By Colleen Lindstrom
Sometimes I like to take little mental visits to the person I was before I had children. I’d like to introduce you to this woman because she’s a riot.
Before I had babies I believed that it would be possible to get back into the exact same shape I was in before I had babies. I was sure that I would always be an excellent and confident parent. I was positive that parenting couldn’t possibly be that hard. Most importantly I KNEW that all those obnoxious children having tantrums on the cold, dirty floor of the grocery store were doing so because their parents were incompetent and surely that would never happen to me. In short, I was an excellent parent before I was a parent (and usually felt free to share my opinions on everything from behavior modification to potty training with anyone who clearly needed the advice, which was everyone, because they weren’t doing it right).
Greetings from the other side. Becoming a mother is easily the most humbling experience that life offers. It is a gift in the sense that you quickly realize how simultaneously significant and insignificant you are in the life of this little person. You become aware of how important you are to them as they enter this world, and how much the world they live in will impact the person they will become and that you have no control over much of that.
I am far more comfortable with that dichotomy now than I was six years ago after pushing my first baby out into this cold, cruel world. The birth of a baby is equally the birth of a mother, only that birth gets a little less attention. The books, the manuals, the magazines focus so much on the experience of being a baby, and what the mom’s role is in responding to that, and very little about the mom’s role in her own birth into the role of mothering and how to respond to that. That experience is more of a fake it ‘til you make it evolution (or at least, it was for me).
I was surprised to find that the mothers in my midst weren’t telling the honest truth about the birth of themselves as mothers. We busily doted on our babies, cooing with them, making those ridiculous faces that are so entertaining to the little people, and smiling because this was “the best time of our lives”, while we silently tried to discover who we were in the midst of this. The birth of a mother is nowhere near as natural as the birth of a baby but we hardly talked about that. Not in the early days. We sat in circles and had serious conversations about how often the babies were eating, how long they slept, the frequency and consistency of their poop, and whether they were rolling over, crawling, walking, talking, doing math, or balancing our checkbooks. We never talked about how we were adjusting to our new lives together. Were we eating, sleeping, pooping… alone, maintaining an intimate life with the fathers of our children, showering, having time to ourselves, getting to know ourselves with this new identity? The books will tell you the very straight path that babies take on their development. There is no book that will tell you about the long and winding road of discovering yourself as a mother. Everyone gets there differently, but everyone gets there. That’s the encouraging part.
The discouraging part is that we don’t spend nearly as much time talking about it as we could. We are here, in this “It’s My Baby” Blog community are having this conversation because, the birth of the mother is equally significant. Whether your baby is 6 months, or 6 years let’s hang out and chat about the birth of the mother!