Perspectives: A Lovely Life
Associate Editor Lauren Davidson discovers children can be loud and may eat Play Doh, but they're also pretty fun.
I can still feel the sense of immense dread, guilt and terror when it was my turn to share my thoughts at mom’s group that night. This gathering of mothers encouraged each other to express whatever was on your mind, whatever issues had arisen in your journey of motherhood, whatever wisdom you were hoping to glean from the collective experience of the group. It was the first time I had ventured out solo with my 1-month-old baby, who was squirming in my arms.
I took a deep breath, unsure if I should say the words out loud.
“Sometimes,” I said, staring at the little being in my arms, “I wonder why we even did this.”
Why did we do this? My husband and I had a perfectly lovely life before having a baby. A life filled with museum trips and Pirates or Penguins games. We would see new movies … gasp … in the movie theater. We would go on spontaneous dates, planned dates — every weekend and so many weeknights. We traveled to New York City every spring and Baltimore Harbor every fall.
Now, it felt as though I had no life. I didn’t fit into my clothes, even more than a month after giving birth. I was off work on maternity leave and didn’t know what to do with myself at home all day, every day. The baby was only sleeping in two-hour increments each night — which meant I was only sleeping in two-hour increments each night. I was exhausted and confused and suffering from yet-undiagnosed postpartum depression.
Wasn’t this supposed to be a blissful time of bonding, where an adorable, cooing baby was my reward for nine horrible, nausea-filled months of pregnancy? But all he did was cry, and all I did was miss my old life.
I kept my eyes on my baby, not willing to face what I was sure was judgment in the eyes of the other women.
What I heard next broke through the fog that had built up around me.
“None of us have ever said that before, right ladies?” the moderator joked. And, to my surprise, the other women nodded and laughed.
It was the first time someone else acknowledged what I desperately needed someone else to acknowledge. Motherhood is HARD.
On that night, I found a community of women with no mommy shaming and no judgment. By attending a meeting and then joining a private Facebook group, which numbers more than 1,000 members, you agree to keep things respectful. We share anecdotes of sleep training, difficulty with partners, struggles with the terrible twos, threes, fours. We bring meals and support moms dealing with serious illnesses. We are there to provide advice anytime day or night. We share our triumphs and assure the newer moms something this group taught me: It gets better.
Even if it’s difficult now, there will come a time when your kids play together with no fights, or you get an unprompted “I love you” from those little beings. Times when you’ll understand: This is why we decided to alter our perfectly lovely lives.
I have a lot of friends and colleagues who don’t want children, who see no reason to completely upheave the life they’ve established for themselves. And while I’ve become one of those parents — whose Instagram is pretty much solely kid pictures, who has (temporarily) disappeared from the nightlife scene because I don’t want to miss rocking my baby to sleep — I still understand that sentiment. Kids are loud and often sticky. They draw really terrible pictures you have to pretend to like. Sometimes they tell stories that don’t make any sense. “Kids are great,” I tell my childless friends before asking them to hang on for a second while I stop my baby from eating Play-Doh.
But I forget about all of that when I drive along the North Shore and my 4-year-old points out the window and yells in glee: “I can see the incline coming out of its house!” When I get to marvel at the fireworks at Light Up Night with a little boy seeing them for the first time. When I blow bubbles in the back yard with my baby who’s just learning to talk; he yells out, whoayay! When my husband and I take the kids to Page Dairy Mart or Gus & Yia Yia’s, carrying on simple traditions so many Pittsburgh parents have shared before us.
When we do these things, I don’t find myself missing my old life. I feel the magic of sharing my favorite things with two little boys who are quickly becoming two of my favorite people. And it’s all pretty lovely now, too.
Lauren Davidson started her career at The Pitt News at the University of Pittsburgh before working at newspapers and magazines in the Pittsburgh region and Connecticut; she’s won numerous awards for her reporting and writing. She’s worked at Pittsburgh Magazine as an associate editor since 2013. She lives in Ambridge, just a little farther away from Pittsburgh than she’d like, with her husband, two boys and affectionate cat.