from the blog.

We Are Not Superheroes: An Open Letter

Be grateful. Don’t take it for granted. You’re one of the lucky ones.

It starts when you finally become (and stay) pregnant.

It starts shortly after you get that first positive test, when you feel that first bout of morning sickness. You shrug it off, because you know you’re lucky to be feeling so sick. You hang your head over the toilet, heaving for hours, but you don’t falter. You’re hyperaware of so many who haven’t (or can’t) experienced it themselves. As you wipe the vomit from your lips with a dish towel and eyeball the sleeve of saltines on your kitchen counter, you remind yourself: I need to own this. It’s part of pregnancy, of this wonderful amazing thing I’ve tried so hard to get for so long. It sucks, but it’s part of the experience. And this reassures me that everything is okay, right?

As you crawl towards the second trimester point, hanging on every ultrasound and Doppler heartbeat with anxiety that makes your head spin and your stomach turn, you hold your head high. This is what I’ve been fighting for all these years. You spend every day from start to finish hoping against all fucking hope that this baby won’t be taken from you, but you embrace the opportunity. At least you can get pregnant, right?

You work through the second trimester, and you’re diagnosed with symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD). You treasure the movements you’ve waited for from your little one, until they become painful…but, you grit your teeth and think, It’s okay. It’ll be worth it in the end. I am grateful for this pain. It’ll be worth it in the end. It’ll be worth it in the end. It’ll be worth it…

The third trimester rolls around, and the nausea comes back. You’re starving all the time, but can’t keep anything down, and whatever you can keep down fills your overcrowded stomach in an instant. It hurts to stand, sit, lie down, walk, be still, move. Your back aches, your feet swell to the point where it hurts to bear weight, and the carpal tunnel makes it impossible for you to write out thank-you cards to everyone who showed up to your baby shower. But still, you white-knuckle grip the window sill in the middle of the night as you’re working your way through a godawful combination of Braxton Hicks contractions, back pain, and SPD, and think—Soon, this baby will be here. Soon everything will come full circle. I’m so lucky to be able to experience this, I should be grateful.

All this, before our beautiful rainbow or unicorn babies are born and safely in our arms. All this, we bear, before we even hit the finish line of pregnancy…the starting line of parenthood. All this.

It’s not that we aren’t grateful. It’s not that we take it for granted. It’s not that we don’t realize how lucky we are for becoming pregnant, for being able to afford the infertility treatment we needed, for having viable eggs, for maintaining a successful pregnancy. We still remember what it was like to be on the other side. We still remember the way we looked at pregnant and parenting infertiles and felt that burning jealousy, that searing anger when we heard the slightest bit of a complaint.

You should be grateful, you shouldn’t take this for granted, you should consider yourself lucky.

We thought those exact words. We muttered them under our breaths. We blinked away angry, resentful tears. We had every right to feel the way we did. We couldn’t help it.

We didn’t know.

Now we do.

We’re on the other side, and those words we thought and muttered to ourselves haunt us during the harder moments. We remain all too hyperaware of what it’s like to still be stuck across that line dividing childless and parenthood. These thoughts and feelings we once thought and felt, that we know others still think and feel, weigh us down. We so desperately want to do right by them. We so desperately want to do right by the community that backed us when we were without hope, without light, without direction.

But we aren’t superheroes.

So, my darlings, this is for you…

For the parent struggling to find happiness in the presence of your new baby because your birth didn’t go according to plan—it’s okay.

For the parent unable to hold your newborn in those fussy night hours because the weight of the darkness is getting to you—it’s okay.

For the parent crying more than the baby as you struggle to recreate the latch the lactation consultant helped you achieve only hours before—it’s okay.

For the parent fighting through the haziness of the baby blues—it’s okay.

For the parent taking antidepressants and seeing a therapist for postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, wondering why the hell you just can’t be happy that you’ve finally, after all this time, got what you wanted—it’s okay.

For the parent clutching the handle of a coffee mug as your infant screams his or her way through the four-month sleep regression, wondering when the bleeding fuck things will go back to normal—it’s okay.

For the parent sitting on the floor in the hall outside the nursery, sobbing hysterically as you practice your first night of cry-it-out (CIO), wishing things were different—it’s okay.

For the parent whose tears are falling onto your baby’s soft forehead as you stare at the fistfuls of your own hair in your baby’s hand—it’s okay.

For the parent on the edge of sanity, pulling your babies off the couch and the baby gate and the coffee table and the TV stand and the bookcase and the kitchen chairs for the fiftieth time that morning—it’s okay.

For the parent desperate for some alone time, wanting to leave the room for more than a few seconds without the hysterical wails of a child too used to being close to you—it’s okay.

For the parent spending every hour away from home at work wishing you could spend more time with your little miracle—it’s okay.

For the parent cradling your toddler close as tears stream down your face because, in a moment of sheer exhaustion and frustration, you yelled at your child to stop crying every two goddamn hours, every goddamn night—it’s okay.

For the parent feeling frustrated because you haven’t nailed down the transition from breastmilk- or formula-feeding to solids, or the transition from bed- or room-sharing to crib sleeping, or the transition from in-home nanny to full-time daycare—it’s okay.

For every parent experiencing a moment of doubt, anger, resentment, frustration, exhaustion, selfishness—it’s okay. You are not a bad parent. You are doing the best you can. You are not ungrateful, you are not taking parenthood for granted, and you are completely aware of the wonder that has been bestowed upon you.

The struggles don’t make you a bad person. They don’t make you a bad person.

If anything, you’re the complete opposite. You’re a compassionate, thoughtful, and incredible parent after adoption, loss, or infertility. You understand 110% what it means to be able to care for a child of your own, and you know what others would give for the very same chance.

But we’re all human. We all have our frustrations, our doubts, our setbacks.

We are not superheroes.

crying child
© Slava via Flickr Creative Commons under this license.

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  1. Having just come out of a difficult pregnancy after IVF I can identify with a lot of the stuff you wrote. The only thing I’m asking is please, PLEASE do not advocate CIO. It’s a terribly damaging practice that will only lead to more issues and there are other ways. CIO and CC is something I feel very very strongly about. There is plenty of research showing how damaging it is for babies. If things get hard I try and remember that they are not giving me a hard time- they are having a hard time. Our babies are only babies once, so let’s enjoy them being babies with all the difficulties this brings. Baby only goes to sleep in your arms while you cuddle him/ her? Well, before you know it they will be big and not want your cuddles as much, they will not need to snuggle up to you and that ‘freedom’ to have the evening to yourself that you now crave while listening to your baby cry till they have nothing left will come. It’s just not worth it.

    1. After 18 months of two hours or less of sleep at a time while rocking her, I unashamedly did CIO with my little one. It was the best thing we ever did. She is a happier, more contented and easy going baby who no longer yawns and rubs her eyes and cries all day and I’m a better, more patient and involved parent because I’m not physically falling apart any more. I don’t know how far you are into the parenting gig or what kind of a sleeper your baby is, but don’t shame mothers who CIO. We only do it after we exhausted every other option. You don’t know until you have walked in someone else’s shoes.

      1. I have twins and we tried bedsharing for three months until my arms and back gave out and through a very long, meandering process found our way to CIO at 11 months. They were waking up every 45 minutes. No one was sleeping. Their cortisol levels were elevated from sleep deprivation more than the two nights of crying we went through for them to now sleep through the night. Best decision our family ever made for us.

      2. I’m so happy to hear CIO worked for you. While I have not, as I like to say, “reached that point myself,” I certainly harbor ZERO judgement for those who choose to do it. I’m glad both you and your daughter are happy. 🙂 <3

        1. I sincerely hope one of the other sleep methods works for you or your baby turns out to be one of those magical ones that figures out STTN on their own and you don’t need to consider CIO, but if there ever comes a point where you feel it is the right step for you, you certainly aren’t alone!

    2. Rainbows & Unicorns do not advocate any particular parenting style as we understand that there are many different ways that people approach parenting. We do not shame parents for the choices they make or the research they undertake. The things mentioned in the above post do not promote any particular methods or parenting issues, they are purely situations that parents find themselves in and are referred to as a part of the article.

      1. I’m glad you are all sleeping better! I did a fair amount of reading on CIO and found there is a lot of misinformation floating around. For one, CIO is for babies over six months, when they have learned object permanence. That is the minimum age it is recommended, not tiny babies. Also, the are studies that show high cortisol levels can affect babies brains. But the babies they used for these studies were chronically neglected and abused in dysfunctional and scary environments, not healthy babies from loving, attentive families who utilise CIO. Big difference! Every family, situation and baby is different, and different things work for them. There is no one right way. All I know is my daughter no longer wakes and cries all night and is actually happy and wants to go to bed now when it is sleep time.

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