Before I had a baby, I had an understanding that things would change. That there would be adjustments made to my day-to-day life.
To all of my life.
Adjustments of time. Adjustments of space. Adjustments to sleep and food and noise and habits that might not fit in as well with the beautiful rhythm of life that motherhood was sure to bring.
And I was ready for it.
Before I had a baby, I had an image in mind of what motherhood would be like. I knew being a mom was a 24/7 job. There would of course be diapers and poo and crying and waking up in the middle of the night, but these would be balanced out neatly by all the snuggles and comfort and smiles and love. I was patient and positive and compassionate and resourceful, so clearly I would slip into motherhood the way a skilled diver gracefully and noiselessly plunges into the depths of a pool.
Little did I know that the poo would be projectile streams of chunky yellow liquid exploding against walls, furniture, and the most inconvenient items, nor was I quite able to envision how long the crying could carry on without being able to do anything about it.
After the hours of contractions and contortions I endured failed to bring us our new baby girl, the equally balanced and blissful image I held my childbirth experience was shattered (not for the first time) by the doctor calling it time. This baby was going to be surgically removed. Sometimes that perfect image just doesn’t quite match up with reality.
I remember sitting in the hospital room on the second day of having our new little wonder (and again later in our home), thinking “My God! What the $#%! did we do?! We’ve made a terrible mistake!!” She was crying and screaming and refusing to sleep and for some very frustrating and humiliating reason, unable to latch on and nurse. I didn’t think we could do it. I was fairly certain this must all be a very bad dream, because it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Being a mother – a parent – is supposed to come naturally. Because we’re supposed to feel this all-consuming love for our new offspring, and we’re supposed to rise to the occasion like the millions of historical figures stepping up to the plate saying “I was made to do this!”
Except…. how much did I really love this noisy little thing at 3:30 in the morning, when sleep and I had not met for more than a moment in over 48 hours, and each time I tried to nurse her she shrieked more despite the never-awkward pairs of hands coming in from every direction to man-handle my breasts into a little mouth that refused to be fed.
I was exhausted, in pain and immobile due to what had happened to make me the new owner of the TERRIFYING incision wound I had discovered in the bathroom mirror by accident when I finally was able to shower. My husband was running on the same amount of non-sleep as me, while being the only one capable of changing diapers and walking and bouncing our little bundle of noise and soft skin back and forth through the room – for what I then thought would be the rest of our lives.
So. This “all-consuming love for your child” thing. Was I feeling it? Much like when an experimental youth is unsure if they’ve experienced an orgasm, if you have to ask yourself, the answer is probably no.
Yes, I loved her. Yes she was my child and I wanted to keep her safe, and I couldn’t bear to think of anything bad every happening to her. But I just didn’t seem to be feeling this overwhelming love I’d read and heard about when excitedly trying to prepare myself for the big day.
I heard it described perfectly by my midwife later on in my motherhood, once I’d had the time to learn and bond with my growing infant and everything was moving along with a cope-able degree of ease.
When you first meet your baby, their need is up here (she raised her hand as far as it would reach), and your love for them is here (she motioned to a much lower point). After all, you are just at the beginning of getting to know each other and form a bond. This is what makes it all seem so hard. As time goes on, a baby’s level of need lessens, and the love for each other grows, to balance out and eventually surpass.
It didn’t take long for that love to grow. I can’t stop kissing and tickling and smiling at and singing to the tiny little person that fills my heart and soul with love.
Before I had a baby, I had no idea how much would change. How our furniture would be rearranged in a much less visually-appealing, but much safer, way. I had known being a mom was a 24/7 job, but I really don’t think anyone can ever understand fully what that means until they are in it, living it.
It can be busy and exhausting and smothering and lonely, all at once. But it can also be rewarding and enjoyable and heart-warming. It’s all in how you choose to look at it, and how you choose to spend your time doing it.
No, it’s not all easy, but nothing worth having ever really is.