If only my new-mom self would have received as much attention as my growing belly did, then I might have been in a better spot.
I’m not usually the kind of person who likes to be the center of attention. But from the time that I announced my pregnancy until I gave birth, I kind of was, without even really trying. And I kind of liked it.
Then my son Eli was born — and he stole the show.
You often hear that your own needs take a backseat once you become a parent. And I thought I was prepared. I knew I’d be foregoing things like regular showers or happy hour hangouts or 8-hour stretches of sleep for a while.
What I didn’t expect was that people — at least most of them, and most of the time — would be way, way more interested in my baby than in me.
And while it’s hard and embarrassing to admit, that was surprisingly hard to deal with.
I remember the first time my husband Sam and I brought Eli to visit Sam’s grandparents just a few weeks after Eli was born. We had always been close and had loved spending time together — going to the beach, eating dinner, or just hanging out on the couch and swapping stories.
But something changed when we walked into the house that day. Before we even got Eli out of his carseat, everyone immediately crowded around him, cooing and staring. And once we did take him out, he spent the rest of the time being passed from one smitten person to the next. That was the entire night in a nutshell.
(*inserts eye-rolling emoji*)
I was lucky to have family members that loved my son so much. But I was also only 3 weeks into motherhood — and a total disaster.
I was still physically and emotionally wrecked from a scary labor experience and had spent every waking hour since trying to breastfeed or stop Eli from crying uncontrollably.
I wasn’t sleeping and was barely eating.
In short, I was shell-shocked, and what I needed more than someone to aww over my baby was for someone to acknowledge the trauma I had been through — and the trauma I felt like I was still going through. Or I don’t know, just even ask how I was.
Since then, there have been a million instances where Eli has taken center stage while I’m in the background, usually doing the work that needs to be done to keep him happy, or fed, or well rested.
Like when he freaked out from overstimulation on Thanksgiving because everyone wanted to hold him, and I had to spend the rest of the holiday rocking him in a dark room to get him to calm down. Or when I had to miss half of the cocktail hour at my sister’s wedding because Eli needed to breastfeed.
I feel funny even writing this, but at the time I felt like those moments had been taken from me. And I just wanted someone to understand that — and say that it was okay to be upset about it.
Objectively the idea of giving up attention or fun experiences for the sake of your child sounds about right. He’s the baby, and moms are supposed to be selfless, right?
Of course we shift our focus — but making that adjustment wasn’t easy for me, and it sometimes left me feeling uncomfortable.
Was there something wrong with me as a parent because I sometimes wanted to share how my day was going?
One day when we were watching Eli play, a family member asked me, “What did we do before he was born?” suggesting that life without him wasn’t fun or interesting.
I wanted to say, “We hung out and talked about non-baby things, like what I’ve been up to or what you’ve been up to.” Was that weird?
Over time, things have shifted.
I’ve healed from giving birth, and life caring for a 13-month-old feels exponentially easier and more rewarding than caring for a newborn, so my need for any kind of validation has gone way, way down.
(And when I do need it, I go to my mom friends, because they always get what I’m going through.)
But more importantly, I’ve grown into my role as a mom. I love Eli more than anything, and most of the time I’m happy for him to be the main focus because he’s my main focus.
And when I do feel like talking about something else, I just change the subject.
So, new parents, if you’re feeling like the spotlight has been ripped off of you and you miss it, that’s okay.
It’s normal to miss that attention because these babies are cute and deserve the center stage.
But what people so easily forget is that our lives have changed drastically, we’re running on fumes, our body still aches from childbirth, we’d love to tell you how we’re feeling, and we just want someone to do the damn laundry.
Marygrace Taylor is a health and parenting writer, former KIWI magazine editor, and mom to Eli. Visit her at marygracetaylor.com.