All my life I knew I would have children.
When the time came, I took birthing classes, read everything I could get my hands on, and knew just what to expect during labor and delivery. But I was totally unprepared for everything that happened after that. Sure, I had been around other people’s kids, but the operative words there were “other people’s.” Somehow I figured I would basically be the same old me, doing the same old stuff, just add a baby. Boy was I wrong. And surprised!
I was overwhelmed by the trial-by-fire method of becoming a mother. I wished I could have brought a nurse home from the hospital along with my baby, because I had no one to tell me what to do or when to do it, except a tiny tyrant who screamed until I got it right. His demands were peppered by the myriad unsolicited and often contradictory suggestions from well-meaning third parties.
“Let him cry it out.”
“Don’t feed him whenever he wants. You have to get him on a schedule!”
“Don’t give him a pacifier.”
“Don’t let him suck his thumb”
“You’re still breastfeeding?”
“You aren’t breastfeeding anymore?”
“He’s not sleeping through the night yet?”
“When I had my baby, I ___________ (fill in the blank).”
In those early months, I clung desperately to my old self – career-oriented and competent businesswoman – because I was sure about who that person was. Yet, it was so hard to keep up with my normal work schedule: there was just so much more to do on the home front. Furthermore, I was exhausted by being on call 24×7. My confidence washed in and out like the tide.
Some time later, while talking to an expectant mom about the merits of our daycare center, I caught myself pontificating about how wonderful it is to be a mom, how it’s the greatest thing you’ll ever do, blah blah blah, etc. This woman was either being polite, or she was evaluating exactly what kind of raving lunatic she was about to become, because she let me go on and on and on.
I had been in the midst of a really challenging week juggling a sick toddler who wasn’t welcome at daycare and a work deadline. Yet somehow I had conjured up feelings of wistfulness and nostalgia about pregnancy and new motherhood. I imagined myself in this woman’s shoes, in the days before my son had arrived, when the anticipation was palpable.
When I was first pregnant, I could scarcely dare to believe it was true; torn between wanting to keep the secret and wondering when it would be okay to tell everyone; and relishing all the possibilities. Was it a boy or a girl? Who would it look like? How should we choose the name?
I remembered getting up in the middle of the night after a Technicolor® dream to eat: ice cream and cold steak, Tater Tots® and candy. I was voraciously hungry, utterly exhausted, completely vibrant and alive – sometimes all at once.
My debut in maternity clothes was on a Sunday and as we walked to church, I felt as awkward and self-conscious as I did in Junior High School the first day I wore a bra. Once my pregnancy became “official,” I began to worry about everything. When am I going to hear the heartbeat? When is the baby going to move? And later, am I feeling the baby move enough? And even later, “Baby, stop moving!” or “Baby, move off my bladder!” I also worried about fatigue, the weight I was gaining, and would I be able to make it through the baby shower (never mind labor)? Is the baby “normal?” Is my life ever going to be the same? What have I done? Was I keeping my stress level low enough? Was I worrying too much?
I recalled the rushing sound like the ocean in my ears, seeing the pulse throbbing in my wrists, feeling “butterfly wings” inside my belly. As my pregnancy progressed and my transformation continued, so did the baby’s. It wasn’t long before I could feel through my own skin a knee, a shoulder, and the baby’s head. I experienced joy and amazement at the fact that I was becoming a link in the chain of life – sometimes so intense that I cried.
Then I thought about all the delightful (and sometimes less delightful) aspects of newborns: how small and wiggly and velvety and noisy they are – grunting, squeaking, squealing, and snorting in addition to crying, spitting up, and soiling their diapers just as fast as they’re changed.
Sometimes I could barely wait for naptime or bedtime so that I could take a break. Yet there were many times, especially when my son was an infant, that I wound up just watching him sleep. I’d see the whole repertoire of human expressions flit across his face, as if downloaded from a divine source.
The conversation with this mom-to-be was just what I needed after surviving months and months of “new-mom boot camp” – being stretched to the limits of patience, fatigue, and worry – and in the midst of a really challenging week as I was that day. I realized there is no “same old me” and I didn’t really miss the “same old stuff.” Now my son is my “why” – he is the reason I get up in the morning (usually earlier than I’d like) and why I do just about everything I do. He is my motivation, my inspiration, and my revelation. It is because of him that I know the true love of God.
While at first, it felt like I had stepped into someone else’s life, I no longer did a double take when my son called me “Mommy.” That’s me! I had undergone mothermorphosis.