The Life of Bon: Your Experience Is Not My Experience

Monday, September 22, 2014

Your Experience Is Not My Experience

One of the biggest surprises about having a baby is how much I... well....liked it.

Isn't that weird that I didn't expect to like it?  At least not at first.  I thought it would be so hard, I thought I would never sleep, I thought I would hate my husband and never leave the house.  Before I had June I had built up in my head the most depressing and miserable view of motherhood.  Is it any surprise I was reluctant to start a family?  Who wants to sign up for depression and misery?

I didn't expect to like motherhood because of the experiences I had heard from so many other people.  I assumed every difficulty they experienced would also be a difficulty I would experience.

This hasn't only happened with motherhood.  It happened when I got married.  My expectations for marriage were totally eschew.  I listened to everybody else's experiences and assumed mine would be the same. Some things were much better than people had told me, other things were harder. Greg and I are both stubborn people and when we argued and fought our first year of marriage I thought we were headed straight for divorce.  I compared my experiences to the others' experiences and assumed erroneously that because nobody else's marriage seemed to be like ours, that ours was the one that wasn't doing it right.  It took me a few years to realize that if my marriage isn't like everybody else's it's okay.

It also happened when I decided to go into teaching.  My experiences weren't what others' experiences were at all.  I remember when I was a sophomore in college I told a friend that I was going into teaching.  She had started teaching the year before, and by Christmas she had quit.  She told me it was the hardest and most underpaid job in the country- not even close to worth it.  She warned me of how awful kids were these days, how you get no respect, how she worked 65 hours a week.  She about dang near convinced me to quit right then and there.  Now, after five years of teaching I can confidently say that her experiences are not my experiences.  I've never worked close to 65 hours a week, I get nights, weekends, and summers off, and I get to hang out with young, energetic people every day.  I love it and count my lucky stars that she didn't convince me right then and there to throw in the towel.

I share this all because I think there may be some danger in our constantly sharing our life stories.  Mostly, I think it is good- I love the friendship and camaraderie that comes from a pursuit such as blogging.  I think as a whole the human race thrives off of sharing experiences.  I often read posts and think, "Yes!  I understand!  I relate completely to this!"

But.  I also think it's okay if we don't relate.  There is no one universal life experience.  When we tell our stories, I think we must be careful to emphasize that this is our experiences, and others may have totally different experiences.  There is danger in the constant comparison of stories- marriage wasn't as easy for me as it was for others.  Is there something wrong with me?  I like teaching much more than my friend.  What if she had convinced me to quit?  Would I have ever gotten pregnant if I continued to listen to the many difficult experiences of motherhood?  I almost feel like every story shared, every blog post written should come with a huge disclaimer at the bottom:  THIS WAS MY EXPERIENCE.  MY EXPERIENCE IS NOT YOUR EXPERIENCE.

All of these ideas started swirling around in my head last week after I read this post on motherhood.  It is entitled New Motherhood is Hard Enough: Say No to Visitors.  The title is negative and bossy.  In one sentence it manages to tell new and expectant mothers that 1) motherhood sucks and 2) don't let anyone visit you.  (For the record, I LOVED having visitors the first weeks after June's birth.  It made me feel very loved and cared for and like many people wanted to share in the joy of June's birth with me.)  I wouldn't have minded the article so much if the author had merely explained why motherhood was hard for her, but instead she acts as if this is and will be the experience for every new mother.  There is no other way.  She opens the post by stating: 

Until I had my son, it had never occurred to me that the first days, weeks, and months of being new parents would be sheer hell. I mean it. I don't envy any of you who are currently trying make it through the first two months of parenthood. It's difficult. Don't believe anyone who says otherwise. They're lying. It's beyond difficult. 

I respect and sympathize with the author's experiences- because of issues breastfeeding it does sound like it was an extremely difficult couple of months.  But I don't think it's fair that she asserts that because the experience was "sheer hell" for her, it will be for everyone else too.  I can say confidently and truthfully that her experience is not my experience.

The past two months of my life have not been beyond difficult.  They have not been sheer hell.  Not every baby has trouble breastfeeding and not ever baby has colic.  Not every baby cries inconsolably for hours.  Not every woman has to pump every two hours to keep her milk supply up.  I would even dare to say that these are exceptions to motherhood, not the rule.

These thoughts have been weighing heavy on my mind for a few days because I know a lot of people who are pregnant or who are thinking of becoming pregnant. (Elisabeth! April! Danica!)  When they ask me how motherhood is, I see the absolute relief in their eyes when I tell them how much I love it.  It's like they brace themselves for the bad and are surprised when I am so positive about the experience.  I don't know why we hear so many of the bad experiences and so few of the good experiences, but I do have a couple of theories.  

1) I think people enjoy sharing their horror stories.  Maybe it's a point of pride for them to some extent to show what they have endured.  Maybe they are seeking sympathy or assurance or love.  "I was up with my child for four hours last night.  You don't know how tired I am.  He would not stop crying!"  or "I haven't showered for days.  I don't remember what it feels like to get dressed before noon."  I think people share these things innocently enough, seeking attention and love and perhaps much needed help, but they don't realize how negative it sounds or how much it can impact those people who haven't experienced their experiences yet.

2)  I think in general we tend to share negative experiences over positive experiences.  Our brains react stronger to negative emotions, so I think this plays into it.  I also think there may be a certain amount of guilt associated with positive experiences.  Maybe I shouldn't share how good my baby is because it will sound like I'm bragging?  Maybe people with difficult babies will think that I am rubbing it in their faces?  Last week June slept through the night four times.  The other three nights she woke up around 4:00 am, ate, and went right back to bed.  When she eats I pull her into bed with me and I pretty much sleep through the whole feeding.  It is usually a pretty easy process.  I don't lose that much sleep at night- it certainly isn't the up four or fives times in the night that I was expecting.  The first night she slept through the night I wanted to shout it from the mountain tops, share it all over social media, call my friends and tell them the good news.  But I worried that people would be bugged by me.  How dare I share that a baby can be easy and fun and that someone who gave birth nine weeks ago can still be getting a good night's rest?  I haven't even earned motherhood if it's that easy for me!

And so, for these reasons, I didn't share it.  I didn't tell anyone besides my mom that June had slept through the night.

But then I started thinking about it.  What about my cousins and friends who are expecting babies?  What about my best friend who had an extremely difficult first baby and now assumes all future babies will be as difficult?  Don't they deserve to hear some of the good experiences?  It isn't guaranteed to be their future experience, but they at least deserve that those good experiences are possible.

And so, I share my experience, braggy parts and all:
- June eats passionately and heartily every three to four hours.  She latches great and takes from a bottle when I need to pump.
- Sometimes she gets fussy at night- usually between 7 and 9 pm.
- In the mornings and afternoons she usually takes big, long naps- between two and three hours.  I am able to get lots of stuff while she sleeps- blogging, cleaning the house, and even sometimes a nap for myself.
- It is absolutely amazing to watch Greg be a dad and I feel like our relationship is stronger than ever as we both ooo and ahhhh over our baby together.
- Greg and I still get out and do lots of activities- we are not at all stuck at home. If anything, having a baby makes us more inclined to get out.  We go on walks, go to the park, go to the fair, go camping.
- At its very worst, I was getting up in the night twice to feed June.  At its best, she sleeps from 9pm until 5am and I sleep right along with her- eight or nine hours of solid sleep.
- June goes everywhere with me- she's my little right hand man who helps me do errands, takes the dog for a walk with me, and even supervises from the swing while I make dinner.  It's fun having a companion for everything.  
- Every other day I go to work and she stays in the daycare.  I do miss her, but am so thankful to be able to continue teaching and I cherish my relationships with students and other teachers.  I still get plenty of adult interaction.
- June is almost always happy, and is a very easy baby.  She likes to be held, but doesn't demand it except for at night when putting pressure on her tummy helps her to calm down and fall asleep.  She does get gassy at night and I have gone almost completely off caffeine to help with the fussy evenings.  It is much easier now and I'm now the not-so-proud drinker of caffeine free diet coke.
- She loves baths and showers and could sit in the warm water all day.
- Every time she gets in the car or the stroller, she falls asleep.
-  I love to share June with other people and think it is very sweet when friends and family want to hold her.  She goes to anyone and stares right at them with her big googly eyes, and I swear she could make any child hater absolutely baby hungry.
- Aside from the first two weeks of June's life when I was recovering from the C section, I have never gone the day without showering or getting dressed.
- Having June has been the most amazing experience of my life- her presence enhances every part of my life.  Everything is more fun with June, and I am absolutely amazed by how much joy I get from being her mom.  I wish every person in the world could experience what this is like.

That is my experience.


  1. thank you for this and sharing your experience! i just wrote a post last week about how i felt like my 'biological clock' was broken because i'm really not getting that 'feeeeeeeling' of wanting to have a baby right now and i think a lot of it is because of how "hard" and "unbearable" it is often made out to be.

    june is the cutest and so happy to hear that you and your husband feel closer! i bet it is certainly amazing to see him be a father and i bet he feels the same towards you!

    thank you for the positive spin on things and sharing your experience with it all.

  2. Love it! I'm with you....the rewards far outweigh the challenges.

  3. This is beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your positive experiences!

  4. This is the most beautiful story and has encouraged me to become more positive about giving birth and experiencing those first few months with my baby! When I eventually get there of course ;) Thanks for this Bonnie!

  5. Thank you for sharing! At 29, I'm still intimidated at the idea of having children because of all the horror stories. It's nice to know there are good experiences out there! What a sweet girl you have!

  6. I didn't have the same experience with either of my kids. I was tired with both, but I wouldn't refer to it has terrible.

  7. This was SUCH a breath of fresh air. I agree that people do bond over the hard times, but there is something to be said about how intimidating everything can get by only hearing the negative. Thank you for the honesty and please continue to tell your readers how amazing your experience as a mother is.

  8. I absolutely love this! I totally agree with what you are saying, you just can't predict what something will be like for you based on someone else's experience! I think you're spot on with why people are more quick to share the negative rather than the positive.

  9. I really needed to read this today - thank you. I'm a month away from my due date and basically feel exactly as you say here. there's so much negativity that gets thrown out there that it can be tough to remember that everyone is different (and also not to feel guilty about it, which is what often happens to me!). Keep up the great writing!

  10. I was just talking to my husband about this the other day. If I had known how much *fun* parenthood could be, I would have started a family waaaay sooner. Having said that, I'm really thankful for all the cool experiences I had before motherhood, and God's timing is always good. We have a 15 month old who has been a great sleeper since we brought her home from the hospital, has always eaten like a champ, and who is laid back, smiley, friendly, and hilarious. Thanks for sharing the positive! June is adorable :)

  11. Love the positive message! I'm on the fence about starting a family for many reasons. It's nice to hear that it's not sheer hell all the time. :)

  12. Hi! I stumbled across your blog a few months ago and I've never commented before. I really do appreciate your positivity here, but I have to say I'm one of the weird ones who also appreciate when people talk about their difficulties. I just had my first baby 3 months ago and it hasn't been anything like your experience. While I don't like it when people only share their negative views, things have been pretty rough so far for us and it really helps me to hear about the trials others have been through because it makes me realize I'm not alone, I'm not doing anything wrong, and my baby is normal. I would probably be scared to death because of our circumstances if no one ever talked about their struggles in new motherhood! That being said, I'm glad to hear of how great things have been for y'all because it gives me hope that I may have an experience like that with another baby!

  13. Get ready to enjoy the ride for the rest of your life!!! Having our kids was the greatest blessing for us... I also had C-Sections, but never missed a beat.. there was too much fun and LIFE to be enjoyed. I really think it is what you make of it.. our first baby needed a pacifier, but I let people talk me out of giving him one.. I didn't do that with our second baby, and she slept through the night at 9 weeks... both were potty-trained at two years. Sure we all have rough patches, when they are sick, etc.. tweenage years had some struggles.... but I think if you love and serve God, work hard and love life that your life story doesn't have to be full of negatives!! I would much rather enjoy my life, than whine about being tired... June is adorable!!! :)

  14. Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!!! I have had a "piece of cake" pregnancy and I can't talk about it because anyone who's been pregnant before tells me how horrible everything is to come. I've nannied and baby-sat for years and have a pretty realistic expectation of what is to come once the baby arrives, but for some reason women have to urge to tell me it's going to be hell. Why do we have to set women up to be afraid?!

  15. Thanks for sharing this! I'm kind of terrified to have kids one day because I keep on hearing all the bad stuff. It's great to hear the good stuff!

  16. Loved this today :) It's making me excited to discover what my own experience will be in not too long. It's always good to remember that things that, though they may terrify you, can turn out to be even better than you could have imagined! Thanks, Bon!

  17. Thank you for sharing optimism!! I don't understand why we so often not only dwell on the negative, but share the negative. Can't we help others see the good? Thank you, thank you for this post! June is adorable!! Also, random, but I want to see the blouse you are wearing in the picture!

  18. I really loved reading this, you are a beautiful new mom! I also think though, it can go both ways. I had/have a difficult baby who had colic for 5 months, still at 18 months is a really poor sleeper and hates his car seat, stroller, high chair and carrier haha. I love him to death still, but it has been hard. Of course I love being a mom and most days are so fun with him. In the beginning though, I felt really alone, like everyone I knew had these perfect angel babies and it wasn't like I had imagined, I wasn't having this blissful experience that I read and thought I would. I was the mom who held a crying baby all day long, so sleep deprived and no time for showers or cooking, resentful that my husband was gone all day. I felt like I was doing something wrong because of all the uber positive stuff I read and saw. Talking about it and blogging about it for me wasn't a badge of honor, I wasn't trying to be negative about motherhood and certainly not trying to scare expectant moms but it was therapeutic to write that this was hard and I was struggling a bit but pushing through, giving the babe all the love I've got. If I wasn't able to talk to friends and family about my hard time as a new mom I would have felt really isolated. It was nice to read about people who were going through the same thing (negative as it may be) it helped me feel I was not alone! So I guess my point is you are right my experience is not your experience and vice versa but it's ok to talk about both. Don't hide it if you are having the best time and don't hide it If you are having a hard time because it's different for everyone and we can help each other out either way!

  19. I LOVE THIS POST. I'm nowhere close to being a mom, so I can't "relate" to a lot of your experiences at all. And yet I still find them exciting, fascinating, and valuable. Comparison is dangerous! But I think sharing our stories is an important part of the human experience. Good AND bad. Thank you for always making an effort to do that.

  20. I appreciate this because I'm one of those people without children who thinks the idea of having a child sounds miserable from people writing about their bad experiences all the time. So thank you for your positive thoughts, but I still think having a kid might ruin my life.

  21. I always made it a point to tell my pregnant friends how easy my labor was (no epidural needed!) because people only tend to share their horror story births - I wanted them to know it can be a great experience and doesn't have to be traumatic like many women make their birth stories sound.

  22. I try my hardest to not share my birth story because I know it was the exception (in a not good way). I don't want to scare my friends who are expecting, thinking they will have a similar experience when they could have a wonderful experience! Same with the first couple months of pregnancy. I think my hard labor get me a little off track. And then I got shingles, which really didn't help. Recovering from those two things made the first two months REALLY hard for me. But obviously that is the exception. I really hope your experience is more the rule of how the first couple of months should go. That's what I would like to experience with my second baby.

    For me, I feel better when I read about other mother's who experienced difficulty in the first couple of months of motherhood. It made me feel like there wasn't something wrong with me. I felt guilty at first that I didn't know exactly what my son needed. Or that he all but starved the first week of his life waiting for my milk to come in. Or that I looked awful for the first month before I was swollen and didn't feel like looking in the mirror. The bad stories helped me move past feeling guilty.

    But even with my experience, I would still tell anyone and everyone that there is nothing better than motherhood. Even when I had shingles and didn't get a lot of sleep, COMPLETELY worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  23. You are right! You have always been one of the best about being positive about having children!

  24. I TOTALLY agree it can go both ways and I hope that my post didn't come off as we should hide the negative. I just think we need to realize that that person's experience doesn't necessarily need to be our experience. As I mentioned, it was hard for me when I got married because no one mentioned arguing with their spouse the first year or how they learned to compromise or come to agreements so I thought there was something wrong with it. I don't think we should hide the negative, but I don't think we should hide the positive either!

  25. Now I'm really curious to hear your birth story! And I definitely see the value in sharing negative experiences as it is often a way to help others- I just don't think that those should be the only experiences we share.

  26. That is awesome! I try to do the same- especially with my child-less friends- to emphasize how great it is to be amom.

  27. Haha! This comment is hilarious. It won't ruin your life! It makes it more fun!

  28. I don't think you are a weird one for wanting to hear about people's difficulties. I totally agree with that- I just don't think we should be afraid to share the positive too. I felt very alone when I first got married and was struggling and didn't know who to talk to. I thought we were headed for divorce because no one ever talked about the challenges of merging two lives. I am so grateful for people who talking honestly and openly to me about their challenges. I am also grateful for people who were so positive about marriage so I could see where mine could grow too. I just think we should be anxious to share both positive and negative experiences, not just negative ones. And I think we have to realize that just because one person experiences something does not mean we will too.

  29. First of all: Yay! Disqus.

    Second: This is great. I have also built up a terrifying idea of what being a mother is like, and although I'm not having kids in the next few years, it's really nice to know that it isn't the same for everyone.

    Third: This is so true for every part of life. I was a teaching for 6 years and I.WAS.MISERABLE. (partially bc i taught spanish in the inner city and no one can give a rat's behinddd about language education these days). I had wanted to go to law school for the longest time but let everyone convince me it was the #omgworstideaever. I finally realized I would tell people not go into teaching, but I have many friends who are happy, incredibly fulfilled teachers, and surely there have to be happy, incredibly fulfilled lawyers. So I finally did what my heart always told me I wanted to do and I have never been happier!!

  30. Oh my gosh - I LOVED this - I am a mom of a 16 year old and 15 year old (15 months apart) My labor, newborn and baby experiences were wonderful! Not all were "easy" or without challenge but it was MY experience and I embraced everyone and took each thing as a learning experience not that somethign horrible was happening or being done to me.
    You expressed and phrased it perfectly - we all have our own unqiue experiences and no matter what we need to be incouraging and supportive and not be afraid or feel bad when our experiences seem "better" than someone elses.
    My labor was very long and hard with my first born and he was the sweetest BEST newborn. So I was thankful everyday for how hard it was to bring such a delightful wonderful child into the world - he is still that way today - such a wonderful blessing!
    And then my 2nd one child came along - my labor with her was a BREEZE and she also was a really good baby.
    I would do it all again - have 2 so close toegether and be a momma of little tiny humans again!
    I really really enjoyed ready this - thanks Bon!!