I’m walking down a corridor in a popular mid-town mall with a couple of my best friends when we pass an adorable baby with endless chub. Then it suddenly occurs to me- I also have one of these. I, too, am a mother. This scenario always happens when I least expect it. It’s an odd feeling, as if it only just occurred to me that I also created human life. “Someone actually let you be a mother?” is a thought that pops into my head every single time; like I needed permission to push a 10 lb. meatloaf out of my own vagina. No, there is no aptitude test for parenthood. One day you’re not a parent and the next day, well, you just are. Here is a quick synopsis of what actually happens in the process (in case you weren’t aware):
“We should start a family.”
“Okay, let’s try.”
Intercourse some more.
Some more intercourse.
Testing, 1, 2, 3.
Repeat above a few times- individual results may vary.
Baby walks out of vagina- again, individual experiences may vary.
Boom. You ARE mother. “Now must keep baby alive for rest of life.”
For those that needed reminding, you’re most welcome.
Needless to say, things move along very quickly. You go from having a dreamy idea of expanding your family with the one you’re deeply in love with, to wiping up a giant hunk of shit from your kid’s ass. Reality sure sets in then! This new reality is most vivid at 3:30 in the morning with a baby attached to your sore nipple, “What in the actual fuck were we thinking??”
My journey into motherhood has been dramatic (mostly because I made it that way). I suppose karma is also chasing me for not sharing my toys with my little sister when we were kids. So this is what she meant when she yelled at me with her fist in the air, “you will regret this!” I wanted to write about motherhood because I have found my journey to be a complex one and I know I am not the only one. I’m nearing the tail-end of my 18-YEAR maternity leave and wanted to reflect. Okay I meant ‘month’ but it certainly felt like years, save for the dreaded countdown to the last 4 weeks now!
Few things in life remind me that I am, indeed, a full-grown adult. And you’re never quite reminded of that until you start comparing insurance rates, pension-planning, thinking about your will, eyeing fluctuating home sales, and of course, putting tremendous effort into keeping a human baby alive. *Runs to crib and checks if baby is breathing.* “Phew, still alive! I am such an adult!!”
When you’re preparing to be a parent for the first time you’re completely inundated with everything from helpful resources to conflicting statistics and case studies resulting in complete information overload. It can be overwhelming to say the least. Books and movies also project one universal sketch all the time: the mother goes into a dramatic, arduous labour then at the end of the labouring, mother and father enjoy a magical time with their newborn. We tend to drum up images of mothers in white dresses with flower crowns on their heads holding a perfectly behaved, smiling cherub in their arms (always in a frickin’ meadow). It’s almost as if motherhood, itself, is romanticized. New mothers are illustrated as feeling this overwhelming sense of love and joy; like nothing they’ve ever felt before. And while for some women this is true, it is still not necessarily true for all women- at least not right away. This ideation can be problematic because anything outside of this portrayal means something’s amiss. Some women may start to wonder, ‘is there something wrong with me that I am not connecting with my baby in the same way?’ The above depiction wasn’t all that accurate or magical for me either. Although I remember feeling natural love for my baby, my first thoughts leaned more towards, “Can I get a bigger diaper, please?” and “How long exactly will this burning sensation last?” Of course there was an instant maternal fear of anything bad happening to my baby but also, “I’m so frigin’ scared to take a crap right now! How do people do this??”
The mother-and-baby bond took its time but we did finally get there. And now that we’ve crossed over into the toddler stage of life-with-child, we’ve encountered new challenges. There are things childless people take for granted like the privilege of using the toilet in peace (ALONE), the pleasure of not hearing the same shark song a dozen times every hour, and the torture that is trying to entertain your kid 24/7 until bedtime. My child bores me- most of the time. Yep, I said it. And it’s absolutely true, at this stage at least. She picks up the same toy and mimics an action one hundred times over or wants to do everything on her own terms (which includes feeding herself and missing her mouth by a foot EVERY SINGLE DAMN TIME).
Of course there are fun times too, but some of it is shrouded under a cloud of constant worry. “Am I doing the right thing? Is this safe for my child? What are the long term effects of not bathing daily?” The list goes on and on. Oh, the things my google search engine must see on a daily basis and what it says about its user:
symptoms of baby constipation
is my baby sick?
signs of colic
why does my baby laugh by herself, is she psychotic?
why does my baby want to eat her own hand, signs of autism
signs your baby might turn into a murderer
when will my breasts stop leaking?
why do my nipples look sad?
The truth is that being a parent is a thankless, selfless job. It requires much more patience, understanding and focus than you ever thought possible but it is also the most gratifying thing you’ll ever sign up for. Have I mentioned yet that I love my daughter more than anything in the world? Despite my desire to sometimes take a lengthy (yet unrealistic) break from motherhood, I love that little chub to the moon and back. While she does nothing to stimulate me intellectually on a regular basis, she brings all the light into my very (dark) soul.
When my daughter started daycare recently, someone reminded me that for the first time in her life we will be living independent of each other. I will no longer know every detail of her day. Then I started to panic as memories came flashing before my eyes: all the times I stopped her from shoving things into her mouth (such as the myriad of sharp objects she naturally gravitates towards); every time she has a close call like running into a wall or slipping on a banana peel; or every time she just needs a little hug to make her feel better. Realizing all this gave my heart a bit of a jump, but also thrilled my spirit in a way- I made it! I reached the next milestone:
I am sad my maternity leave is over, but I am so wonderfully overjoyed that I got to share it with the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. She will forever be the best part of all of my days.
Cheers to all the mommies out there who are surviving day-by-day, taking it all in stride, and doing the very best they can! You all are enough, you are killing it, your journeys are unique, and you’re doing awesome!