When Momma Ain't No Baby Person | Marvelous Mundane
That Wednesday afternoon doctor’s visit wasn’t supposed to be my last, but these bodies have minds of their own, and mine had made pregnancy unwelcome. After two short days of sleepless nights, I was holding the smallest baby my arms had ever cradled. His three pounds and fourteen ounces dwarfed the precious micro-preemie in the adjoining NICU pod, but swam in the newborn clothes waiting for his arrival.
Motherhood is full of surprises, and my journey to motherhood was no exception: an unexpected (but utterly celebrated) positive pregnancy test, an unanticipated birth date, and a teary hospital discharge, unaccompanied by a still cared for baby.
You would think seven and a half months of pregnancy would have given me the time to mentally prepare to welcome motherhood. Or the joyful baby shower friends and family threw that last weekend. Or the bags of still-with-tags baby clothes in the soon to be nursery, waiting two more weeks for the start of maternity leave and the beginning my full attention. Or the two adored brothers born my teenage years. Or at the very least my forever held desire to be a mother.
But I was not prepared for this baby’s continually changing sleep schedule, or his frequent doctor’s visits, or the stress I would feel in trying to squash an upside-down turned life into the tiny box of “normal”. Those first few weeks turned into the next few months, and many of those initial challenges faded. And three children into mothering has shown me: each stage creates unique challenges, some more easily embraced by my individual soul.
The two babies that followed kept to the more predictable route of full-term hospital dashes and dual discharges. But the constant among my three birthed boys was the survival mode I stumbled through those first six weeks; that newborn stage of uncertain nights and undiscovered personalities, of relationships evolving with a mysterious infant, and an equally foreign postpartum body. The days of overtired babies with wide-open eyes, and squinty-eyed mothers with overactive emotions.
While each baby entered a differently defined “normal”, each birth was quickly followed by my attempts to reenter that normal. To resume a well-established schedule, to refit a pair of favorite jeans, to remember a restful night. These expectations I draped around myself obscured much of the joy found in celebrating new life.
And I learned this truth too: you can love a child and dislike a stage. Because love is shown in showing up, in pushing through the haze and the frustration and the exhaustion, and giving ourselves to their living. Love is a nighttime feeding fighting tears. Love is the honest plea for help instead of the expected smile. Love is rearranging life to care for your baby and for yourself. Love is knowing I would give my life for you, but in a few short months I will have more fun with you. Because love is measured by the giving and not by the feeling.
This wasn’t the darkness of postpartum depression, though I’ve seen friends struggle through that difficult journey. (And if you are mothering with days defined by darkness, honesty and understanding and professional support is where light is found). Rather it was the weight of unacknowledged expectations and unexplored perceptions. And while there is no shame in the surprises our bodies may spring on us, there is danger in creating and clinging to a myth of motherhood that overburdens the mother and undermines the relationship.
These stories we mothers struggle to tell are the stories that pass a breath of freedom to the next mother; that chip away the shimmering myth, and leave in it's place the beauty of a radical commitment to the unpredictable, imperfect, magnificent journey of motherhood.