It happened during the ninth month of my first pregnancy. I was going
through a department store check-out lane where a teenage girl was ringing
up my purchases. She looked shyly at my burgeoning belly with an expression
that could only be described as reverent.
With eyes full of dreams of future motherhood she asked, “Is pregnancy
really as bad as everyone says?”
Without the slightest guilt, I replied, “No. It’s worse.”
When my husband and I announced the birth of our blessed expectation
some months prior, along with endless congratulations, I received the good
news of the many wonderful changes I could expect.
"You’ll positively glow.”
“Your hair and nails will look fabulous.”
“You’ll feel absolutely beautiful.”
According to family and friends, as a gestating woman, I would feel
nothing short of a precious vessel, glowing with health and radiance given
only to those experiencing the miracle of growing a child.
About a week later, wearing the pallor of death, I was running away
from the smell of my husband’s lunchtime tuna fish sandwich knowing I’d
never been so violently ill my entire life.
Although it’s rumored there are actually women who sail through pregnancy
untouched by any ills or discomfort, I was not one of them. If I’d ever
experienced a pregnancy glow, I’m certain I could only have been radioactive.
I was told to expect a little morning sickness. I didn’t anticipate
24/7 progesterone poisoning, body aches, or never ending fatigue. And in
all the happy tales of pregnancy recounted to me, I'm certain I'd have
remembered hearing if pure, unadulterated misery were mentioned as a symptom
Sitting in my obstetrician’s office near the end of the first trimester,
she asked how I was feeling. “Sick.”
“Good.” She replied.
Seeing my defeated look, she offered a small respite. “You’ll start
to feel better after week 12 or 13.”
I crossed the days off my calendar waiting for magical week 13. It came
and went. My never ending nausea did not. I was sick, tired, and sick of
I'd been told how sharing a child together would make my marital relationship
more intimate. I, on the other hand, hated my husband. No matter he and
I had joyfully consented to make this child together, or that he worried
and did the best he could to make me feel more comfortable. Somewhere in
the back of my mind, as I watched him lie peacefully asleep at night while
I was awake fending off nausea, all I could think was, “this is your fault.”
And so it went for the entire duration of nine months. I knew beyond
any shadow of a doubt, if I ever survived this go-round on the pregnancy
rollercoaster, there would be no more children in my future, ever. Motherhood
just wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.
The Grand Debut
Jacob Lyle arrived in early fall that year, bearing 10 perfect fingers
and toes, a head full of brown hair and big blue eyes. He was bruised and
battered from birth, yet, to my eyes, perfection unlike the world had ever
Suddenly, my entire life made sense. At 23-years old, I wasn’t yet sure
what I wanted to be when I grew up, or what my future held outside of being
a wife to my husband. With the arrival of Jacob, I knew exactly why I was
here—to be the mother of this beautiful child. Having Jacob filled my life
with a sense of awe and wonder I had never known. I was a mother, and that
While I had expected sleepless nights with my newborn, what I hadn’t
expected was how much I would enjoy them. I gladly gave up sleep to have
the chance just to hold my tiny son in my arms and look at his sweet face.
I expected life to change. I never expected the very foundations of
my world to be rocked. It came as a total shock that the simple act of
becoming a mother—wasn’t simple.
Previous to motherhood, tragedy in the world was sad. After the birth
of my son, it was heart-wrenching. No longer could I watch a movie or read
a news report depicting harm to a child without emotion. Every child became
my child. What if it were Jacob who was sick? What if it were Jacob who
Issues I’d previously given no thought suddenly became of substantial
importance. Was there truly a difference between breastfeeding and formula
feeding? Should we circumcise? If I vaccinated my child, he could have
a serious adverse reaction. If I chose not to vaccinate, he could become
I became an information addict and read every book on childcare I could
get my hands on and spent endless hours researching my concerns and second
guessing my decisions. The rest of my waking hours were spent staring at
Jacob as he slept, assuring myself he was still breathing and would only
continue to do so thorough my conscious willing of it. Fortunately, he
survived my new mother paranoia and came out relatively unscathed-- or
at least, I will assume so until I’m presented with a bill for therapy.
I had gone into motherhood with the words of many fostering my belief
I’d have a baby, but life would eventually go back to normal again by the
magical six-week check-up (at which point I'd also have lost all my baby
weight). What I didn’t know when I gave birth was normal was gone forever,
along with any peace of mind, my figure, and any hope of a good night’s
sleep, but that I’d never trade a moment of my new life to have it back
Motherhood, I’ve come to find, is a journey rather than a destination.
And while we may endeavor to share experiences with a new mom-to-be, the
truths of motherhood remain personal and hers alone to find. The only certainty
is the journey is well worth traveling.
I only wish I could talk to that teenager one more time.
About The Author
Barbara Eastom Bates is the author of the upcoming release, "Basic Training
for Brides-to-Be," and editor-in-chief of Operation Military Spouse, http://www.operationmilitaryspouse.com.