Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Motherhood

Sam Knight

I started reading Harry Potter as a 26 year old woman with two children. I know, I was incredibly late to the party, but I had always assumed it just wasn’t my type. I’ve never really been one for Fantasy and most of the books I read are historical fiction or biographies. I never really stray too far from those two categories. Or at least I didn’t use to.

My nephew, Kail, is an amazing 11 year old reader. It makes me so happy to see him being excited about reading because I was the same way as a kid. I love being able to connect over a love of books with anyone, but it’s somehow exciting with this kid. I’ve gotten him on to some of my favorite books that I enjoyed when I was his age, but never in a million years did I think he would introduce me to a series that I would love with every ounce of my being. I get that it sounds weird to talk so passionately about books. Really, I do. Especially books that would technically be labeled children’s stories. But, I’ve come to realize that the people who find it weird haven’t read Harry Potter.

Kail started reading the series in September as part of his Advanced Reading for school. They were worth a lot of points so he decided that, being the overachiever that he is, he was going to read all of the books and have the top Advanced Reading score for his class. Every time I saw or spoke to him, I would ask how the books were coming along. He was finishing them left and right and anytime we would talk about it he just seemed to light up. Come Halloween he decided to be Harry himself. We spoke a little while I did his scar makeup and it just seemed so cute that he was so into it.

Now, November 2015 was not kind to me. I had developed a serious case of Post-Partum Depression and this is the point where I was at my worst. My then 5 year old was in school and it was just me and the new baby a majority of the day (and night). It was a weird feeling that I never experienced so strongly when my daughter was a baby. I felt like a shell of myself. Samantha was no longer. There was just Robot Mom who woke up every morning after an extremely long night of broken sleep then had to somehow manage to keep two separate people alive. Everything in between waking and going to sleep was the same. Over and over. Every single day. Wash-Rinse-Repeat. The monotony of my life was completely agonizing. I would cry any moment I got to myself. I felt guilty, because I wanted this second baby more than anything. How dare I be bored?!? I spent a lot of time feeling incredibly lonely. None of my close friends knew what I was going through and I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so I kept them at a distance. I felt like I should have been more in love with life now than ever. I had two perfectly amazing little mini-me’s and they loved me. What was there so sad about?

To top things off, my husband and I were going through a weird patch that I think a lot of couples go through when a new tiny person joins the household. We didn’t have REAL things to talk about. Nothing exciting happened to me today. He woke up, I fed him. He pooped, I changed him. He cried, so I held him. It was exactly the same as yesterday, obviously. I would get jealous that my husband had stories of what had happened at work. It made me crazy that my mind was 100% in mother mode. I wasn’t a person anymore. Just Robot Mom.

Kail and I were hanging out one day when he told me that they were opening a Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood. He was “stoked” and was rattling off names of places that they were going to have in the park, and then told me that I needed to read the books already so that we could go together. I figured it couldn’t hurt to try to read the first one. Of course, if I hated it, I could always cheat and watch the movies. My mom had given me the first book as a gift when I was in Jr. High, but I could never get into it. I had very low expectations for myself actually finishing Sorcerer’s Stone.

The thing about Harry Potter is that it is SO well written that you actually feel like you are a part of it. You are IN the story. These characters are your friends, your enemies, your teachers and families. I read the first book in about two days. Any time I was bored because the baby was sleeping, I would read. When we were sitting around waiting for my daughter to get out of school, I would read. Every late night when I couldn’t sleep because the baby only wanted to sleep on me, he would sleep on me while I read.

These stories came to me in a time when I most needed it. Robot Mom hardly thought, let alone felt real human emotions. Then suddenly, it was like I had these friends and these people that I cared about. I was happy when Harry played Quidditch. I was furious when Ron started dating Lavender. I fell in love with Dobby. I ugly cried on way more than a few occasions. I felt this odd similarity between my depression and the Dementors. They literally take all of your happiness away. You feel like you’ll never be happy again. Harry beat them. So could I.

Most importantly, I oddly started feeling more like myself again. I didn’t feel resentful toward my husband for getting to be around grown up people at work all day. I didn’t dread the nights when my baby wanted to party instead of sleep. I didn’t feel like nothing was happening to me anymore. I finished the complete Harry Potter series in one month. I was so sad when it was over, but it was still a wonderful change to actually FEEL something.

To say that it helped me is a huge understatement. It brought me back to life. I stopped crying every time I was alone. I no longer felt like a shell of myself. And in some ways I feel like it helped me to become a better mom in that I was able to fully enjoy my children again. It brought back from my lowest point and for that I will always speak passionately (and obsessively) about my love for these “books”. Harry Potter saved me from Post-Partum Depression because obviously, “Help will always be given at Hogwarts to those who ask for it.”

imageSamantha Knight is a freelance make-up artist, wife, and mother of two. She is passionate about art, politics, and cats.  Her latest struggle is deciding which career path to pursue once her days of being a stay at home mother come to an end. She enjoys music, theme parks (it’s an obsession), and being that person who quotes every line from every movie therefore ruining the movie for everyone else. She can be reached at SHKnight920@gmail.com

The Hardest Thing

SARAH CARTER

One of the biggest disappointments for me about having my first child was that I felt totally emotionally unprepared for it. I felt like the first new mom in history, despite knowing and loving mothers my entire life and watching my friends become mothers and being surrounded by mothers as they congratulated me and threw me baby showers and squealed as they bought my unborn child tiny clothes. After having my son, I spent months of my life rocking back and forth in a glider, cradling a baby I could not put down, wondering why no one had talked to me about new motherhood in any real sense ever.

The answer is, of course, that no one talks about it. Especially not in 2016, when everything about our lives as mothers is styled and “curated” and somehow – insanely – always white and shot through expensive camera lenses in great lighting and pinned on Pinterest. Motherhood today is a thing to crave, to achieve, to perfect, and to broadcast, but god forbid you want to have a conversation about what it actually means.

In a sense, there’s really no preparing a woman for how radically her life changes when she has a baby, because no baby brother or niece or pet dog or week-long baby bootcamp can prepare a person for the visceral feeling of love and terror that comes with being responsible for a human being for the rest of your life, the full year(s) of broken sleep, and the inability to do literally anything without strategizing. Plus, every woman’s experience will be different, so what’s been a struggle for me might not be a struggle for you. However, the simple truth is that we all struggle. Every mother. And it is so deeply important to talk about it.

So, I’m talking about it.

I could not have asked for a better baby. We are so fortunate. My son is sweet and loving and happy and adorable and the practicalities of taking care of him have never been difficult. He breastfed like a champ from birth, he never had colic, he has never cried for hours on end, he’s only stayed up all night twice. He is, however, very attached to me, so taking care of him has meant not taking care of me, in even the most basic ways. I’ve found myself practicing “biological parenting,” meaning I’ve exclusively breastfed my son (who has always refused bottles) and we bedshare (because he has also always refused to sleep in a separate space). I’ve been doing it all as nature intended for nearly ten months, and I am currently losing my shit.

For me, the hardest thing about becoming a mother has been the complete loss of self, and watching as my husband, my partner who decided to have this baby with me and who gets to revel in all the cute stuff, isn’t limited at all.

Things I can’t do when I want to – ever:

  1. Eat
  2. Sleep
  3. Go to the bathroom
  4. Bathe

I feel like a completely dried out husk of the person I was before my son was born. I don’t have the time to eat enough or drink enough water, I don’t sleep, my hair refuses to wash clean, I’m lucky if I can get a comb through it after a shower before my son’s patience runs out, and I have a lot of weird skin issues from the lack of sleep/perma-dehydration/stress, which has been a huge challenge to my self confidence and self worth.

I’m not sure what I expected of motherhood, but it wasn’t being nearly ten months postpartum and: more than ten pounds underweight and looking sick and skeletal, still nursing every 2-3 hours around the clock, not sleeping for longer than 4 consecutive hours in nearly a year, and sometimes getting up every 45 minutes all night long. Being a mom has been physically demanding in so many more ways than I could have possibly imagined that some days, I can’t believe who is looking back at me in the mirror. I am sick, I am tired, I am way too thin, and I am too sick and tired and busy to do anything about it.

In addition to changing my appearance, the very real physical burden of motherhood has made me resent my husband, who is wonderful and obsessed with us and desperate to help and occasionally so painfully clueless that it makes me want to cry. (And sometimes I do.) My husband, who did not birth the baby and who is not breastfeeding him and who works away during the week and SLEEPS THROUGH THE NIGHT, sometimes complains that he is tired because the baby woke him up or that his arms hurt because he held the baby for five minutes. Intellectually, I know he’s entitled to having his own feelings. Emotionally, I want to rip his face off, because I’m lucky to get three consecutive hours of sleep every night, I am quite literally drained by our nursing son all day long, and I’ve held him in my arms for hours every day of his life, while I work or attempt to clean or do laundry or grocery shop.

More broadly, the unfairness of the work of Mom in comparison to the work of Dad (in a biological sense) frustrates me and makes me angry. It makes me angry for all the mothers who have ever lived. I can’t believe that women have been doing this work for centuries, only to be beaten down, made to feel inferior, and categorized as weak or precious. I can’t believe new mothers still have so few outlets for discussing feeling so tired and sad and upset and that we’re made to feel like there must be something wrong with us for struggling.

And that is why I feel like we need The New Motherhood. At the very least, I needed it. I needed a place I could go to talk to other moms who could understand me and help lift me up. I needed people to tell me what I was feeling was a normal response to the very real, very overwhelming physical and mental stress new moms experience without placing judgment on the choices I was making. I needed to be seen as a person and not just as a parent.

If you do too, hopefully this can be your place.

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Sarah Carter is a PhD student, blogger, wife, expat, and new mom crazy person. She’s currently focused on getting The New Motherhood off the ground (while writing up her first PhD paper and taking care of her baby), but if you’re into snooping and old news, check the archives over at Whiny Baby