On our anniversary this year, my husband and I went to a vasectomy consultation. I was nine months pregnant and he, being a planner, wanted to be ready sperm-free when my postpartum healing window was up. I never made it into the appointment. Instead, I sat in the car, eating chocolate and crying about the finality of it all. Hormones! Am I right?!
I couldn’t let my husband go through the procedure with Dr. Von Schnipp. I also could not 100% say that I wanted another baby. Three seemed like a lot of friggin’ kids, yet I found myself picturing something even bigger. I learned later that the doctor does not perform vasectomies until the couple is a few months postpartum to ensure that all parties are in their sound minds and can make the decision with clear heads. This made me feel better about my emotions, because other couples had been in this predicament, too.
In my hormonal stupor, I knew these ideas as certainties:
- I hate being pregnant, but by the third one, I understood why those with kids who have grown always say it is magical when I always said it is weird and gross.
- I wanted a big family to ensure that someone would take care of me when I am old. With each kid I have, my odds of having at least one of them live close to and care for me goes up.
- Since I continued to work out throughout my entire pregnancy, my body would look exactly as it did pre-pregnancy within a month of delivering. I blame my friends and acquaintances for this one- They were all so positive that I would “bounce right back”.
- The third baby would be easy because the older two would help out and the third naturally adapts to the schedule already in place. I had heard multiple accounts of the third child being “the easiest” and “go with the flow”.
By the day of delivery, my husband and I had tabled the vasectomy conversation. Labor and delivery was a breeze and I was out of the hospital the next day. By the time they came to discharge, I had showered, put on makeup and a dress, denied the home pain pill prescription, and asked if I could forgo the wheelchair so I could walk. I felt like I was the most experienced mother in the best postpartum shape of anyone that had ever been in that maternity ward.
My parents came into town to help out and meet the baby. When we got home from the hospital, all of my laundry was clean, my floors were washed, and the beds were made- My mom is a saint! I spent those first few days drinking ice water that was excellently prepared and delivered to me on my couch throne. I watched TV and fed the baby, handing him over to my helpers waiting eagerly to change his diaper.
The older two kids fetched my phone, gushed over the baby, and found his pacifier for me when I asked. I ate meals that were delivered to me by my friends and neighbors, and if they brought desserts, I ate them all. People told me I looked great and that I was amazing. It was truly such a wonderful time.
It was during this time, not long after we were home, that my husband revisited the vasectomy conversation:
“You’ve gone through birth again. Now do you remember why you hate it?”, he pushed.
“Honestly, it was not that bad!”, I cooed.
“You can honestly say you want a fourth kid?!”
“Right now, yeah I really do.”
“You’re out of your damn mind!”, he laughed (sweating and looking a little like he might throw up).
Whether it be hormones or the fact that everyone is soooo nice to me when I’m pregnant and a brand new mom, I was fully submerged in mom life and loving it. I didn’t mind waking up in the middle of the night to feed the baby and I wouldn’t even nap most days because I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t get anxious about missing fun parties and events because there was no where I would have rather been.
THIS IS WHERE IT COMES BACK TO REALITY.
The hormones continued to run a muck in my brain and body and the hours of sleep that I can never make up started adding up. The meals stopped coming and the fact that I would have to eventually stop wearing maternity pants set in. The baby hit his first growth spurt and ate, cried, and pooped through his clothes. The poop-stained laundry pile got higher and higher and didn’t go away.
My rose-colored glasses had been officially removed.
The “baby blues” and postpartum depression are one of the top concerns for new moms. Many women feel there is a stigma placed upon them when they admit to having feelings associated with these terms. Moms that have added another child to existing children feel like they should be experienced and handle everything easier than a first-time mom. When the hormonal rug is pulled out from underneath us, though, I wonder how the hell we can go through the postpartum stage without experiencing at least some of these symptoms.
The amount of work that is required to run a household and raise children is astronomical, dynamic, and tedious. Add to the physical labor the idea of Emotional Labor, and it becomes extremely overwhelming- especially running on small chunks of survival naps instead of legitimate sleep. What, really, is Emotional Labor (other than a term that frightens husbands across the globe)? Emotional Labor is the steps you take behind the scenes to ensure that an event occurs. It is the planning and orchestrating pieces for every item on your To-Do List. You don’t write them as To Do items, but they must be done in order to make anything else possible. For example, your To-Do list may read “Grocery Store”, but your Emotional Labor for that one item is:
- Clean out fridge/pantry
- Make a grocery list, including lunch foods adhering to each kid’s personal allergies as well as the school’s allergy policies
- Research the best deal for said groceries
- Feed baby
- Dress baby for weather
- Realize baby has grown out of another size of clothing
- Find the next size clothing in the closet
- Dress baby for weather again and add “baby clothes shopping” to my to do list
- Pack diaper bag
- Carry car seat into grocery store
- Feed baby bottle while walking down the grocery store isles because he has pooped through his clothes and is crying.
- Go to three different grocery stores to get the best deals
- Unload groceries and put away before baby wakes up again
- Go back to grocery store because baby brain caused me to forget a key ingredient OR I forgot to unload a perishable due to the baby screaming in my face.
Emotional Labor leaves us so tired from completing tasks that otherwise would be run-of-the-mill for most functioning adults. For a person who is not going or has not gone through this, it may be hard to understand or easy to dismiss. This makes us feel under appreciated and lonely, which typically causes displaced anger on the ones closest to us (usually a spouse).
We are exhausted from our daily demands and the difficulty having a baby brings to these tasks. We are unappreciated by our partners and struggle to restrain our hostility against them, no matter how much our regular selves know we may be judging unfairly. We feel emotional loneliness while being needed perpetually and NEVER being physically alone. We don’t fit into any of our clothes, despite the fact that we’ve forgotten to eat anything but a protein bar or three bites of the kids’ soggy nuggets since the new baby was born.
This is truly such a confusing period of life- Such a special event met by the doldrums of our personalities. How the hell did we feel like this after the first kid and decide to do more than once (Note to self: Add “schedule vasectomy” to To Do list.)?!
The positive thing to say is, “But look at this beautiful, perfect baby! It is worth all of the trouble”. I agree and so do most women, I believe. This does not change the fact that this stage SUCKS, no matter how temporary.
Be OK with the fact that some days you’re not OK. Try to laugh at how annoyed you are with your partner right now and give yourself permission to listen to Angry Girl Music (in moderation, please! This can be dangerous!). Know which friends you can go to for empathy and help, and find solace in the fact that there is a bottle of wine in your fridge (Just to be safe, add “wine” to your grocery list.).