I was talking to a friend awhile back about the early days and weeks of Clark’s life; how we managed and what my emotions were like. She had a baby about the same age and was sharing her side of things. It struck me that both of us agreed that we perhaps were not the type of mom we envisioned ourselves being. Isn’t it true that we all have this picture in our head of what motherhood looks like? And what we ourselves will be like as a mom? I’m curious if others have found that the mom they are is who they envisioned themselves being.
I have never been one to be overly comfortable around babies and kids. I easily felt awkward and am certain the words “can I hold your baby?!” never came out of my mouth. I always knew I wanted kids, but couldn’t quite picture myself in the role of mom or envision what that life stage would look like. And yet here I am with two kids at home feeling at ease and settled in the role of mom. But things certainly haven’t gone as I would have guessed, and I’m different than I thought I would have been.
It’s certainly been a long road to get here, and it’s impossible to say what I would be like as a mom had I gotten to keep my first baby. Miscarriage, infertility, infant loss, and heck, just 9 years of life in general changes a person. And even without all that, the mom you become once you’re in the trenches is perhaps different than the one you plan on being before you jump in.
In my conversation with my friend I was sharing how I thought some of my emotions and feelings after having Isaac were specific to that circumstance. My prior pregnancies had ended in miscarriage and later with Ava being born too early and only living a short time. Then with Isaac my pregnancy wasn’t easy so I battled fear and dealt with bed rest and all sorts of other issues. So when I finally had a healthy, full term baby in my arms I didn’t want to let him go. The mother-bear instincts were ridiculously strong, I had to make myself share him with our friends and family, and I wanted a lot of space and time for Joel and I to figure out life with him. Turns out all of that wasn’t due only to the circumstances, but that’s just how I am after I have a baby, as I felt the same way with Clark. For some reason I didn’t expect to feel all of that so strongly, but I certainly did.
There are plenty of examples, but one I am often reminded of is the all-consuming topic of baby sleep and schedules. While pregnant I read my share of baby books and observed friend’s parenting strategies and things seemed pretty straight forward to me. If you put your baby on a schedule and followed the book’s guidelines, you’d have a happy baby that slept through the night in no time. I have friends that might stand by that statement as that is how it went for them, but I can’t even write it without chuckling because it’s so far off what has happened for me.
I tried hard to follow all the “rules” right from the beginning. I read and reread parts of books anytime I struggled, which was right from the beginning. With so many different things. My baby wasn’t nursing long enough, and not at the “correct” times, he wasn’t sleeping when he was supposed to, or sleeping as long as he was supposed to, etc, etc. I remember calling the lactation consultant about some nursing issues we were having and talked about my schedule struggles too – “the book says this, but I can only get this to work…” Her response has stuck with me and I am reminded of it often as I figure out what is best for my kids. She said “Is what you’re doing working for you and your baby?” Well…yes. Yes, it was working quite fine actually. “Then that’s all that matters” she said. And she was right. There are a myriad of baby books out there – all with various strategies and enough differing opinions to make your head swirl. Which proves that there isn’t one right way. You just have to find the way that fits you, your family and your baby. For me that most certainly wasn’t the way I thought it would be, but once I started doing what worked for us and stopped feeling like that way was the “wrong” way, then I was way less stressed about it.
In the end we’re all trying to do what’s best for our kids and family, and that’s going to look a million different ways. This motherhood gig is hard. And most likely isn’t turning out quite like we expected, at least it isn’t for me. But it’s a worthy endeavor that I’m thankful for, and is certainly shaping me at every step of the way.
So on this Mother’s Day let’s celebrate the mom’s we are, the mom’s we’re becoming, and that we get to experience the blessing of raising kids!