First Time Motherhood: My Identity Crisis that Wasn’t


Letter From The Editor: Pride

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

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Two years ago, a month after our son was born, I found myself staring at our fridge. It had always been a visual representation of what was going on in our lives, and suddenly it was covered with things relating to our baby. Instead of being proud, I stood there in my sleep deprived state wondering if I was doing something wrong. Was I focused too much on my kid? Was I letting the rest of my life go? Was I… changing? First time motherhood was for me an identity crisis.

I found that my pregnancy was filled with folks telling me all the things I didn’t know. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. I didn’t know how my identity would change. I didn’t know if I would want to work after I had the baby. I didn’t know how I would parent, or how intense I would become. In short, all the things I thought I knew… were probably wrong.

It was terrifying.

And then there was the pressure from other side. Possibly because many of our friends didn’t have kids, I also felt enormous pressure to have everything stay the same. I seemed like I needed to prove my coolness and earn my place in my normal crowd, by proving that motherhood wasn’t going to change me. I needed to demonstrate that you could come over to my house and never see a non-hip toy, that I would still make all the parties (and leave the kid at home with a sitter), and that I wouldn’t think or talk too much about motherhood.

That, of course, was impossible, which I realized that night staring at our fridge. Because that magnetic surface was a reflection of what was going on in our life, and it was made up of Instagram prints of baby chub, the little name marker from his hospital bassinet, his birth announcement designed by a friend, and the lyrics of the lullaby I had just written for him. It was parenthood done in our style, but it was parenthood. And for two people on maternity leave, taking care of an infant that we were newly in love with, it was our life in that moment.

Life Is Already Complicated

Fast forward to the present, and I’m thirty-seven weeks pregnant, and starting maternity leave again, today. And while this pregnancy hasn’t been easy, it has been unmarred by my fear of other people’s expectations.

As a young-looking thirty-five in the overpriced Bay Area—where many people don’t even get married until their thirties, let alone have kids—I’ve found that when I’m out and about on my own during the work day, people constantly assume that I’m having my first child. (Which is fair enough, given that having my first kid at thirty-two made me pretty consistently one of the youngest moms in the room.) As a result, I’m peppered with the same kind of comments that I got the first time around. “Congratulations! Everything is about to change.” “Enjoy it now, life is about to get complicated!” But this time, I laugh and have a ready response. “I have a toddler. Life is already complicated.”

Because, of course, it is. Having tiny children isn’t exactly a walk down easy street, no matter how you cut it. There is the sleep deprivation, the crying, the crazy developmental phases, the emotional meltdowns, and (for working families) the daycare bills. Life is fuller than before, and more tired. I don’t get to sit around on the weekend and binge watch shows. I never get up late on a Sunday morning and wonder what lazy goodness I’m going to plan for the day. We can’t grab our bags and book a just the two of us getaway. Of course I miss all of that.

But, when you look at the big picture, our life isn’t altogether different. Our fridge is still crammed with baby pictures. But it also has the London Tube ticket dated with our son’s first birthday. It has snapshots of the kid and me together on an APW photoshoot. It’s got a picture of David and me on a night out. It’s recognizably our life, with a great new person added to the mix (and sadly, less sleep).

’Oga Like Dis

As I approach my due date this time around, I’ve slowly realized that I’ve been living in the midst of an identity crisis that wasn’t. Flipping through photos of the last two years, I realize that all of those markers of identity that suddenly seemed so important when I thought they would be taken away from me with childbirth… they’re still around. I’m still wearing hipster jewelry and hot pink nail polish. I’m working harder at my non-traditional job than ever before. David and I are still watching our arty television shows and debating the news over the New York Times every morning.

But there are differences too. Good ones, to go with the sleeplessness. I have more patience, for starters. And I’m far more laid back, despite all that hinting that I would be more intense. Plus, there is a tiny love machine who runs up and gives me hugs like his life depended on it. The small director putting on finger puppet shows, doing yoga poses he learned at school (“’oga like dis”), and debating over whether his hair should be pink or purple (“Maybe pink or purple hair, like Maddie“). Because the funny thing was, that baby who came and joined us… he’s the perfect third member of our family. He makes sense here.

Sometimes Happiness Is Easy

The other weekend, we woke up in a rental vacation cabin for one last family getaway for just the three of us. I pulled the toddler out of his crib, and plopped him in the middle of the bed, with his footy pajamas and milk. And he sat there, in the early morning half light, grinning and grinning. “Mommy, Daddy, and me,” he said. “Me happy.”

And damn if I wasn’t proud of the little family we’d created. Excessive hot pink and all.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • My husband-to-be and I are just starting down the path to adoption (submitting our initial paperwork this week to our newly assigned social worker) and I *love* this post. I’ve fretted quite a bit (mostly inside my own head) about how I’d best learn patience, because I’m surely going to need it, and I’m pleased to see that it is possible to learn it. :)

    Thank you for sharing! And good luck on the next leg of your adventures. :)

    • JDrives

      Good luck to you and your beloved!

    • MDBethann

      Good luck.

      And FYI, I have not been a very patient person for much of my life. But for some reason, I’ve been really patient with our 6-month old daughter so far. I hope it lasts into her toddler & eventually teenage years, but I’ve been a lot more mellow as a parent than I ever thought I could be.

  • Mary Jo TC

    Meg, thanks so much for being a voice of sanity in the craziness of people telling you what motherhood is like. I had many of the same feelings you express here during my pregnancy and my baby’s first year, but I was so lucky that you went there a few months before I did and kind of showed me the way. Like you, I’ve discovered that once the initial (year-long) crisis had passed, I still felt like me, and my family still felt like my family, just with a sweet and hilarious little person added in. The thing I don’t have time for anymore is laziness. We’re getting ready to start trying to conceive again, and it’s good to know you’re still a step ahead of me, trying things out before I’m ready to and telling me what it’s like, as if you’re a voice from my own future. This work you’re doing is soooo necessary and so appreciated.

  • MABie

    Thank you so much for this, Meg. I have a lot of extremely intense fears of motherhood, and the APW posts on this topic are helping me to (ever so slowly) peel back the layers, examine them, and (hopefully someday) understand them.

    Your perspective consistently seems to be that children are a PLUS, not a MINUS — that is, they add something to your life (such as the identity of “mother,” in addition to all of your other identities), but they do not necessarily take anything away from you (except sleep and the ability to have lazy Sundays, of course :O) ). That perspective has been hugely helpful for me on my road to deciding whether or not I want children. Thanks for showing all of us that it is possible.

    • Jess

      Yes to this… I am not close to motherhood at this point, but I read every. single. essay. about kids posted. And as I do, it is less and less scary – or at least I say, “This fear? This fear isn’t realistic.”

      • MABie

        Yeah, same here. I realized recently that it wasn’t that I didn’t/don’t want children, it was just that I was scared shitless of having them. But it has taken me a long time to recognize and confront my specific fears, and I’m definitely still exploring them. Manya’s post about raising teenagers was a beacon of light for me on that front. When I read the title, I was like, “OMG TEENAGERS STRIKE FEAR IN MY HEART,” and then when I finished the post, I was like, “That actually doesn’t even seem bad?” Thus, I added and removed “teenagers are terrifying” in one fell swoop.

        It’s an ongoing process, for sure.

        (Sidenote: it’s also not just raising kids that I’m afraid of, it’s also birth, which is a topic that cultural messaging discusses almost exclusively negatively…and even when it’s positive, it seems to go WAY over to the other side. My best friend made me watch a movie called “Orgasmic Birthing” to make me feel better (?). It may be a good movie, but it did not make me feel better.)

        • I was terrified of birthing. And it wasn’t good for me. But you know, it’s just something you get through. Just like anything else.

          • MABie

            So, this actually brought tears to my eyes because it’s just so honest. Thank you.

          • Okay, but I’m also going to second what Meg said, my doula team helped me so much with the fear part. Honestly because of the strangeness of my circumstances, my doula was more useful before the actual hospital time than during. It means so much to have people there who aren’t going to feed you some bs about your situation, but are there instead to hold your hand and hug you and tell you that, this too will pass.
            I LOVE my daughter. Like nothing else in the whole world. But the comment of “it’s worth it” makes my skin crawl. To put an “X” value on my experience like that does me no benefit.
            We experience things as they come. Some are good, some are bad, some are painful, some orgasmic. But all of them are fleeting and there will be a next thing. Before I had the pain. Now I have the love.

          • Alexandra

            Doulas all the way. Also a birth class. Also…birth, just like a wedding!, is over pretty quickly, whereas child rearing (just like marriage!) is a long-term thing. I got so caught up in planning my wedding and found it to be incredibly anti-climactic as a result. I was determined not to do the same thing with childbirth. So I didn’t. And it went fine (I mean, sucked, of course, but nothing too crazy) and then I had a kid to raise, which turned out to be a way bigger deal. Also: nursing. If you’re going to go nuts preparing for anything, choose breastfeeding.

            Although…I hate to say this, because I never would have listened to myself when it mattered, but formula is just soooo not evil. Formula is a lifesaver.

          • Meg Keene

            Or not, on breastfeeding. Just to really prove that you never know and you probably should just try to roll with it/ prep for whatever you feel moved to prep for. I did zero prep on breastfeeding, and the first bit was hard and I got through it with a good nurse and then it was super easy for me. (Thank god one thing was!!!) If I’d prepped for it it would have been wasted time.

            I kinda feel like… prep for what makes sense to you, it probably feeds some psychological need. Ignore the rest. Probably JUST like weddings. Before birth, I mostly nest like a crazy person. For whatever reason (I actually do get why, but still, it’s funny) buying pillows and organizing things helps me more than reading books about childbirth or breastfeeding or parenting. So, OK! Much like parenting… if it works, it works!

          • In the same vein of not prepping isn’t the worst thing ever, I was so wrecked by pregnancy that we never did the hospital tours that we “should have.” (My “should”.) It turned out to be for the best because I apparently went into labor at the same time as most of Northern CA and ended up on your side of the bridge, very unexpectedly. Turned out wonderfully as far as the support staff and nice facility and all. I would never have guessed that it’d be just fine. (I had birth anxiety months before.)

          • Jennie

            Having been a doula for six years, I can honestly say that the most important work a doula does with clients is before the birth. Most doulas spend 5-6 hours in person with their clients before the birth. That work is important regardless of what baggage and stories you have in your head about birth.
            Don’t get me wrong though, a doula is often a huge help during the birth!

        • Meg Keene

          The good thing about birth (and I had a doozy) is that even at it’s worst, it doesn’t last very long. I say that heading into my second with a whole different point of view. Like, well, in a few weeks this will be over no matter how it shakes out! In fact, usually it’s over in 24-48 hours, boom, done.

          And good birth education (birth classes, doula, etc.) can help a LOT as you’re navigating the fear part. And can help you figure out where it’s coming from, etc. Doing that work has been helpful to me, and probably given me good perspective on things beyond birth.

          Which isn’t to say it’s not scary. It is. But I was THE MOST SCARED and then had a lot of things go wrong… and you know what? It was fine, in a big picture way.

          • MABie

            I definitely want to look into birth education classes. I think I might be so phobic that I need to attend them before I’m anywhere near being pregnant, assuming that’s not an incredibly weird thing to do. I’ve come nowhere near understanding what I’m so afraid of with respect to birth, but I keep having visions of myself as Pam in that episode of “The Office” where she is in labor at work, but refuses to go to the hospital because she’s so scared. I’m a public defender, so my version involves going into labor in a prison? It’s really unpleasant.

          • Meg Keene

            You know, you should look into birth trauma therapy. (Not hippy dippy, done by real therapists.) That sounds weird, but it would probably be the most fitting thing to do, since attending a birth class without being pregnant would be an odd fit. There are therapists that work specifically on birth trauma. (Basically we now know that some women get PTSD from really terrible birth experiences, and need to work through it.) It seems to me like they’d have the knowledge base to work with you. And, I could be way wrong, but based on my own experience, you may find out that it’s rooted in something… like horrible birth stories that have been told to you a lot, etc.

          • Elissa

            I grew up with the very traditional american view that birth was to be feared. Huge anxiety! Then I met my now husband who was also your more classic american boy. His mother was a hypnotherapist who also taught hypnobirthing. It’s been almost 9 years and i’m pregnant with my first. It took a lot of exposure (ie years!) of hearing positive reinforcement, that womens bodies were designed to do this thing,ect before I really grew more confident. Now I plan to birth at home with a midwife, because it’s where I feel more comfortable. I stress out easy in hospital environments, so it makes the most sense for ME. (To each her own of course!) There is still some anxiety, but the more I learn, the less fear I have. And while I’m pro natural (food, labor, drugs) when you can, I’m by no means anywhere close to a hippie. :) Ina May’s guide to childbirth may be a good place to start? Usually fear for anything in life comes from a lack of knowledge and understanding. You’ll get there!!!

          • MABie

            Thank you so much for the tip!! That book looks awesome. I just added it to my Amazon wish list, and I saw a few others along the same lines that I think would really help. I think this is exactly what I need. Like you, I think it is going to take a few years to deprogram myself. I know I need to do this work now before I can even think about getting pregnant. Thanks again!

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        • Daisy6564

          I have always wanted kids. Except now that I am 30 and married and it is actually a possibility, I am TERRIFIED. Like second guessing even wanting them terrified. My fear du jour is that I will not get to live my own life or do what is important to me any more once I have kids. My mother was a very poor model in that regard, she gave up everything for my sister and I (her job, her hobbies, etc.)

          Reading Manya’s post about teenagers made me remember that I actually do like hanging out with kids. I got super pumped about the kitchen dance parties and real talks I can have with my future children. I realized that lately I have been so obsessed with all of the aspects of parenthood I fear will be too stressful that I have forgotten to think about the parts that will be fun!

          Also re. identity crisis: every time I see a mom with a blue hair or with a kid strapped on a bike I remember that you can still do you, even with kids.

          • JDrives

            ME TOO to all of this. Especially moms with kids on bikes and all the super cool activist feminist moms I know. I’m like – oh! I want to do that, and I can, AND I have real life examples/mentors! Huh!

          • MDBethann

            I have a 6 month old. Is life different? Yes. But I still work, I still cook, and I still cuddle on the couch with my hubby. And I’ve found time to go out to movies or a meal with friends and even just my hubby. Do things take more advanced planning then they used to take? Yes. But my daughter has brought so much joy into our lives it outweighs any perceived “inconveniences.”

            But I will also say that for me at least, the things I want in my life have changed a lot since having her at Thanksgiving. I never pictured myself wanting to stay at home and have my work solely be raising my children. But maternity leave was wonderful (and way too short) and I found myself wishing we could afford to have me take off of work for a few years and just be “mom” for awhile (we live between Baltimore & DC, so that isn’t possible without a major upheaval in terms of selling our home that we just got the way we want it & moving to an area that doesn’t have all of the resources & great schools we want for our daughter). So trade offs, yes. But life has tradeoffs no matter what, and I really don’t mind mine because at the end of the day I get to come home to not one, but TWO faces that light up when I walk in the door.

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        • Jess

          HAHAHAHA Oh man, teens. I remember being one, which I think is the problem with that.

          My biggest thing yet to tackle is How-To-Be-Pregnant-and-Not-Actually-Claw-Out-My-Uterus.

          Birthing for me is… complicated. In my brain it’s very sterile, hospital room, epidural, pretty much a huge amount of pain. And then I hear from all these friends that are on the “natural birth, in a flowery room, calm…” path. It’s weird to try to reconcile this experience people say it is with what I’ve isolated as a medical event.

          I’ve decided that I’m pretty ok with taking the drugs, and pretty ok with keeping people out of the room, and pretty ok with the fluids and literal crap and everything.

          The pain and the fear of something going wrong are still my big concerns, and I think they are pretty realistic… so we’ll see about that.

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    • JDrives

      You are not alone in your fears about motherhood. I grew up assuming I really wanted to be a mom, and now that I’m entering the phase of life where this is shaping into a reality, and I have to make a decision soon about how or whether or when, I’m like…oh shit this is actually something I’m terrified of and need to think about! Like you and Jess, I have found APW’s essays really helpful in allowing me to confront and explore my feelings about it.

      • AP

        This is me. I was SO sure and excited for kids until I hit about 25. Once it was a reality, a lot less sure. I’m thirty now and completely on the fence.

        • Eh

          My husband and I discussed having kids before we were married. I was confident I wanted kids and he was a bit freaked out that his life was moving too fast (we met, a year later got engaged, a year later got married). He was pretty sure he wanted kids just not 9 months after our wedding. We waited almost a year. Just before we were going to start trying he said he was ready to start trying. Then I had a freak out moment. Less than a year before a close friend had a miscarriage and then a baby with a disability. My husband said that he had just decided to get over that because scary stuff can happen and it’s the chance you have to take to have the joy of children (he felt bad about holding me back from being a mom). So then we made a decision to start trying and my SIL had a miscarriage at 16 weeks and there were many complications. This scared me more about our decision but I just remind myself what my husband said and then I know that we can get through what ever happens.

          • JDrives

            For sure that having a partner who is on board and supportive is huge. I also witnessed my close friends experience miscarriages and really difficult pregnancies, and I would come home and cry to my husband, and he was really a comfort. So I’m feeling more and more confident that if we encounter these situations ourselves, he will be there for me and we will handle them as a team.

        • Meg Keene

          Just want to SUPER NORMALIZE THIS. I don’t know why no one acts like this is normal, but it is. I was pretty much on the fence till about an hour after they put the baby in my arms. And I’d always wanted kids!!

      • Kelly Mine-His

        Oh my god thank goodness other people feel this way! I am finding myself deeply ambivalent and I have no idea how to move in one direction or another. Everything I read about not having kids falls into a few camps: 1. I knew I never wanted them, 2. It just didn’t happen for me, for reasons related to life/partner, but I might have liked them, 3. XYZ bad thing or health reason in my life makes kids a bad idea. None of these is me. And I was starting to think, if I don’t identify with any of the reasons I can think of for NOT wanting kids, and I’m still not wanting them, is something wrong with me?

        • Angela

          I first found this column through a link on APW–it seems to frequently get posted in response to these “Kids/No Kids” articles–and it’s really helpful in regards to working through this ambivalence: http://therumpus.net/2011/04/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-71-the-ghost-ship-that-didnt-carry-us/

          • I love that article soooo much. I think it might be one of the most shared articles EVER.

          • JDrives

            I love all things Dear Sugar, but this one is especially lovely. When I first crossed it, it wasn’t relevant (I was still in the YEZ BABIEZ mode) and now it resonates so much it makes me bones ache. Thank you for reminding me of its existence!

        • I know you’re not asking now, but I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with not wanting them simply because you don’t specifically want them. It saddens me that women hear this message that “you had better have a good reason to not want them or else”, that’s totally unfair and unreasonable.

          If it helps any, I was also very ambivalent. I knew I didn’t feel the NEED for them, but that I was theoretically open to the idea of them if I was financially ok. It took me ten years to move out of being hugely opposed and out of being totally ambivalent to “well, ok if it happens I won’t be upset about it.” And then it happened and I was terrified. And then I wasn’t as much. It was all a process and I don’t think there was anything wrong with that.

    • Meg Keene

      I mean, you CAN have lazy Sundays, it’s just… a few times a year, and you have to hire help or beg friends or family. I’m a huge proponent of beg/ borrow/ stealing help when you need it :)

      (And also, of course, this is just me! I know there are people who want and choose for the identity of mother to take over their other identities… or for whom it just happens and that’s them and they make peace with it. It’s just not how it happens for everyone, or how it HAS to happen, I think.)

      • The best comment I received while pregnant was along the lines of: “you’re going to be a great mom because you’re already a great person.” Yep. That was soooo nice.

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  • Eh

    As always, Meg’s views on parenting give me hope when the messaging is frequently so negative. At 31 weeks I’ve hears “you have no clue what you are getting yourself in to” more times than I can count.

    • La’Marisa-Andrea

      It’s such an unhelpful comment too, because duh, if I’ve never had a kid before then yeah I probably have no clue. And neither did they when they first became moms and obviously, things turned out ok.

      • Meg Keene

        RIGHT?

    • I so hate that comment. Why does everyone have to act like a know-it-all when it comes to a pregnancy? OF COURSE I didn’t know, but that statement only made it worse.

    • Aubry

      If I’m ever in the situation of receiving these comments I flip between wanting to reply with “WTH not helpful” or pretending I’m not pregnant and getting all offended, just to mess with them. I’ll probably just rage and then cry if my monthly hormonal fluctuations now are any indication!

      • Eh

        I go into hormonal rages over other unhelpful things, like people making comments about my weight or how small I am for being seven months pregnant (I was very sick and lost a lot of weight in the first half of this pregnancy so I am smaller than people expect).

        • Yeah, after the birth, I had some woman tell me that I looked really good because I’d lost all the baby weight. Well, no, I hadn’t but I did mention that I was sick for the majority of my pregnancy so gaining weigh was not a thing I could do. She was just like – “oh.”

          • Eh

            At this point as long as my baby is moving and growing and content, and as long as I am not feeling sick from malnutrition or dehydration (both issues I had earlier in my pregnancy that I have resolved) then I don’t care if I gain weight before this baby arrives. I have come up with a new plan for food this week – since I handle food better in the morning I have added an extra snack in the morning which hopefully will make up for me bring full half way through supper every night. And after she arrives and people congratulate me on losing the baby weight I will tell them about how I threw up seven times in one day.

  • Kayakgirl73

    Timely post. I’m 31 weeks with my second and this two has been a rough pregnancy. However, I feel somewhat more at peace this time, that I will some how pull it all together again, other than the daycare bills which keep me up at night. Ugh and I have to find new daycare as my in-home provider is retiring. It’s going to be hard because with our commutes we can’t do two different places and stay sane or not always be late.

    When I get down my toddler ceers me up so much. She is so fun, except when she’s in a mood, but I figure will figure it out eventually.

    • Kate M

      Ugg I feel for you. I honestly thought childcare was the most stressful part of having the baby. Not an area you can compromise or just let it go.

  • AGCourtney

    I love this post. In contrast to all the “your life is over!” I got when I was pregnant, I’ve found that becoming a mother was such a positive thing for me – in addition to feeling so comfortable in my role as a mom, I also found that I developed so much more confidence and assertiveness that carried over to all areas of my life. And I have loved watching her personality unfold, discovering all the fun little traits that make her, her. :) She, too, loves to do “woga”.

    I wish the parenting literature wasn’t so driven by fear – I get that it’s effective marketing, but honestly, it’s just so detrimental for so many people. You really have to consciously check out of that message to be at peace. And I think the kind of people who find APW, rejecting the usual messages we get about weddings, are the kind of people that can do she same for parenting, but still. It’s annoying.

    • Eh

      “I wish the parenting literature wasn’t so driven by fear” – or so black and white. My doctor suggested that we take the prenatal class that the health unit provides online. The thing that irked me the most was the messaging around breastfeeding. It outlined the pros and that was it and then gave some resources. It did not once talk about bottle feeding (actually, at one point it strongly warned against supplementing with formula). It did not talk about challenges with breast feeding (other than contact these resources). I have had a few friends who intended to breastfeed and then did not produce enough and had to supplement with formula or switch to formula.

      I read Expecting Better which at least shows the shades of grey in these decisions (and that one person might come to a different conclusion from the same information based on what is important to them or their prior experiences). I was already in my third trimester when I read it but I came to many of the same conclusions as the author which makes me feel good about the decisions I made.

      • Mary Jo TC

        Expecting Better is the most sane pregnancy advice book I found. Too bad it was published after I already had my baby. I really hope the author goes on to write about parenting!

        • Eileen
          • Eh

            That’s a great article. I’ll send it to my friends who were shamed by public health nurses when they were having problems breastfeeding.

          • Meg Keene

            I loved this article and posted the shit out of it on my personal FB page!

        • Claire

          I love this book too! It sits by my desk and I reach for it several times a week when I read something that sounds insane… Seriously brilliant book – the author is great on Twitter too… https://twitter.com/profemilyoster

        • Great resource! I’ve never heard of this book before.

      • The thing that pissed me off was that everything said that breastfeeding would only hurt for two weeks or there was something wrong. Nope, two months was more accurate for me and three of my friends. So. Lies.

        • Meg Keene

          I could be wrong, but I *think* when it hurts there are latch issues and often a (not awful, see below) lactation consultant can help you fix it, so you don’t have to deal with the pain? We were told going in by an awesome (non hospital, super experienced) lactation consultant that it if it hurt beyond the first thirty seconds of each latch we should come in RIGHT AWAY, because no one should have to live with that. (For all the other issues I had I never had latch issues, so it never hurt in the slightest beyond those 30 seconds, which I think is, in theory, how it’s supposed to work.)

          Anyway! I don’t know if that’s actually true, but I’m always in the camp of encouraging women to get lots of help if it lets you get out of pain! Our society isn’t set up to help mothers very well, or to encourage them to ask for lots of help. And breastfeeding is so hard if you don’t have an experienced army on your side.

          • She didn’t have a tongue tie. She didn’t have a latch issue. It was just that it hurt for a couple of minutes at first and then, my nipples were SO sensitive that it seemed like it hurt all of the time, especially for feeding every two hours. We’re fine now. Still breastfeeding. I made it through. I won’t say I love it though. Nope, not at all. But it’s free instead of formula. And honestly, I’m afraid of the mess and trouble with real food. But I guess transitions are hard no matter what.

          • The freeness and my complete stubbornness are what get me through the first two months or so of breastfeeding. And then the laziness kicks in and I start to wonder if I can’t just breastfeed till they can fix their own bowl of cereal.

          • Right? I have to use a high chair and THINK of what to feed her.

          • Mary Jo TC

            That was my experience too. They would look at me and tell me the latch was good, and I’d say, “but it still hurts!” and there seemed to be nothing they could do at that point. It took 3 months for me to breastfeed without any pain at all. I still don’t know why, but I think it was extreme nipple sensitivity on my part too. After that, it became easy and we nursed for a total of 14 months. I’m glad I didn’t give up, but damn, it was hard.

      • Meg Keene

        I know, I know, it’s SO NUTS.

        Look super short version of a story: I had a baby who was rushed to NICU after he was born, which resulted in him being given formula by default for 24 hours. (I mean, we had bigger worries in that moment, clearly.) Then I had a 10 pound baby who was screaming and hungry and my milk hadn’t come in and, we finally overruled the lactation consultants (who were beyond AWFUL to us about it), and supplemented. We ended up using SNS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supplemental_nursing_system, but a google image search will really explain it), for a week till everything came together. However, in the meantime, David was buying formula at the drug store to sneak it into the hospital because the nurses were forced to keep formula under lock and key, and the lactation consultants were making me cry every few hours and… IT WAS SOME BULLSHIT.

        In the end, by the way: I had extreme oversupply and an easy nursing relationship for TWO PLUS YEARS. A year plus past the point I had any intention of nursing.

        So the hardline fear based stuff is just so unhelpful.

        And this time we’ve bought formula to pack for the hospital, in case we need it, to avoid the drama ;)

        • I’m convinced the lactation consultants are trying to torture us.

          • Meg Keene

            The good ones are SO GOOD, the bad ones are SO BAD.

          • Maybe that’s it. I don’t think I ever saw a really good one. Or if I did, it was too early on.

        • Eh

          My friend had a baby in the NICU for a week. When the nurse came to talk to her about feeding preferences she said she wanted to breastfeed so they provided her with a pump. Then the nurse asked if she was ok with supplementing with formula because what was most important was getting her daughter fed and not if it was breast milk or formula. This was the opposite message she got when her son was born two years earlier. The nurses were shoving breast feeding down her throat and her son wasn’t gaining weight because she wasn’t producing enough.

          I have generally heard horrible stories about the L&D nurses and the public health nurses. But many of my friends have positive stories about lactation consultants so I will be definitely asking for my friends suggests of who to call.

          • Meg Keene

            We had WONDERFUL L&D nurses. We actually had a wonderful out of hospital lactation consultant. Just the in hospital ones were terrible (and I’ve heard the same thing from many friends, so I don’t know what gives).

            Anyway, we had all that in a single 24 hours. In NICU they were like, “let’s get this kid fed.” Upstairs, totally different story. It was nutso.

        • We used a SNS the first week with our daughter, but we had awesome lactation consultants who provided it and the formula and told us it would just be training wheels for a few days till we got the hang of it and her jaundice was under control.

          I had a computer teacher in 7th grade who hated kids and computers. Seems like there are some lactation consultants who hate moms and babies.

          • Meg Keene

            Totally. I don’t understand why. Because the bad ones are the meanest people in the hospital, and you can tell EVERYONE knows it.

      • Agreed! There was so much emphasis about breastfeeding but when our little one wasn’t getting colostrum from me in the hospital and had gone long enough trying, I requested formula. I was surprised that it had to be requested formally and approved by the doctor, and in turn our discharge doctor was surprised that I wasn’t all emotional about having to supplement with formula because it was just more important that ze eat. Well, yes, because there is no value judgement in my world about breastfeeding or not – only whether or not you actually FEED your kid. (hint: I am pro-feeding the baby.)

        We didn’t love our first lactation consultant but the second one who was much more flexible and helpful was great and didn’t piss off the baby. So YMMV there too.

  • Kats

    Thanks for this Meg! I’m also at 37 weeks, though this is our first. Finding a lot of help from your refreshingly sane perspective as I wade through the OMG-my-life-as-I-know-it-is-changing and the But-I-like-my-life-OMG isms that have been part of this pregnancy. It’s really helpful to have your thoughts on the balance. And hell yeah to hot pink. Or in our case, hipster bands, ultrasports, and great food.

  • Claire

    Meg, your posts on motherhood constantly reassure me. They reassured me when I was trying to figure out how we might ever have a family as two self-employed people; they reassured me in the terror of the early days (we got knocked up unexpectedly fast, and the adjustment to what it would practically mean – as well as all the identity stuff – was hard). And they reassure me now that I am 26 weeks pregnant, maternity leave creeping up fast and with all the changes becoming real.

    I found APW when I was planning our wedding, but it grows around a marriage just as well. No one else is writing like this – thank you Meg and the team, very sincerely.

    (Meg – a book of essays? ‘A Practical Parenthood’? I know you’ve just finished a book and are about to have a baby, so, no rush… ;) but I would totally buy this.)

    • I still think “a Practical Parenthood” in some form or another would be amazing. I know you’ve said you don’t want to write about parenthood all the time, Meg, but I do think there is a market for it. Me included.

    • JDrives

      I would buy the sh*t out of that book.

  • StevenPortland

    Meg: As always I love reading your posts. When we were in the midst of having our second kid (via surrogacy) for some reason I was highly stressed about it. So much so that I actually talked to a therapist about it a few times. Looking back, it sounds crazy. In my humble experience, having the second child is so much easier than the first time around. However, being a 24×7 referee for two boys who constantly wrestle and push each other’s buttons is a new challenge. Best wishes for you in these final few weeks leading up to the birth and then for the weeks of adjusting to having a family of 4 instead of just 3!

    • Meg Keene

      Good to hear!!!!!

  • Kate M

    This is great, I am two weeks away from maternity leave with my second, and I felt all of this so much. So much of what I felt was reactionary as well, “I am not going to be a different person, I am not going to loose my friends, I am going to be a hip mom”. But having a baby for me was very much like falling in love with my husband. He introduced me to new things, and new people, and as we combined our lives, I didn’t loose me, I gained more. The same is true of the baby, I have grown as a person, I am a better person knowing that I am responsible for this little life and how it grows. The one thing I have lost is time to waste, I have to prioritize how I spend it, and many of the unimportant things have finally let go because there isn’t enough space for them. I am proud of the person that I am. I am not perfect, but having a kid raised the bar for me in how I live my life and what I really want our life to look like.

  • Shotgun Shirley

    Over here on my pump break, dying of cute!

  • Grace from England

    Meg, thank you for writing about your family from such a sane perspective. It’s always so reflective. We will be trying to conceive 6 weeks after our wedding and it’s coming around so fast, I’ve already started my folic acid. We’re only 25 and culturally we wouldn’t be expected to be having babies for 5-10 more years, but biology has dealt me a shitty hand and for the sake of my health it’s now or never. Your posts about early motherhood have always reassured me that I’ll be the same Grace, just with an added baby, but I can’t shake the fears about our social life. Most of our friends are single, years away from considering marriage, and us getting married is already making us feel a little out of touch with them. I worry that for some people a baby would seem exciting at first and then just boring. I know this is natural and we’ll maintain some friendships and lose others and that’s ok. I worry that the baby groups and birthing classes will be full of either couples younger than us who we can’t relate to our couples much older than us who we can’t relate to. I don’t see too many 26 year olds with babies around, they seem to be either 21 or 35. I know there are no answers and that we have to just take the leap, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a little terrified, without even getting into the medical nightmare this could turn out to be.

    • Meg Keene

      It’s… complicated!! In general, I’m so grateful to our friends without kids, because they are the ones who have time to babysit, and bring us food, and throw us baby showers… and sometimes just hang out on the weekend aimlessly. That said, once we got past the baby novelty stage, we definitely lost some friends without kids. We’re slowly slowly picking up some friends with kids, and all in all I’d say our social circle is probably chiller than it was a few years ago, honestly?

      BUT. The year plus between say, his first birthday and 2.5 (now-ish), has been a lot of social navigation, and that’s never easy. Of course, there is no avoiding it in life, but it’s tough when you’re in it.

      And I relate as well, even though I’m 10 years older. Over here I’m a young parent, and that’s hard to navigate. It slowly works out, but… it can be complicated. At the end of the day though, you just have to do what’s right for you. On hard days I remind myself I’ll have all our babies out and sleeping through the night (and getting up and watching cartoons on their own) before most of our friends have their first. So while it’s hard now, in a few years I’ll be dropping off casseroles and wishing them luck during their long nights ;)

    • MABie

      In my group, most of us are either not yet married or recently married, and we’re 30-33. A close friend in the group had kids when she was about your age. She also moved to New Zealand with said kids a couple of years ago. As far as I can tell, the people who didn’t make an effort to talk and hang out with her beforehand continued not making an effort to talk and hang out, and for the rest of us, the fact that she has kids hasn’t made that much of a difference. We DO different things with her (ie, we visit her at her house, and we don’t go out to restaurants at night), but I don’t think my relationship with her is substantially different in any way. I love her kids, and I’m glad they’re a part of the picture. So take heart!! I am sure your friends will love your kids and want to hang out with them!

    • i have a similar timeline — i’ve just graduated, married, and due to some family medical history we’re trying to conceive asap. trying to communicate “i want to have kids soon” to my husband was as intimidating as trying to bring up marriage when we were pre-engaged: just like how apw helped me tackle pre-engagement, reading meg’s posts about motherhood helped me find the language to say “i’m ready for kids, but that doesn’t mean i’m ready to give up who i am and just be a mom. wanting kids doesn’t mean that i want them above all else that makes up my life.”

      i’m 30, but considered very young in a circle where most of my friends are not married yet, and in a field where most people don’t have kids until 35+. i can relate to the fear about these life changes distancing me from my friends (although some friendships inevitably fade with age). i’m also super scared about what people will think of me should i actually get pregnant “so young/ so early on in my career.” i keep reminding myself that i’d rather be able to get pregnant than not, than deal with the issues that could come up if we decided to wait, but doing something that no one else your age is doing is totally scary.

    • Lauren

      If all goes according to plan, we’ll start trying shortly after I turn 26. We have a couple friends who also had babies in their mid-twenties. I know this doesn’t help you in any practical way, but I just wanted to say hi and that there are more of us on a similar timeline out there :)

    • Molly Kopuru

      I’m 26, been married for just over a year, and we’re planning to start trying in about a year. Where I’m from (deep south) this is considered a little late to be even getting started, but most people I know my age where we live now aren’t even married yet.

      Really, it’s ok to me because this is what we want. I don’t want to wait just for the sake of waiting, ya know?

  • Have a good, restful break before the birth, Meg! <3
    Thank you for writing this (and everything else, but all of these parenting/marriage posts are so helpful to me)!
    I actually had a nightmare last night that I was pregnant again. My babe is just 6 months old today and I'm not interested in having a second. I'm definitely not over the "trauma" of the first birth.
    Is it too far that I think it's offensive the way that people ask "when are you going to have a second?" And yet, for the first, it's all about how "you just don't know what you're getting into!"

    We're not allowed to have just one. But I guess once we've already jumped off the cliff into the "horrible abyss" that is parenthood, we have to just keep going.
    Thank you for grounding the parenthood discussion as something that can be folded into our lives not outside of our identities.
    I know that parenthood has changed me, but I'm pretty sure it has just made me more certain of who I am now. Once all the time to ponder a lot of the "what-ifs" is stripped away, I finally have time to just be me. I don't know if that is good or bad for others – friends, family, etc. – but here I am. Sleeping too little, drinking too much coffee, but hair freshly highlighted blue. My desktop is riddled with baby photos, but I don't share unless someone asks. Like me or don't, I don't have time to ponder it anymore. I only care about my husband and babe and getting by. Maybe I'll get a chance to make dinner again someday.
    (Honestly, I think our friends care more about my husband's extreme job transition than our having a baby).

    • Eh

      Re: odd dreams – during this pregnancy I have rarely had baby dreams (one odd dream about breastfeeding where my baby was named Sam) but recently I have had tons of dreams about weddings. Not just my wedding but about other peoples weddings. The other night I had a dream I was horribly late for my sister’s wedding (she got married last summer). I arrived and I wasn’t even in my bridesmaids dress and I was holding everything up. Hormones, lack of sleep and maybe too little caffeine are really messing with me.

      • ugh. dreams. The second I am allowed to sleep long enough to dream, the dreams torture me. I haven’t had a really restful night’s sleep since… well, let’s not speculate.

  • And have a great birth and maternity leave too! We’ll miss you! <3<3<3

  • Becky

    My hubby and I got married last summer. I’m now four months pregnant with our first. I so needed this today!

  • Our kids totally all make sense here in our family, even though they are each so different. We need each of their energies in our home, we just didn’t know it until they arrived. Although my mental state could definitely use a whole lot less spit-up. But it will pass. Good thing newborns are cute because they don’t have a whole lot else going for them.

    • Meg Keene

      Ha. Truth.

  • Gina

    We had our first child 3 years ago via a sperm donor and my wife carrying. This time around we are adopting and we were matched and our baby is due in 4 months. My wife and I have gotten all the above questions plus a whole bunch of lesbian related ones(yes I am a mother. end of story) And breastfeeding, my wife was practically shamed into it by L/D nurses and the pediatrician(we switched) even though every time ended in tears(mamas and baby). We started supplementing at 3 weeks old when he started losing weight and 7 weeks later after my wife fought a nasty round of lactation mastitis, he was 100% formula fed and is perfectly healthy today.

  • Legatosaurus

    Is it strange that as a 26 year old single woman who does
    not want kids, has never had a maternal inclination in her life, and gets angry
    when people tell me I’ll ‘change my mind’, I’m constantly fascinated by APW’s
    posts on children?

    I’m in Australia so maybe the cultural expectations are
    different, but I also grew up in a fairly insular homeschooled environment
    where the people I grew up with were homeschooling for religious reasons (and
    despite being Christians, we weren’t). I also saw my mother dedicate herself so
    completely to raising us children that when we grew up, she lost herself for
    years. So when I was sixteen I all but ran away from the deeply ingrained
    expectation (from every person outside my family) that I would get married to
    one of the nice Christian boys I grew up with and be popping out babies by 20. Now
    I’m in a society that tells me I shouldn’t even be considering marriage until
    35.

    As a consequence of my childhood I developed a huge
    anti-children, anti-marriage, anti-relationship stance that I knew was warped
    but had to hold on to because I was terrified of winding up married with kids
    and no career or dreams outside of them, resenting the hell out of everything
    and hating my children. Having children and serving my husband was seen as the
    whole purpose of being female and me defying that meant I was essentially
    worthless. So now, any idea of having kids to me is one big Negative. Having
    children means losing all hope of my own life, identity or career. In my head
    having children is essentially my own personal death. How sad is that!

    But it makes me happy to see other people choosing children
    and being happy about it, and above all not losing an identity, but expanding
    it. These articles give me at least some hope that maybe before I’m forty and
    without hope of having children, I can find some way to think about it in a way
    that doesn’t involve blind panic or fury, and to see children (and marriage) as
    a positive part of life. And not just because it’s Expected Of Me! So thanks
    Meg. I really appreciate your very down-to-earth, honest articles.

  • Bsquillo

    “Maybe pink or purple hair, like Maddie.”

    BLESS, this is SO CUTE!!!

  • Chrissy

    Ah. As a sleep deprived momma in the trenches of transitioning-to-the-crib today this was my chicken soup. Best of luck with your delivery and the transition to life with 2 kiddos!

  • MDBethann

    As the mother of a 6-month old, all I can say is LOVE!!
    Thank you for this piece and I hope things go easy for you the last few weeks of your pregnancy and once baby #2 arrives!
    Best wishes to your growing family!