Motherhood is the most rewarding, life-giving, inspiring, fantastic job on the planet.
Except…when it’s not.
It’s a little bit more frowned upon in certain women’s circles to admit how exhausting, depleting, depressing, and frustrating it can be.
Not many people like to discuss the post-birth one-size-fits-all mesh underwear that give you the appearance of a bonafide sumo wrestler, or how it feels to stand in front of the bathroom mirror, silently sobbing, with jugs of milk so full you can’t put your arms straight down to your sides.
Motherhood, like most things in life, has its angelic side, and its dark side.
I honestly never doubted my ability to be a rock star mom prior to the miraculous gift of my firstborn son.
After all, I had taken 12 weeks of natural childbirth classes (The Bradley Method, which I loved and highly recommend), had the nursery fully decorated, all of my newbie’s clothes were washed and neatly put away; I was R-E-A-D-Y. Bring it, little man.
What I never considered before having babies was the fact that…I didn’t really know anything about having babies.
But, as I sat in church on an October night in 2005, it became crystal clear to me that I was getting ready to jump into this “mother pool” feet first-ready or not.
When my contractions grew stronger and more regular, I informed my husband that we should head to my sister’s house because she lived in close proximity to our chosen hospital.
It’s customary in my clan for extended family members to join the excitement of new life being born into this world, and gather around the mom-to-be to offer love, support and encouragement. My favorite aunt was no exception to this rule, and quickly headed my direction as soon as she heard the thrilling news through the grapevine.
As I look back on my behavior prior to the birth of my first son, I clearly see how annoying I was to others who had already had years of experience in the mothering field. I guarantee that seasoned moms turned their heads away from me and my naive comments and snickered into their shoulders on a regular basis.
You know, the comments I made such as: “I’m fairly certain I know what it’s like to be a mom. After all, I’ve been babysitting since I was 12.”
Hahahahahahahahaaaahahaaaaaaa. I just slobbered on myself in hysterical laughter.
Anyway, as I was standing in my sister’s kitchen, leaning over her countertop, deep-breathing through my series of irregular contractions, and insisting that I “knew” that it was time to head to the hospital because I had been “educated” in my natural childbirth classes, I know now what I didn’t know then: I acted like a complete idiot.
I realize this now because my aunt walked me to the door, looked at me as I was mid-(what I thought was a “hard”) contraction and lovingly said, “Laura, you’ve got a long way to go.”
What the heck did she know? That’s exactly right. She knew nothing. Well, except for the fact that she had already experienced giving birth to four children of her own. But, that was beside the point. I was on my way to have my baby and that was that.
*Shocker* it turned out that my aunt knew what the heck she was talking about. I had a looooong way to go. Like 36+ more hours of labor, not much food, and zero sleep.
Once my little guy finally made it out into this big wide world, I felt a sense of accomplishment like nothing I had ever experienced in my entire life. I was over-the-moon ecstatic to be exactly what I had always desired to be: I was a mom.
I wish my post-birth photos revealed the true depth of my overjoyed spirit, but, sadly that is not the case. The pictures taken of me after my son was born look mostly like I robbed a liquor store after no sleep for a week. I stared, blank-faced and traumatized at the camera, white as a ghost, with broken blood vessels branching up and down my neck from pushing so hard and long, barely able to think a single thought. Smile? Ha!
I am awed by photos of women who, after giving birth, are in their hospital beds, fully-dressed, with perfect hair and make-up, just hours after the main event. What the what? I’m so confused at this phenomenon. I’ve given birth four times, and, forget the make-up, I’ve never even gotten dressed until just minutes before leaving the hospital. I guess I must just have a thing for those flattering pink gowns.
As I slowly became aware that my hospital stay was inevitably going to end, I had the horrifying realization that my doctor and nurses fully expected that I was going to take my baby home and know what to do with him. A sudden surge of panic rushed through my entire body.
What if my baby didn’t sleep? Oh, no worries, he eventually slept. After he hit about 18 months old.
What if he didn’t eat well? He ate well, and projectile vomited on me nearly every time he nursed. I eventually learned that I had to burp him with a “cloth shield” in front of his face to deflect the puke down to the floor so it didn’t continue to hit the walls.
Not long after I was home from the hospital with my little sweetie, my emotions were hitting a very low valley on the “mommy roller coaster”, and it just so happened to be at the exact same point in time that I received a porch full of visitors knocking on my front door. I can’t do this right now. I need a shower. I need food. I need help. I just wanted to sit and cry.
And cry I did.
At this point in time, all of my “pre-baby soaring confidence” was replaced with crippling fear and zero self-assurance.
My mind raced as I compared myself to the many mother’s lives that I knew, adored, and respected. I wondered in this moment: “How in the world do these women manage to get groceries, make delicious dinners, have beautiful clean houses, pay the bills, take care of their other children, etc., etc., etc., all with a little person who never stops crying and is always in need of constant attention?” I felt so inadequate. Mountains of overwhelm. I saw no possible way that I was capable of this “mom” thing. And Super Mom? That’s funny.
I had a long way to go.
It took time before I learned how to navigate nap schedules and routines, before I understood my baby’s cries and what he needed, and to eventually grasp the truth that I simply needed to slow my mind down, relax, and realize that everything about motherhood just simply took time for me to figure out. I gave myself permission to learn day by day, step by step, and to make lots and lots of mistakes along the way.
What I did to myself in those first few weeks (ok, months) after his birth was not fair to me; comparing my beginning to someone else’s middle was extremely unrealistic. Everyone learns. Everybody feels inadequate as a mom. Nobody magically wakes up one day and *poof*: Mom of the year.
Truth is I can now look at the moms that I so love and admire and see what I couldn’t see then: each one developed her skills and magnificence over time. And, if each of them were completely honest, I would bet that a majority of them would admit to the fact that they’ve still got a long way to go too. There’s still more room for them to learn and grow. More mistakes to be made. More obstacles to overcome. That’s what we as moms do, right? We figure it out, milestone after milestone.
And after being a mom for almost 13 years, I can honestly say that each day I’m excited to see what new opportunity awaits. This “mom life” is beautiful and messy and complicated and spectacular. It’s a journey, and it’s wonderful.
So, now that I’m more confident in my role as a momma, I would love to look back at my postpartum, broken-spirited, worn-bodied new-momma-self and say, “Just look how far you’ve come.”
I’m now the mom who can take four kids shopping, buy groceries, have them home and put away before my previous-mom-self would’ve even gotten out of her rubber ducky robe for the day. Man, I wore that thing like a school uniform. And all I could manage to make for dinner was those stupid one-bag-meal quesadillas. My poor husband.
Never give up on yourself in your role as a mother. It really is the most important, rewarding, life-giving, inspiring, fantastic job on the planet. And even though you might have far to go, I challenge you to always remember to look back to see how far you’ve come.
I made this sign specifically for this post, with the hope that one of my readers would want to hang it in their home as an encouragement.
In order to be entered in the giveaway, simply comment in the box below (on THIS blog post, NOT on Facebook, because I can’t see all of the comments on Facebook) this post with the words, “Just look how far I’ve come.” Anyone can comment, and if you don’t necessarily want the sign for yourself, try to think of someone that might be blessed by these words, and give it to them. A winner will be chosen within the week.
And of course, if you want to comment “for real”, and not be entered into the contest, I love reading all of those words too!
Thanks so much for reading.
***Update*** Brooke won the painting***
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