Motherhood is easy, right? HA!
So I knew, before my son was born, that being a parent wouldn’t be the easiest thing I’ve done. I knew to at least expect that much. You hear it almost daily once you become pregnant: “being a parent is _____.”
I’m the type of person who prepares for everything. I graduated in the top three of my class, not because I’m exceptionally smart, because I studied. And studied. And studied. That need to be prepared has never left me. My greatest nightmares stem from me not feeling prepared for something. So you guessed it, I read a lot of books, took a lot of classes, and seeked out a lot of advice. You could never accuse me of not being mentally ready for motherhood.
Then my son was born.
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect after his birth. The hospital stay was uneventful, and the quietness of my newborn son just further proved that everything would be exactly like I had planned. As we were leaving the hospital, I remember joking, like I’m sure all new parents do, that it was insane that they were letting US leave with this baby. But it was all just a joke because I was beyond ready to go home and start the lives I had prepared for.
The second we walked into our house, my world flipped. I stand behind the fact that I felt God laughing at me, not in a mean way, but in a way as if to say that He was in control and What to Expect the First Year was not. When I look back at this moment in time, I remember it like a mushroom cloud. My perfect preconception of how things were going to go was exploding in my face. My perfect baby wouldn’t latch. He wouldn’t eat, period. The jaundice we thought was gone before leaving the hospital got worse. He had his nights and days mixed up, as all newborns do. To illustrate just how much my world was crumbling, I’ll tell you the story of how I lost it in the middle of the waiting room at the pedatrician’s office for my son’s very first appointment.
When I called to make the first appointment, the receptionist told us to be there 30 minutes early for new patient paperwork and that we couldn’t be late because the doctor is very strict about her schedule. The appointment was on our first morning after coming home from the hospital the day prior. We did the best we could to make it there 30 minutes beforehand, but thanks to a blowout as we were leaving we were only able to make it 15 minutes prior to the appointment time. That is when the receptionist made, what I interpreted at the time as a flippant remark about not having time to complete my paperwork because I wasn’t 30 minutes early. I’m not sure where her filter was that kept her from saying such things to brandstinkinnew mothers, but I know that my filter had been a casualty of that mushroom cloud explosion that I mentioned earlier. I said something along the lines of: “I guess I don’t have this mothering thing down just yet, but I’m doing my best.” But it probably came out more like: “grumble, grumble, $^&#%& (under my breath), your face.” Because sleep deprived.
So that’s the glorious story I have to share with you about how my motherhood began. This was the very moment that my conceptions of motherhood shattered. I have since gathered up the pieces and began to reassemble what I think my own motherhood looks like. When I tell my story of entering motherhood, my words are laced with regret. I didn’t have an easy time in the first few months of my son’s life. I bordered the lines of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I had fantasies of leaving. I believed I wasn’t good enough. I told my husband that I was “one and done,” and this is hard for an only child to say. I didn’t bond with my son because all I saw was that I wasn’t meeting his needs.
When in reality, I was meeting his needs and succeeding them. I just wasn’t meeting the own standards I had set for myself. I wasn’t meeting the standards of a “perfect mother.” But one thing I’ve learned a lot about since becoming a mother is grace. I show grace to my son every single day when he screams, cries, whines, or hits just to get my attention. I show grace when my husband forgets to do something that I ask of him. I [try] to show grace when someone cuts me off on the highway. My son showed me grace by taking the bottle even though I failed to breastfeed. My husband showed me grace when I kept him awake crying at night because I wasn’t following through with my rigid plans. But why couldn’t I show myself any grace?
It took 4 months and 16 days to realize that my life was going to be long and full of sorrow if I just didn’t lighten up on myself. That’s when I tossed my pre-conceived notions about how I would do things out of the window. That’s when I became happy again. I remember that day vividly because it was the first day I just enjoyed being a mom. I enjoyed my son without worrying about the pressures of doing everything according to the literature I read or what I was told.
If I have any piece of advice for new mothers it is not about “breast is best,” co-sleeping, baby-led weaning, or babywearing. It is about trusting yourself and trusting your baby. Feel free to read books and take classes if that calms your mind, but know that you cannot function as a mother if you hold yourself to the things you’ve learned before you experience motherhood. Allow yourself to be the kind of mother God intended for you to be. And always show grace.
As always with #MotherhoodMonday, read the Motherhood Misconceptions blog posts written by these wonderful women:
- Super Target grocery shopping
- Vegan blueberry muffins from scratch
- Drive-thru at Krispy Kreme