November 2014, I was nine months pregnant with my first child and ready to start a brand new chapter in life — becoming a stay-at-home mom. I was so ready to take on my new role and certain that I was going to totally rock at it. But over four years later, I have a confession — I’m still struggling to hit my stride.
I made the decision to stay home pretty quickly and easily.
My husband was wrapping up law school and preparing to begin a lucrative career. I had been working for several years in a job that I enjoyed, but I didn’t consider it a career or see myself there long-term. I started to excitedly envision myself at home with a baby, caring for him, taking him to mommy and me activities, strolling in the park, and just generally living in pure bliss with my little bundle of joy. All day, every day. I had no doubt that I was going to be great at motherhood and completely love full-time parenting.
Two weeks after leaving my job for permanent maternity leave, I went into labor. I continued to be in labor for the next 33 hours and finally, via emergency cesarean, gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby boy. He was absolutely perfect, but I quickly learned that life as a new mother was anything but. Despite my complete dedication, he absolutely refused to breastfeed. I spent the next three days trying to get an angry and hungry newborn to do something that I thought was the most natural thing in the world, but he clearly wanted no part of it. My husband and I left the hospital with that tiny, screaming baby feeling exhausted, defeated, and frankly, completely terrified.
While we did eventually get the hang of breastfeeding, the hits seemed to keep on coming.
I was trying to enjoy my sweet baby, but I felt so irritable and sad all the time. In addition to the expected tiredness, I didn’t understand why I felt so empty and lonely, particularly considering there was now a person literally attached to me nearly 24/7. My husband was completely supportive, active, and hands-on, but I felt resentful and angry towards him and almost everyone I knew.
I made every attempt to feel like a normal, happy person, and to fulfill the fantasy I had envisioned while pregnant. Story time, music, early literacy enrichment — you name it, we were there. And while we made some good memories and eventually great friends, I sometimes left feeling even more alienated and incompetent. I found myself waist-deep in the “mommy wars” and signing up for activities that my son and I weren’t even enjoying.
I was also experiencing self-doubt and questioning my worth.
Does a college graduate really need to learn about the letter A on Sesame Street (for the third time this week)? Did revolutionaries fight for women’s equality so that I can change diapers all day? And the dumbest question of all — what am I even contributing to this family, or to life general?
Fast forward to present day: I have a preschooler, a toddler, and a much different perspective. I now realize that I suffered from postpartum depression and anxiety after the birth of my first son. I should have reached out for help, but I was scared and in denial. I recognize the importance of encouraging postpartum women to speak up and get help when they feel something isn’t right. I realize that while parenthood is full of sacrifice, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still make time for yourself and continue to do things you enjoy. I stopped telling myself that complaining about the woes of staying home with toddlers all day made me ungrateful for the opportunity. I appreciate that while I may understand the merits of the letter A, my children do not, and I enjoy seeing the world through their open and eager eyes. I realize that I still have plenty of time to contribute to society, but right now, I’m dedicating my time to growing human beings, and that’s pretty darn important. I still take my younger son to enrichment programs, but only the ones we truly enjoy. Also, while there is merit in keeping the schedule full, there is also beauty in knowing that the day is ours to do what we please. Don’t get me wrong—it’s still hard, there are days that I think I should be better at this, but I’m getting better at reminding myself that I’m just a person, doing the best I can. At the end of the day, that’s what every parent needs.
About Angela Mizell
Angela is a stay-at-home mom to two amazing boys, Owen and Charlie. She moved to New Orleans in 2010 to be with her college sweetheart, Will, whom she married the following year. She is proud to call New Orleans home, and loves the unique and thriving culture here. In her (limited) free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, yoga, and visiting new places. She also serves as a volunteer on the Postpartum Support International helpline, supporting women and their families coping with perinatal mood disorders.