet it will resonate with many, many of your readers. Fabulous post! (and too funny – because I also wrote a post for Jill and misunderstood…I'm posting mine on my site this week too! Glad to hear I wasn't only the one who misunderstood. hehe!) (and ps sorry I accidentally posted this as Underdogs – just signed out and deleted it!)

  5. Heidi

    This is a beautiful post. Parenting is scary and wonderful and heady like you described.

    This brought a flood of memories. Thank you for it. I mean that. :)

  6. Mom2Peach

    Just found your blog through Scary Mommy, and I love what I've read so far, even if you were off target with the original assignment!

  7. 2 Brits, 2 Yanks, 2 Dogs

    I really wanted twins, LIKE REALLY WANTED twins! My mum was a twin and I loved the fact that even though they were fraternal they had a great connection. Then my first child was born and I wondered "What the heck was I thinking". Congrats on surviving those scary moments.

  8. Lady Mama

    So true – everything you said. It is so difficult when you're in the middle of all the sleepless nights and diapers and chaos (I'm in the thick of it right now) but it is so worth it. (just have to keep reminded myself that!)

    I wrote a few weeks ago, about how I can't imagine how parents of more than 2 kids do it. I have two, 19 months apart and it really is very scary at times.

  9. Loukia

    Beautiful post! I don't know how you do it, really – twins would scare me to death! My oldest son is almost 4 years old, my baby is 17 months old, and it's the toughest job in the world looking after them both! I always need an extra set of hands around to help me deal with them! But even though it is so challenging, it is the most wonderful and rewarding job ever. They're my entire life, my everything. But, oh – the worry. I have always been an anxious person, a person who worries too much, and with the birth of my first son, my life shifted so drastically and the worry increased by about 100,000,000 percent. Throw in to the mix the fact that my oldest son was hospitalzed twice with UTI's at 12 weeks old and 6 months old, and this past winter, for two weeks due to pneumonia – he even needed surgery – let's just say, I worry all day long, everyday. Oh, yes, being a mom is certainly an adveture! I'm so glad I found your blog through Scary Mommy – I'm now a happy follower! :)

  10. Debbie

    I love this post and can certainly relate to the scariness of it! I also got a kick out of those "sleep when the baby sleeps" advice people. Unless they have had twins, they have no idea that it can be a 24 hour circus.

  11. Christy

    This is a great post Kate. And you're right, we all suffer from a little amnesia. I remember wishing that I could go back to work when Porgie was a newborn. But now? I NEVER want to go back to work. It is so hard to remember these first few months clearly. I know they were hard, but I still can't help feel sad at how quickly time passes.

  12. mommygeekology

    So glad that you still posted this – it's a great post, and really captures… well, mommyhood. Scary as it is.

  13. butwhymommy

    I love this. The whole experience of motherhood is a series of scary moments but thank goodness for the amnesia so you can do it all again.

  14. LiLu

    I've always said I wanted twins so I could have two kids but only be preggo once…

    I think you just changed my mind. ;-)

  15. msprimadonna67

    What a beautiful post…it took me back to my early mommy days, when I was timid and everything was new and, yes, scary. Magical, nonetheless.


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