Family Dynamics,  This is Me

This New Person

I don’t feel like a mother yet.

Some people feel like they’re born to be mothers; I was never one of those people. My desire for children was more complicated than that.

We felt the baby’s first kicks at week eighteen. It was pretty surreal, to feel that faint flutter of life for the first time. After a large meal consisting of burgers and milkshake, what felt like delicate bubbles popping began to tickle my full middle. My husband, his hand serendipitously on my belly for an affectionate pat, felt it first, even before I did. This doesn’t surprise me.

“I just felt it kick!” he exclaimed.

“No, you didn’t, that’s gas…oh wait! Oh! Now it’s kicking!”

The baby’s been rolling around and bopping my bladder, my abdomen, and whatever else is in there for about five weeks now, growing gradually stronger with each week. He gets especially active after I’ve eaten something sugary, or after coffee. He loves it when I drink coffee, and this makes me smile every time. I can tell that he sits at the right side, as my growing midsection swells more there, his tiny feet kicking downward and to the left, exploring his new continent that is me.

We discovered the baby’s sex at week nineteen, that unmistakable little protrusion telling me that I would be the mother to a little boy. My eyes widened at the screen, the little arrow the OB/GYN pointed at the pertinent anatomy. All I could say was, “Wow.”

“Congratulations! It’s a boy!” she chirped.


Did I know how to do this? What did I know about boys? What did I know about raising them to be men? I think I was in shock for at least two days, wandering around like a lost tourist in a foreign country.

Most of the time, if I’m being honest, being pregnant has been a certifiable nightmare. The initial nausea that prompted me to eat every hour or so, causing unanticipated first trimester weight gain; the insomnia that caused me to awaken at four a.m. on the dot for months, unable to fall back asleep; the perpetual cold I keep catching like a round of bad luck at the craps table. Walking, once my favorite pastime, has now become an ordeal of struggling to catch my breath and limping along as my tendons groan in sharp protest. Rolling over in bed? Forget it. Once I’m in a position, I’m stuck there until I haul myself out of it, wincing, at dawn. I always thought I’d be one of those super-healthy pregnant women who gained the minimum amount of weight, exercising as regularly as ever throughout. Ha. Like learning how to be a sober alcoholic, this new phase of life is all about letting go of expectations.

Dealing with the physicality of being pregnant is, I’m sure, part of the reason the reality of this pregnancy hasn’t sunk in yet. Who can focus on imminent delight when they cough so hard they accidently pee their pants? When their clothes no longer fit? When simple, everyday activities like going to work feel Herculean?

Right after my friend Sean died was when I felt my first moment of love for my baby. The previous three months were wrapped in a shroud of nausea and wondering if the embryo would stay put. While I wept for Sean inopportunely on the freeway on the way to work, I felt overpowered by a monumental urge to protect my new life, to bring him into the world Sean was leaving. Though I haven’t told anyone this, that’s when I knew I was having a boy—when I opened the floodgates of grief for the spirit of my friend departing the world. How’s that for some serious woo-shit?

But most of the time, I feel confused.

Who am I going to be when he arrives?

When will I find time to still be myself, as self-contained as I am?

What will happen to my career, my dreams, to which I’ve been devoted for more than a third of my life?

Am I going to be miserable in my new role being a tiny human’s caretaker?

Am I going to love it so much I’ll abandon myself?

Will I regret the decision to become a mother?

What will this do to my marriage, my friendships?

Will I still recognize myself?

I’m pretty positive many impending mothers feel this way, but they certainly don’t talk about it on message boards, which are basically just forums for joy. There’s no room there for uncertainty.

Therefore, when people ask me, “Are you excited?” I always answer, “Yes,” because I’m learning in casual discussions of motherhood there is no other answer. Nuance you save for your spouse, close friends and the whirling Charybdis in your mind.

Stay in there for a few more months, little guy. Though I don’t feel like a mother yet, I already want to meet you. I’m not certain about myself, but I’m certain about you.





  • Lisa

    Congrats! If someone had warned me how hard motherhood was going to be I’d have skipped it. We don’t tell you because the truth is, no matter how hard it gets, it can all be fixed with just one cute grin. Life is beautiful. Great piece too!

  • Cindy Reed

    Oh, all those questions – yes, nobody talks about them on the message boards, and nobody talks about them even after you become a mother because questioning isn’t allowed. Embrace the doubt, fully examining all the stages of parenting that lie ahead. Just like you’ve done in this beautiful line: “Like learning how to be a sober alcoholic, this new phase of life is all about letting go of expectation.” xoxo

    • Natalie DeYoung

      It’s such a funny thing, isn’t it? The lack of room in our world for doubts on this subject? We’re allowed to doubt everything else. It strikes me as so inhuman.
      And thank you. 🙂

  • Samantha Merel

    Oh these questions. I had them to, and do, every day. Since being pregnant and having my own baby boy I have always been mystified that the hardest and most unexpected parts of pregnancy and new-motherhood are hardly discussed at all except in whispers, as if admitting that the whole experience is rarely filled with sunshine and rainbows and the singing of the angels is somehow disloyal to this new person that we have brought into the world. It’s not disloyal at all. This is tough stuff, and it’s good and right to talk about it. And for what it’s worth, it took me a long, long time to feel like a mother. And the first time I saw my baby, my reaction was not overwhelming love, it was more “who is this little person who wasn’t here and then all of a sudden was?” If you ever need someone to talk to, please talk to me. I’ve just been where you are. I understand.

    • Natalie DeYoung

      Thank you, Sam. Knowing women like you who have paved the way before me makes it bearable. Otherwise I’m not sure how I’d take the perpetual expectation of rainbows and angels from others.
      And I’m sure I’ll take you up on that offer.

  • Lance

    When I met you at blogher, the first thing I thought was, she’s not only liberal kind but also motherly kind. I’m glad you’re having a boy. There are too many girls in my life, right now.

    So many hugs, fistbumps and congrats.

  • Laissez Faire

    You’ll be tired, crazy, unsure, weepy, overjoyed, tired, dazed, confused, confounded, confuzzled, tired, happy, sad, frightened, a protective tiger, tired, amazed, surprised, give love, and be melted by drools, smiles, and covered in baby vomit. You will complain and cry today, and tomorrow you’ll be trying to hold on to the moments as they seem to slip through your fingers. It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. Did I mention tired? 🙂

    Oh, uh…remember this words: where there’s poop there’s baby.

  • meg

    I’m so glad you wrote this, Natalie, for many reasons — but most of all, so that you can come back and read it again a year from now, 10 years, 20 years. You write with such authenticity — I can imagine each step of the way with you. And you allow yourself to be vulnerable, which is brave and true. You’re gonna be a great mom. <3

  • Pam Moore

    I relate to this SOOOO much!!! I was very ambivalent during my pregnancy with my first child. I was so fed up by the time I had her with everyone around me going “Aren’t you excited!?” It was too complicated to say “no I’m terrified” so I’d just say yes. I also was never hell bent on being a mom since I was a little girl. Honestly, I think one of the reasons I was so happy during that early post-partum time with my first was that I’d set the bar so low, I was pleasantly surprised. (the 2nd was a different story!).

  • Ellen

    I didn’t want to know if I was having a girl or boy with my first because I was afraid. Coming from a big family of five girls and only one boy, I felt like I had no clue as to how to raise a boy. My uncertainty about how to take care of another person was bad enough but if I had a girl, I felt like I at least had some experience. I figured that by the time the baby was born I would just be so relieved to have a healthy baby that I wouldn’t care. But I admit I breathed a bit easier when the day came and our daughter was born. The second time around I wanted to know and found out we were expecting a boy. I can’t say that I know “how to raise a boy” even now that he’s 10 but I can say that I love that boy more than I thought possible. I am sure you will know what I mean in time. Congratulations!
    Ellen recently posted…These Are DaysMy Profile

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