So, I’m a mom now. It’s hard to describe what that means. But I get it now guys. Sorry childless people that I can’t explain it to… and that’s not sarcastic, I really am genuinely sorry. I want to be able to explain it to you, because I wanted someone to explain it to me so badly a short year ago. But I struggle when I try. You can’t really get it until you’re in it. At least I couldn’t. So yeah, I am in it, and I get it. I get that you can love something so much that sleep deprivation and poop everywhere and screaming at 2 in the morning seem like no big deal. I get that something can be simultaneously the HARDEST and the BEST thing that you’ve ever done. The closest parallel I can find to the first 8 weeks of motherhood for those who aren’t parents is the concept of type 2 fun. You’re in pain, every moment is miserable, you’re tired and barely alive, but you are so fulfilled and rewarded in the end that it doesn’t matter. Well, except not every moment is miserable. You also get those fleeting moments of pure bliss, when your baby smiles at you for the first time, or falls asleep in your arms. Those things didn’t seem like enough before becoming a mom. I didn’t really understand that something as simple as a smile could give me so much joy that it would make up for the torture that is keeping a newborn baby alive, that the weight of a sleeping infant on my shoulder would be enough to keep me going no matter how hard it is.
I guess I have the same thing to say as all parents say about this: “Just trust us. It’s worth it.” So hard to believe before, so easy to understand after.
I also think I sort of get why people lead with the bad stuff when they talk to you about having a baby. I don’t condone it, but I understand now. It’s so much easier to articulate sleepless nights and less time to do your pre-baby activities than it is to articulate the immense emotional satisfaction that makes it all worth it. It’s more conversational to talk about the very tangible hard parts than the much more abstract and esoteric intense bonds that you’ve developed. And in all honesty, I’m having trouble remembering not to do this myself. It’s easy for me to forget that you aren’t wearing my mom goggles, that I’m scaring you off unintentionally. Please call me out on this. Make me tell you the awesome parts.
In fact, many of the things that confused the heck out of me prior to having a baby, have come into clarity in the past 8 months, and I’ve developed more tolerance towards behaviours that used to drive me crazy. However, the one thing I still take issue with is people talking about their lives being over after having children, or losing their old selves. I find that maddening. I’m new to this whole mom thing, but I want to assure you that the you that you know won’t go away, that life is not over. It will feel like it is sometimes, and you will likely feel a sense of loss as your identity goes through this drastic change, but all is not lost. It’s more like you are finding so many more layers of yourself that that one bit of you that you thought was everything is just harder to pick out in the crowd, a bit like a Where’s Waldo puzzle with your old self in the striped sweater and hat. But she’s still THERE and life is still happening around her, and she’s part of it, you just have to work a little harder to find her and keep her happy sometimes.
I got going on this topic again because I recently read this post about becoming a mother and the way it fundamentally changes you. While I loved many parts of it and thought it did a wonderful job explaining the change that takes place when you become a mother, I did take issue with the bit when she says that the person she used to be is “just dead” and that the woman she used to know is gone. I don’t think that she’s dead or gone, I think that she’s just a little buried under a few layers of life and laundry right now… She’s like that one sock you know you’ve seen somewhere around the house, but can’t seem to find when you’re actually looking for it. No, I don’t think she’s dead under there, I think she’s just figuring her way back out from under a pile of new feelings and new experiences and new ways of looking at things. I think she’s forever changed, has been loaded up with a lot of new dimensions and responsibilities and substance. Suddenly she’s made up of many pieces instead of just a few, but one of those pieces is still the woman from before she was a mom. I like to think that as mothers, we are not JUST the woman we once were, we are so much more. And I think that’s what the author of that blog was getting at really, just in a different way than I would have put it.
Part of motherhood, for me at least, has been figuring out how to fulfill both the new needs of new me (because there is definitely a new me) and the old needs of old me, not to mention the needs of my little wonder woman in training. Those needs I fostered for 30 years aren’t gone magically one day because I had a baby, new needs have just been added to the list. As an example, now, when I’m home with my baby on a weekend, part of me longs to be out on my bike. But at the same time, when I’m out on my bike on the weekend, part of me longs to be home with my baby. It’s about balancing that. And I think it’s a different balance for everyone who experiences it, and that’s ok. If you are more consumed with being a mom than anything else after having a baby, super. If you’re just as invested in your career or other passions after you have a baby and are fitting your baby into that world, that’s great too. If you’re somewhere in between, cool. It’s your balance and you’re doing a good job.
I’m not saying it’s easy or that I’ve figured it out, not by a long shot. It’s a way more complicated puzzle that I live in now, and I’m still working on figuring out the best ways to connect the dots. I’m still weebling and wobbling and trying not to fall down. But I can see that there is a balance point out there, a right way for the dots to connect to form the picture I want, and I am confident I will find it.