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Musings on Motherhood
I used to assume a lot of things about becoming a parent and having a child. I figured that if you had experience with kids than the transition to having one of your own wouldn't be as difficult. In a logical sense, having experience on the how-to's is helpful but it doesn't even begin to prepare anyone for the journey of parenthood.
When I first found out I was pregnant I was flooded with all sorts of thoughts and emotions. I was excited and thrilled with the news that we were going to have a child! I was going to be a mom! And then the "oh shit!" thoughts and emotions came... "How are we going to raise a kid?!" "What if we are terrible parents?" "How are we going to do this with work, money, life, etc?" It took us the full weekend to fully embrace the reality of the situation and announce it to our families. We were totally and completely freaked out and totally and completely excited!
Pregnancy is the first step in the journey of becoming a parent. As the mom, I had to change my daily life to make sure I was eating properly, resting enough, avoiding things that all the latest books said to avoid, and ultimately surrender my body to the needs of a new life growing inside me. My husband began his journey into fatherhood by taking care of me during the difficult pregnancy and thus taking care of our child through those actions. Preparing for the birth of our child was an ongoing task during those 9 months that included finding out about parenting techniques, health choices like vaccines and circumcision, diapering choices, birthing choices, and the best and most needed baby gear to purchase, just to name a few. The pregnancy was so baby-centric that we weren't able to realize that the baby's birth was just the beginning of our own journey, our own birth as a parent.
The first few days after my baby boy's birth were a whirlwind and the reality didn't hit until our very first day home from the hospital. There was a very specific moment that remains vivid in my mind. We were in our bedroom and our baby would not stop crying. My husband and I both looked at each other and we were both terrified and filled with doubt. In the most vulnerable state, we both admitted that we didn't know how we were going to do this and that fact terrified us, because what would then happen to this baby boy that we already so desperately loved but honestly didn't think we could parent? When I think back to that day now, I compare it to our baby's birth and imagine him so warm, snug, and safe inside me, and then being squished and pushed out into a cold and bright world flailing around without the safety and comfort that he had come to know so well. There we were with our lives upside down because of this amazing baby and yet we were left flailing around without any sign of comfort, left in sheer terror and wrapped in hysterical baby cries.
Now I don't think birth is a traumatic experience. I think birth is a beautiful event that encompasses a process that may include the most vulnerable chaos you've ever experienced. I think birth can't really be prepared for until you're there, in the middle of it. I prepared myself as best as I could for birth, but I didn't fully 'get it' until I was having contractions, until I was pushing, until my baby was on my chest. I often wonder if I even get it now that I've done it. See? I think becoming a mom is a similar process. I've wondered whether I could have prepared myself better for this experience, read books, talked to other moms, searched on the internet for "everything i need to know about being a mom", could've, should've, would've. But unfortunately, I don't think the magic manual exists.
This process of motherhood has created in me a world of self doubt, of constant guilt (you thought Catholic guilt was bad, mother's guilt is 500 times worse!), of emotions so strong that you think your heart is either going to explode or stop beating. It's a world of conflicted, intense feelings, of vulnerability, of selflessness and sacrifice, of hopes and dreams and fears. I thought that because I had previous experience with kids that I would easily adjust to 'the mom thing', but it hasn't been that way. I thought things should be different, that somehow I would be happier, not struggling day to day, not having self-doubt, not feeling like I am barely holding things together. I would look around and see all these other moms and wonder how they do it, and I realized that they do it the same way I do. It's so easy to forget that I am doing it and I am doing a darn good job of being my baby boy's mama! That even though I wish my world was perfect, that I wouldn't struggle, that I wouldn't need time to adjust and grow into this role, that somehow being a mom would give me super powers, that I'm still only human, with all of my human needs and emotions and that no world is perfect. And yet, despite all the conflicting ugly stuff, I love being a mom to my little boy. My world as a mom is filled with his sweet little hands reaching up to touch my face, his laughter, his sweet little body snuggled next to me, his crazy hair, him nestled to my breast, his personality that is now shining through, his ability to do more and more each day.. it's all just amazing.