A few years ago, a woman close to me was preparing for first-time motherhood. She had helped us so much in our lives, I wanted to return the favor and share some tales from the road of motherhood. Take these for what they are – personal experiences. You will have your own and they will have their own meaning to you but I wish someone had taken time to remind me of/alert me to these things when I was a new mom.
Motherhood is a gift. It is a badge of honor to wear proudly. It is an experience above anything else that has come before it. It tests you. It stretches you. It changes you, what you value and how you see the world. It sometimes bends you to the breaking point but, in the end, it betters you – if you let it. Let it.
Be forewarned! The world is about to notice you
The world is suddenly going to peer into your life, critique your tactics and say things that they wouldn’t say to their closest friends – all because there is a little you in the world. Unfortunately, you don’t get to parent in a bubble, you do it in front of the world and everyone has an opinion. Be strong. Be steady. Be confident. You will make mistakes. You will forget what you’ve read and what you’ve preached. It’s okay. You are human. You will survive and so will your child. Unfortunately, humility is one of the major lessons of parenthood – that badge looks a lot like a purple heart, lol! Oh, yeah, keep your sense of humor close. You’ll need it and it will be your savior some days!
Babies arrive preprogrammed and without user manuals. It will be trial and error at first but in no time you and your partner will learn all your baby’s secrets. You will learn the difference in her cries. You will learn to read her thoughts and her body language. It will happen so subtly, you won’t even know it’s occurring. Instinct will kick in. You’ll recall things from childhood you haven’t thought about in years and all those events will come into play. It’s amazing when you realize that all that you’ve experienced in life has prepared you for this point. You two are exactly who she needs. She’ll be a perfect blend of both of you. Although you don’t get to choose how she’ll look or who she’ll be, you’ll get to share the journey with her and you will all be changed by the experience. Enjoy it.
Babyhood can sometimes feel like an eternity when you are in the thick of it but it is fleeting. You will miss it when it’s over – even the parts that drive you crazy. Take it all in – including all the little things that seem mundane because those are often some of the dearest memories later. Believe it or not, that piercing cry of hunger or discomfort that wakes you from your sleep will be something you’ll miss. That helpless newborn cry lasts such a short time. Relish it.
Treasure the middle of the night feedings. You’ll be bleary-eyed and sleep-deprived but those nights are some of the sweetest – when it’s just the two of you and the rest of the world is quiet. I can still feel my daughter’s chubby little thigh in my hand and the kneecap that I used to rub with my thumb and the sweet smell of the top of her head that I kissed every time I had the chance. I close my eyes and hear the creak of the rocking chair and see the moonlight on her face and her little hand wrapped around my finger. Nighttime is where the magic happens – where you fall in love with this amazing creature that is your child. Imprint those moments on your heart.
Don’t be afraid to let your guard down and be captivated. I am reserved and painfully inhibited but even I played the fool. When my daughter was new and her stroller faced me and not the rest of the world, I remember our public outings where the world blurred and all I saw was her little face staring up at me. I was mesmerized and intoxicated. I made faces I’d never made and spoke in voices I’d never used all to get a smile or a coo or a kick. I think back now and marvel at the feelings she inspired in me. Babies cast a spell. Let your child’s capture you.
Childhood is a world of wonder. As adults, we get to a place where we think we’ve learned what we need to know. We like what we like. We do what we do and then… a child enters the world and all that takes a back seat. One of the true joys when you have a baby is the opportunity to see the world through their eyes. Everything is new and amazing. Everything is without prejudgement or preconceived ideas. There is a whole new world to be discovered and you get to be a guide but you also get to be the pupil. She will teach you as much as you will teach her. Enjoy the experience and be open to the possibilities. Live in wide-eyed wonder. When you are OCD and tidy and orderly and you give birth to chaos, you have to do a little growing. Among other things, I learned that a little dirt didn’t kill me, that snakes weren’t that bad and that bugs deserved to live too. I wonder what you’ll discover that you never knew you never knew. It’s a pretty wild ride but oh so fun if you just remember that you aren’t always the one with the answers. My life has been so enriched by having my daughter as my teacher.
As sweet as parenthood is, it is also very trying. It takes energy to parent and it’s easy to give so much of yourself that there’s nothing left for you or your spouse at the end of the day. Don’t get depleted. Take time for yourself. It isn’t selfish. It isn’t neglectful. It’s necessary. Don’t let mommy guilt stop you from taking time when you need it. You will need moments to refuel. Take them. When someone offers to watch the baby for an hour, a night or a weekend, let them. Couplehood and date night are important. It’s easy to get so caught up in the role of parent that you forget that you liked to get out and dance or to cook together in the kitchen or go for a hike. Keep that part of your life alive – and never underestimate the power of Girls Night Out!
Just as I said babyhood is fleeting, childhood is too. It doesn’t seem possible that it was 23 years ago that I was in your shoes. It went by in a flash. One day, almost out of the blue your child will turn toward the world and away from you and when she does, you have to still be able to stand on your own and turn back to your partner and the life you created together and continue on toward the horizon. My husband and I are at the point in life where we are kids again – older and wiser, heavier and more wrinkled, but when I look across the table at him I see the person that was hidden from me for a while. The days will come again when it’s just the two of you – different than it is today but the same in so many ways. Just remember to keep the flame kindled and it will be there to ignite all over again when the time comes. Just don’t forget to stoke the fire!
With the birth of one child, the size of your family grows exponentially. The birth of your child immediately forms a blood bond that binds your family with your husband’s. Suddenly that story of your husband’s 3rd cousin matters more to you because that cousin is blood related to the person that matters most to you. It’s crazy! You know the other crazy thing? When you become a mother, you suddenly become every child’s mother. Thought you had this need to make the world a better place before? Well now that your little someone will be out in the world, what happens to every other child (which could be YOUR child, afterall) takes on even more significance. If you’d only known… Lol!
From one mother to another, I wish you all the best. Motherhood, the toughest job you’ll ever love! True!