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On becoming a mother

March 27, 2013

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I recently traveled to a great friend’s baby shower.  We’ve been friends since forever and it was so nice to see her glowing-pregnant-self and all the adorable little boy things she’s collecting in preparation for his arrival.

It’s been more than two years since I sat in her chair.  I loved every minute of being pregnant, which I know will make many women roll their eyes.  I paid for it in the first weeks, though.  J was a terrible sleeper, cried constantly, and we had a horrible time breastfeeding (more on that later.)  At some point during those traumatic first weeks, I wondered, “Why didn’t anyone tell  me it would be like this?”  When I was pregnant, everyone was filled with happy platitudes about motherhood and newborns.  ”Enjoy every minute!”  ”They grow up so fast!”  ”You’re going to love being a mom!”  Even when people hinted at the crazy life change I was about to undertake, it was still in the vague realm of generalities:  ”You’re life is going to change!”  ”Get your sleep now!”  In my sleep-deprived, anxiety-ridden, new-mother state, I remember thinking that I would tell people how it really is  But at the shower I found myself, two years later, slipping into the same platitudes and generalities.

And, I realized, it’s not that people are making a conscious effort to hold back.  They really don’t remember.  Or, more accurately, they do remember, but that beginning crazy-transition time (even with a colicky, non-sleeping baby) matters so little in the arc of your life and your child’s life.  When you’re in it, it seems never-ending, but two years later, it was a blink.

You also become accustomed to what it means to be a parent and how things are forever different in your life.  It’s actually not a crazy few weeks and months, followed by a return to normalcy.  There’s a brand new normal, and that takes some getting used to.  In fact, when I think back to what was most traumatic about my new-motherhood, it wasn’t even the sleepless, crying, spit-up covered infant.  It was actuallybecoming a mother.  In those first weeks, I felt subsumed by my son in the best and worst ways possible.  I was utterly in love with him, but also terrified by the realization that I was responsible for his care, and this job was never-ending, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for the rest of my life.  This transition to being not-just-you, but to being you-and-your-little-being is a big one.  Two years in, I can’t imagine my life any other way.  I don’t remember what it’s like being just-me.

I suppose some description of all of this — the sleepless, and very short, beginning weeks, the transition to the new normal of motherhood — could be apt for an expecting mother like my friend.  But it’s probably all too much.  All the words in the world probably couldn’t transfer the knowledge I have now.  It’s just something that she’ll need to go through herself.

So, for now, I will stick to platitudes, and some practical advice on swaddling.  The rest we can talk about later.

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