Well, I Guess I’m a Mom now
Over coffee several weeks ago, a friend asked me to describe the moment I first felt like a real mom.
I know what she wanted.
She wanted a scene from my hospital bed the night they wheeled my sleeping baby boy in to see me. She wanted to know about the way my voice caught in my throat when I unwrapped him from his blankets and saw his wrinkled, precious little baby toes. She wanted to hear about how I held my breath for several minutes just so I could hear him breathing quietly against my chest. She wanted me to recount the sound of the ticking clock, a sound that grounded me in reality and confirmed I wasn’t living in a dream. She wanted to know I felt like a mom then, but I didn’t.
I feel like a mom today. I felt like a mom this morning. I’ve been feeling like a mom all week. As I fight to get my son back to bed in his now habitual 2:30 a.m. wake-up, a fight that he apparently is only willing to have with me – I feel like a mom. As I stand in the bedroom with my third cup of coffee to assess the damage from the night before – 2 diapers, 2 peed-on crib blankets, Orajel teething medicine, tear-stained pillows from Mom and Baby – well, I guess I feel like a mom then.
For a very long time I thought I wouldn’t get to be a mom. Or, well, I thought I would have to work really hard to be able to become a mom. And as it goes with anything we’re told we cannot have, or don’t have, or desperately want to have – we spend all the years without it creating a fairytale around the day when we actually get it. I spent a lot of years creating a fairytale around motherhood. I imagined only and all of the good stuff – the cuddles and the giggles and the grass at our feet as we ran. I imagined long walks before dinner and Friday night movie nights and anything that was tainted with rose colors and kissed by rainbows and butterflies. I imagined a parenting fantasyland in which everything was perfect and nothing ever went wrong. I imagined a Mother-Me who was always kind, always smiling, who was patient, laid-back, carefree and breezy. I do not know from where I got this fantasy Mother-Me because, friends, I have never ever been “breezy.”
I will never be the fantasy Mother-Me I pictured. And my little boy will never be the fantasyland version of the baby I created in my head either. I look at the reality of motherhood, and for perhaps the first time in the 10 months of my son’s life, I really truly, feel like a mom.
I see his spit-fire personality; his impatient, vivacious, bursting-at-the-seams personality that so closely mirrors my own, and I feel like a mom. I see the same tendencies in him that I fight in myself and I wonder and I pray, how will I guide him through that with grace? How will I teach him to embrace his curiosity, to channel his impulsivity, to contain his quick-to-frustration temperament while I am still learning for myself at the same time? How will I set boundaries that still provide him his freedoms?
As I use stern yet (I hope?) calm words to redirect my son who is screaming and kicking when I move him away from the glass table he continues to bang relentlessly on – I feel like a mom.
When I find myself taking deep breaths while G arches his back and bends his legs backward so that I can’t put him in the stroller he doesn’t want to go into – I feel like a mom.
When my little boy lets out a guttural belly-laugh from my tickling and silly faces – I feel like a mom.
When I search endlessly for sleep solutions on the internet and drive myself silly with self-doubt, frustration, and mistrust of my own instincts – I feel like a mom.
When my son reaches out for me in the middle of the night and nestles his face into my chest – I feel like a mom.
As I pray each day that my little boy will blossom and grow in healthy and humble ways in spite of me – I feel like a mom.
In the hours when I am utterly exhausted, when I wish someone would come serve as my stand-in, when I work to keep my own anger and impatience in check, when I realize I’m this poor boy’s only hope – these are the moments when I feel like a mom.
I don’t think that is the picturesque version of motherhood my friend wanted to hear. I’m not sure the bleeding trenches of motherhood is the stuff of TV movies or wistful novels or the dreams of hopeful young girls like I used to be. But these are the moments when I realize, when I know, that it’s me. It’s still me, and I’m a mom. Not some fantasy Me, not some other worldly Me, but a Me who is flawed and human and learning and here and working and trying and faking-it-till-I-make-it and doing the very best for my little boy that I can possibly do.
There’s no roses or butterflies in this house.
Just me and my boy.
It’s as good a day as any for us to keep figuring this thing out together.