OYM Day 95: I Am A Good Mother
I’ve been avoiding writing about motherhood, mostly because I don’t think people can relate to it, which is completely untrue. Being a parent certainly makes it easier to understand, but I wish I had read more about it before I had a kid. When my friends started having kids, I was excited to throw baby showers and buy them little gifts, but I had no idea what to do afterwards. I didn’t get it. I saw less and less of my newly blessed friends and I didn’t know how to take a meaningful interest in their children. I would think to invite a friend to dinner, but then think they likely had their hands full with their baby and I would just be annoying them. I was also very self involved. It’s not that I was trying to obsess over my own life, but I didn’t understand what it meant to be selfless on a round the clock basis. I didn’t realize what that could do to you, mentally or physically. There were so many things I could have done to help my friends and be more involved in their children’s lives. But I dropped the ball, big time, and it’s a regret I’ll likely carry for a long time. I hope they forgive me and I am going to make more of an effort now, now that I know the solitude of motherhood, the loss of self, and the sweet slice of joy that a child can share with you. Like a peach.
I learn best from experiencing things on my own and becoming a mother overnight was certainly something that taught me a few things. I can remember living in a state of pure anxiety for about 3 solid months. I didn’t sleep, had nightmares constantly, and googled non-stop, trying to figure out if everything my baby was doing was normal.
I didn’t enjoy it at first and everyone kept telling me I’d miss this one day. I had no idea what they were talking about and it made me feel like something was wrong with me. Maybe I didn’t have the mothering gene. Maybe because I didn’t give birth to her, my body wasn’t launching into mothering as it should. I didn’t feel any intuition or gut feelings about what she needed. And I was terrified. Could she feel that I didn’t give birth to her? Did she not want me? Was I an imposter? I called a friend, sobbing, and told her I didn’t know what to do or how to get a handle on my emotions. She asked if maybe I had made a mistake in going down this road. My throat closed up and I couldn’t breathe.
I hung up the phone.
No one understood what I was going through, or what my daughter was going through. But then again, how could they? Her laying in my arms was never a mistake. It was the complete opposite and it felt like my chest was spilling its contents onto her delicate skin and muslin blanket because they couldn’t see it. It was destined. And even the destiny hurts, because I don’t want it to be rooted and born in a place of pain. But it is.
I was so upset that people could only focus on my anxiety and not the root of what was causing it. I desperately needed to hear that I was doing this motherhood thing just fine, that she was fine, that I would be fine. But I couldn’t let anyone know this, because I didn’t want to see their eyes change, their mouths open just slightly in recognition that I was not a real mother. I was not fine, they’d think. She was not fine, either. A real mother should be called right away to take care of this baby, they’d panic. Like the last few puzzle pieces finding their way together in a sudden rush, they’d have figured out the problem. And my motherhood card would be revoked for fraud.
Does it all sound silly? Yes. But to me, especially at that time, it was not. And sometimes on really hard days (like today), it’s still not. When I’m really seeking validation that I am in fact a mother, I ask people if they think I’m a bad parent. I don’t expect anyone to say yes. Instead, I watch their faces and count how many seconds pass before they respond. In every instance, there is no right expression and no right amount of time. I don’t even listen for their answer. I already got what I wanted.
And what I get is other people’s thoughts, not my own. I get opinions, maybe some advice, and sometimes I’m told I’m doing just fine. But none of it matters, because I know they don’t know her like I do. They don’t know my child. Her tantrums may shock you, but I can tell you that in between screams and kicks, she searches my eyes to make sure I’m still in it with her. I am. She says no a lot and is easily frustrated, but she also covers me in kisses and sings to her stuffed animals and shows me things she can do so she can see my face fill with pride for her. But you don’t see these things. These things are just for us. She saves them for me, because I am her mother.
I am a mother. I am good, good mother.
I hope I hear myself one day.