There comes a time every day (twice per day on weekends when Allie naps at home) that the sole obstacle preventing me from living my best life (read: sitting on the couch watching Netflix, eating a snack without sharing, or maybe crossing something off my never-ending list) is a miniature human asleep on my lap. Looking down at her tiny sleeping face, serene and relaxed, it is a surprisingly difficult struggle to put her down. Part of it is the vulnerability in her sleeping form – she is completely defenseless and trusting that the mom who rocked her to sleep will keep the world safe until she awakes.
Holding a sleeping baby has to be one of the purest highs in the world. Or maybe, holding your sleeping baby is… I cannot vouch for whether the feeling translates to random babies, nor can I recommend stealing random babies in order to determine if it is universal.
One of the beautiful complexities of motherhood can be summed up in that moment: I look forward to when she falls asleep because then I get to resume being completely me, but when she finally falls asleep in my arms, I can’t rush to put her down because it feels so good just to hold her.
It’s an identity crisis that I never expected to have.
Some women are just born to be moms… maybe I’m even one of them, but prior to my surprise pregnancy (PSA to female readers – you’re likely more fertile than you think) I never thought it was for me. The pain of childbirth was a deterrent, certainly, but it was more than that. I liked my house a certain way with breakable things on low shelves. I liked the way my body looked. I liked my fly by the seat of my pants attitude towards travel and adventure – I loved the freedom to book a last minute flight out of the country or drive across several states to see my best friend because she had a bad week. My life never felt incomplete. Before anyone jumps down my throat, I’m still not saying that my life, pre-baby was incomplete or that I, pre-baby, was incomplete…
It’s almost as though now, post-baby, I’m irreversibly incomplete. Before her I was whole, and now, when myself in my own right, I’m lacking. It’s as though an important part of me lives outside my body.
I don’t want to romanticize it like that. I’ve seen the posts, coded in “momspeak” about the magic of “seeing a part of your heart outside your body”, but that is not the message I am going for here. I completely love my daughter and I love being her mom, but I can’t honestly say that I love mothering or that I am always okay with my new epithet being my only descriptor.
I don’t love the endless mundanity of motherhood. There are days when I can’t wait to drop her off at daycare and days where I consider advancing bedtime by thirty minutes because my very sanity hangs in the balance…It’s as though I’ll never be satisfied. I’ll miss her when she’s absent, but struggle with the role of motherhood when she’s present. I never stop identifying as a mom, even when she is out of the room, but it’s not as though it fits me like a magical pair of traveling pants that I’ve spent my life waiting for. It is a constant struggle between wanting to be the best mom and be the best me.
I want to be put together and well-read, well-traveled. Ideally I should be fit, maintain my six-minute mile and have time to cook healthy colorful meals. I also want to be present for her. I want her to remember that mom sat on the floor to read her the frog book a million times, or even if she doesn’t remember it, I want to be the cheerleader that she needs in order to learn to read the frog book herself. I want her to wear the instagrammable dresses and look photo-ready at a moments notice so I can show the whole world how cute she looks to me, but at the same time I want her to run in the grass, feed herself the acai bowl that stains everything and let her see my face watching her instead of my camera or my phone. I want to feel pride in my appearance and invest time in it , but I don’t want her to inherit any of my insecurities about beauty. She certainly doesn’t need them.
I want her to be only her and to some extent that means holding back me… and at the same time I want to be who I want to be even if that means living 95% of my life with a contoured face and 4 coats of mascara. How do I be the mom she deserves at the same time being the person I deserve? How can I be my best for her when that looks so much different than being my best self?
I am beyond thankful to be her mother but I really struggle on the days that I feel like I am only her mother. This role, it means everything to me and at the same time, it is not enough for me. In many ways it is the most important thing I will ever do, the biggest legacy I will leave behind, so why am I surprised when it takes all that I have to offer and still wants more.
I’m pregnant again! I know, I know… I never even finished writing about the labor and delivery experience from last time yet here I am, knocked up again. Remember that earlier PSA? Totally kidding, this pregnancy was even planned… as much as you can plan something like that.
I know what to expect this time around and in some ways, that has made me more apprehensive. I never intended to write a blog about my first days postpartum, mostly because I understood I would be busy. Everyone told me I would be tired, and they were right. The fatigue and exhaustion, although tremendous, were certainly not surprising. Those days are raw and overwhelming. Everything hurts. Everything is healing. Everything is new and fragile and stressful and amazing.
I was unprepared for the paradigm shift of becoming a mom. In the days prior to that, when I needed to cry, I could cry. When I was starving, I ate. When I was tired, I slept. I had meaningful ways to fill my time beyond meeting my own basic biological needs, but usually when it became necessary, I was able to make them a priority. After bringing home my tiny screaming incessant adorable bundle of joy, my needs were relegated to the back burner.
You coast on fumes for a lot further than you ever thought you could. You can go without healthy food for longer than even your college self would have liked to believe (quite the pendulum swing from the daily food rainbow and nutrient logging of pregnancy). You can last on even fewer hours of sleep than a call shift… for weeks on end. Incredibly, none of it is a sacrifice. None of it takes a conscious choice – to delay your own comfort or to calm your baby’s cries?… it’s instinctive, primal. It happens so quickly that it is easy to lose yourself in the new role. To feel as though that is all you are. And there were run into the problems that prompted this dialogue in the first place.
It is love at its most basic form; tiny human needs you and so you do. You do everything it takes to make tiny human happy, safe, warm, content. You mother. You do it because you want to. You do it because they are yours and you are completely theirs. You do it day in and day out.
You do it as their needs change around you: as they learn to smile and every moment of frustrating inconsolable cries becomes worth it, as they learn to giggle and suddenly everything is hysterical, as they learn to speak and call you “mama” - the name now written in your heart, as they learn to blow kisses and say I love you and you think your heart will crack because it is so full.
They grow and change and leave – for an hour first, as you run to the grocery store. Then two hours as you run to target and treat yourself to Starbucks (#momlife). Then overnight once grandma and grandpa can handle them! Someday it will be a week at summer camp, maybe a month long mission trip, then years at college.
And even with everything at stake, it’s honestly not that hard to just hold her a little longer… while she still fits in my arms. Cause sometimes, it feels like I could hold her forever.