Hormonal Rage

Just to recap: I’m from Los Angeles, but I’m currently in the UK, two years into a very fish-out-of-water experience. Being an expat is no joke. I’m not exaggerating when I say that almost everything is different in England than it is in California, where in my homesick memory, even in the traffic is more tolerable.

I’m in England because I’m working on a PhD about childbirth intervention. Somehow, I managed to convince an academic department to fund my project, and now I actually have to DO this massive thing.

Finally, I’ve just had my first baby.

So: 5,000 miles from family + PhD student + new mom. I have no local family support, I’m working on a doctorate, I haven’t slept more than 4 consecutive hours in 7.5 months, I carry/cradle/pick up/put down/walk/dance/bounce my son all day long, I am still exclusively breastfeeding, I am ten pounds lighter than I was when I got divorced and stopped eating for three months, and until two days ago, when I passed my UK driving test, I couldn’t drive here and was walking/taking the train/catching buses with a child strapped to my body whenever I had to go anywhere. So, I’m fucking exhausted and sometimes I can’t think straight or make decisions or get through a driving lesson without coming home and losing my shit because everything is just DEMANDS CONSTANTLY.

Thus, I find it really offensive and dismissive when people tell new moms that it’s okay to feel upset because our “hormones are still settling.” As if not loving every second of our insane new lives could only be because us ladies are forever at the mercy of our hormones. We accept that a person who hasn’t slept well overnight or has a cold might be negatively impacted, but we feel the need to excuse mothers who feel bad. Don’t worry, Mom. You’re just hormonal. I understand that some women really do suffer from hormonal imbalances post-pregnancy, and I don’t at all mean to disparage them. However, patting a new mom on the the head and telling her that all her fears and anxieties and complete exhaustion are just by-products of her hormones does two things:

  1. Ignores that having a baby explodes a woman’s life
  2. Dismisses the very real and very visceral physical and emotional trauma of that explosion

I feel crazy sometimes because I’m sleep deprived and physically drained and walking around with eighteen pounds of squirming, grabbing baby attached to my skeletal frame all day long. I snap at my husband because as much as he loves us, he doesn’t understand what this is like for me. I am uncomfortable with the way I look because I look really different. I get angry or weepy or temporarily mean because I am tasked with something damn near impossible and I am just one human being and I am tired.

Being overwhelmed by a new baby is normal, because a new baby is overwhelming, not because women just can’t hang. I pushed a person out of my body and am now responsible for taking care of him. I think I’m entitled to have some real feelings about it.

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New Motherhood, Internet Thievery, and Other Panics

The Baby is now 12 weeks old and three days away from his three month birthday. (Yes, I am now a person who discusses her child’s age in both weeks and month-anniversaries. Deal with it.) This means that I’ve been a mother forrreeeeevvvveeeeer, and therefore have some feelings about it.

The most pressing of these feelings is the overwhelming need to tell all new moms and mothers-to-be in my life that is okay to feel bad. People revel in telling pregnant women to dread stretch marks and sagging boobs and to expect the worst during delivery. Other women delight in this, bizarrely. I wish I had had fewer moms tell me that my body would be ruined and more moms tell me that I’d have to reconstruct my self. That my life as I knew it was over. Because it was, and it is. I will never again be the person I was before I had The Baby, and as much as I love him, I had to grieve the end of my old life. I wish I’d known that would happen. Maybe it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it has happened to 100% of the mothers I’ve asked.

I love my son more than anything I could ever imagine, but it is a love that consumes me, in every sense of that word. It isn’t romantic love. It isn’t familial love. It’s a love that forces you awake at 2am, even while your newborn sleeps, so that you can stare into the face of the person you created with your own body and cry about how much responsibility it is, how innocent he is, how much you miss life before, and how you would rip someone apart with your bare hands if they dared to take him from you.

Most of the time, I’ve got this handled. I’ve got time off to be solely with The Baby, and I am grateful for that. I can follow his lead, feed him on demand, hold him every second he needs me. However, some of the time, I find myself furiously rocking The Baby in the glider after trying to get him to sleep for three hours, wondering when I’ll ever be able to use my own arms again to make food, fold laundry, or use my laptop. (I’ve spent so much time in the glider that my new non-existent mom ass has bored a hole in the foam of the seat, and now it looks like Homer Simpson’s couch).

In the last few weeks, it’s gotten markedly easier to be a mom, because The Baby interacts with toys now and loves sitting in his bouncer or laying on his playmat and punching things. For the first many, many weeks of his life, he wouldn’t tolerate being put down at all, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I carried this boy in my arms constantly for more than two full months. As I type this now, however, he’s happily attacking a dangling hippopotamus, which I am actively encouraging. You slap that hippo, Baby. GET HIM.

Being The Baby’s mom amazes me every day. It’s true what they say: seeing the world through the eyes of your child is incredible. I’ve watched The Baby discover that he loves warm baths, jingly noises, black and white illustrations, attempting to stand up, and Billy Joel. I know that he hates sleeping alone, being on his tummy, and pooping his pants, and that sudden changes in temperature confuse him. He is my favorite little person in the entire world.

I just wish that instead of smiling and gleefully telling me, “You’ll never sleep again,” people had told me, “You’ll never sleep again and you will feel crazy and everything will seem impossible and when it does, call me.”

In other news, I, like most new parents, think my child is the cutest, smartest, funniest, most interesting creature. I would love to document all his craziness here, but I recently made a discovery that has made me wary of posting any more photos of him to this blog. When he was one month and one day old, he broke out in what everyone assured me was baby acne, the product of swirling newborn hormones that would eventually resolve itself. It eventually got so bad that literally (I’m prone to hyperbole, but this was literally) every pore on his face was raised or red or covered in a fluid-filled bump. I became convinced it was a dairy intolerance, and within a week of cutting out all dairy, it started to improve and ultimately went away. (I snuck some dairy a few times in the last couple weeks and now his skin is reacting again, so take that, people who thought I was nuts!)

Annnnnyway, while investigating his mystery rash, imagine my surprise when I stumbled upon a Pinterest pin of a very familiar picture. The pin led to this website:
Screen Shot 2015-10-15 at 7.34.53 AM

That’s a photo of ME, taken in a South Carolina hotel bathroom ten years ago, and posted on this, my personal blog, as an attempt to help other people who may be struggling with acne. I was immediately pissed to see that it had been lifted from here and used somewhere else not just because that’s a gross thing to do, but also because the reason I posted it was to offer potential help and support to other acne suffers and the way it’s being used by the person who stole it is disingenuous. It’s posted under the heading “How to get rid of cystic acne on chest during pregnancy,” which is shitty because: I wasn’t pregnant for the five years I had this problem, it wasn’t cystic acne, and I didn’t “get rid of it” in any of the ways listed below the photo. I haven’t pursued trying to get the photo removed because 1) I’ve been busy (see above) and 2) it’s being used by one of those aggregate content websites written in language that is just different enough from how actual people speak that it must be computer-generated (i.e. the site is called “Let’s Rid Of”), so I assume no one is really running it and no one is really reading it. However, it still upsets me.

And it’s also a clear example of how what I post on this blog I don’t think anyone actually reads can end up in places I not only didn’t expect, but also didn’t allow. I don’t want personal photos of my tiny little person to end up on some rando website that promises to “Cure Babies of Nighttime Farts” (although I would really like to know how to do that).

If you’re interested in seeing photos of the gremlin, you can request to follow me on Instagram (which has gone from a feed of various photos of travel and food to just photos of The Baby). Try not to look too much like a robot or someone trying to sell me baby weight loss products, because it’ll be a waste of everyone’s time.