The following essay is an excerpt from the upcoming book, Expecting Jewish, written by Marion Haberman.
Who Am I Now That I'm A Mom?
The hardest moment for me after my son was born happened the second day after we had come home from the hospital. Everything was just so hard. Just getting up to pee was a struggle. Nothing was how I imagined new mom bliss to be. My house was the opposite of the Pinterest ideal I had spent months scrolling through; there was no gorgeous nursery for me to take photos of in my floral robe with a fresh blowout.
Instead, there were boxes everywhere and I was in too much pain to get out of bed, let alone get a blowout. My husband and I were sitting at the dinner table and eating deli carryout that our family had brought over. I remember it so well because we ate only deli sliced turkey, rye bread, kettle cooked chips and salad that his grandma had brought over that entire week; honestly, it was pretty good. But it wasn’t my normal cooking and the house and everything in it just seemed so different already. My dogs were with a dog sitter, there were baby swings and diapers all over the place, and it just all felt so strange.
I missed my life, my body, my health. That was really the hardest moment and it was just the beginning, because when you give birth everything changes in an instant. You have nine months to prepare for something you can’t prepare for, for an experience you have little control over, and for a new family member you’ve invited in but have no idea what the heck they will be like. It’s really incomparable to any other life experience.
This was just a mini moment of baby blues for me and I very thankfully didn’t suffer postpartum depression as so many women do; but it was the profound shift that was so emotional and shocking to me. I wanted to be a mom. I wanted nothing more, but it was still hard to make peace with the fact that motherhood wasn’t going to be on my terms just yet—everything was for this little baby and his needs. I breastfed him and pumped every 2 hours in those first 10 days. Which meant feeding for a half hour, resting for a half hour, pumping for a half hour and resting again for a half hour. It was honestly insane. But I fought for it, for my baby, for the motherhood I wanted. In that process every other part of my identity disappeared.
But they came back. The dogs, the ability to cook my own meals, the feeling that it was all going to be OK. Slowly but surely they all returned and with them so did my sense of who I was in all of this. The newborn days are a time warp and a twilight zone, but they’re not forever. I learned to fine tune my identity and that I wasn’t just a mom (even though those early days felt that way), but it took time to figure it all out again.
There’s an ancient Jewish story that perfectly characterizes the feeling of being a new mom. The story is about a king—well not just a king—the king, the wise King Solomon. One day he asked his servant to bring him a special ring, a ring with a magical power. He described the ring in this way: when a happy person wears it he becomes sad, and when a sad person wears it he becomes happy. His faithful servant Benaiah answered him, “If it exists your majesty, I will find it for you.” Benaiah and his soldiers searched far and wide and he feared they would come up empty-handed.
They found the most expensive and most beautiful rings with sparkling jewels from across the world, but not the magic ring. Benaiah asked a simple silversmith if he knew of the magic ring and where it could be found. To Benaiah’s surprise the silversmith presented it to him, a simple ring, but when he read the words inscribed in it he understood that he had found what the king asked of him. When Benaiah returned to the king and presented the ring to him, legend has it he cried. The great men and women in the king’s court watched in silence, what could make this great king cry? He read to them what was written within: Gam Zeh Ya’avor—This Too Shall Pass.
I held tightly to this mantra during the longest nights and most exhausting days of new motherhood. I always laughed to myself and thought, I won’t be holding him in my arms and singing him lullabies when he goes off to college, and I’m sure I’ll wish I had held him just a bit longer, that I had just one more night to gently pull my fingers through his soft hair and look down at his little baby face. So when his cries woke me at three in the morning and my eyes literally hurt from exhaustion begging to be closed, I thought, “this too shall pass,” and found great comfort in it. Millions of women before me and after me have survived this, and I can, too.
I also learned to ask for help, which I hate doing! In my mind I wanted to excel at motherhood and this identity ideal meant I tried to do it all and all by myself. The real moms I interviewed for this book shared that they too had learnt this lesson the hard way. There’s no award for breastfeeding and there’s no prize for never resorting to Sesame Street when it’s 5:00 pm and you just need to get dinner on the table; or better yet, sit on the toilet for 5 minutes, or even— miracle of miracles—have an actual shower. Don’t let trying to be the “perfect” mom stop you from being a happy and healthy person.
About the Author
Marion Haberman is the writer and content creator for the most popular ‘Mommy YouTube’ channel focused on being a Jewish mom. With over 4 million total views on her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLife channel and Instagram, @MyJewishMommyLife, Marion shares her experiences as a mother focused on living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Her award winning social media platform is full of lifestyle inspiration, Jewish family home ideas and conscious parenting advice. Marion’s first book, a non-fiction guide to Judaism and pregnancy titled Expecting Jewish! is currently available for preorder.
April 6, 2021