About 6 months ago I changed my name to Mama. Just like that. Snap. New life. New me.
Except not really.
Our transition from a two-income-no-kids household to broke-and-happy-with-a-baby has been much smoother than I ever anticipated. Part of me wants to think it’s because we were starting on a pretty solid foundation, having been through IT ALL in the last 12 years together. I mean, we have had a long time to learn each other; we were ready to learn this new little Stranger. But really I know it’s because the Lord hooked us up with a cool baby.
And he is a super cool baby. I hear it from just about everyone who sees the quiet, attentive way he studies his surroundings while I shop or how content he is to sit in his carseat on the floor while I grab coffee with a friend. He has never been much of a crier. He doesn’t fuss too often. Most of the time he is nothing like what I was told to expect. (I know now that he’s a trick baby, and am trying to act accordingly.) And so motherhood is not what I had prepared for.
Surely you have heard of that recent report that becoming a parent is worse than divorce or the loss of a spouse? I was expecting something like that.
As much as I had hoped and prayed and wanted to be a mother, nobody was more surprised than I was that our lives didn’t end when we added a dependent. I went right back to walking aimlessly around Target with my BFF (thank you, Boba wrap!) and continued showering as usual. Wes & I still sing and dance like idiots in our living room. Now we just have a tiny audience.
That doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been hard at times. We’re only six months in and I’ve already dealt with the second-guessing and the guilt and the ridiculous worries and the being spit-up/peed/pooped on. I have had to compromise on things I never even considered being asked to compromise on. I’m sure we’ll deal with a whole lot more of it as the years go on. I know it’s easy now; I know it may not always be this way. There is still so much figuring out to be done.
But truly, I have no complaints. Being this boy’s mother is lovely. Like morning sunlight through the window as your nurse your baby kind of lovely. Soft and warm and sweet. When he was three days old I was nursing him in our big king-sized bed, studying his tiny face by the light of a lamp, when he reached one of his hands down toward my ribs and laid his palm flat against my side. I could not possibly describe to you what that felt like, what happened to me at that touch. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. A hand on my side. That’s all. He still cannot help but search my skin with those tiny fingers when he’s sleepy. What a thing to be of such comfort to another human being. Sometimes the Stranger will make eye contact with me and my eyes just well up with tears because have you seen that baby? He is beautiful. That’s motherhood. Or, a part of it.
So far I’ve learned that motherhood is not something that can be summarized or easily defined. So much of it is unexpected and strange. It’s mostly winging it and a lot of laughing at yourself. It’s hundreds of forgotten cups of coffee. It’s inexplicable joy at the most miniscule things–look! the baby is touching his foot! Get the camera!!! It’s more hearing about other people’s grandkids in the grocery store than you ever imagined. It’s accidentally flashing everyone in your small group because your kid wants to nurse but he also wants to look at all the faces all the time. It’s constantly swaying when you stand, even if you aren’t holding the baby. It’s being comfortable with having someone else’s vomit/pee/poop all over your clothes. (I mean comfortable, like “Yea, I probably have time to change but nah this is fine” kind of comfortable.) It’s a messy, messy business. Have you ever used your favorite burp cloth to wipe baby puke off of a filthy brewery floor? Because I have. Do you have a favorite burp cloth? That’s what it is to be a mom.
More than that though, what I’ve learned is that motherhood is a series of tiny deaths. It’s me, dying. The selfish me. The me that just needs one more minute in bed, just wants to veg out on Facebook, just wants to be able to run into the store real quick. There’s no room for her in this endeavor, and despite what the world tells me about that, I am glad to see her go. I am having to learn to put myself last after a lifetime of putting myself first. (And in that lesson, realizing that all of those years I thought I was putting God, my husband, my friends, etc, first? Yea, wasn’t doing that.) That’s where it really gets messy.
Truly sometimes I’d rather not be rocking the Stranger to sleep for the third time this nap because the laundry is piling up and the floors need to be swept and oh man have I eaten yet today? I want to write or knit or finish that sewing project that’s been sitting in the dining room for a month. I want to be selfish. I want to shout that I don’t have time for the tears today! That I “deserve” alone time! (Um, okay. Try explaining that to a baby.) Listen, I know what I deserve, and it isn’t this wonderful life.
Instead I try to remember that there is nothing that I could be doing in that moment that is more important than comforting my son. It won’t always be this way, but right now he needs me more than the laundry does.
What I know, what I feel is a gift to even be cognizant of, is that we are likely living the best years of our lives. We will look back on this time and marvel: there we were, still so young and in love, somehow able to spend our days with our tiny son in the home we created together. What an incredible blessing. I don’t want to squander this time being obsessed with a schedule or a clean house. Motherhood is the joy of the moment.
For the last six months I have watched this tiny person grow. I’ve watched him discover his hands, watched his eyes get big and round when he held his balled up fist in front of them, witnessed the delight on his face when he finally grasped the toy he’d been batting at in his swing. I’ve heard him say some variation of “hi” a hundred times, heard him chirping from the back seat, heard him giggling at Wes from the other room. It’s incredible. When I met him he was darked headed and wide eyed, 7 1/2 lbs of helplessness. Now he’s a full grown baby! Already he has shown us all this personality, but there is still so much about him we don’t know. Motherhood is a constant ice-breaker–meeting and learning and building a different kind of relationship. It has unveiled aspects of my God, of my husband, and of myself that were previously unknown to me–parts of us that I didn’t even know I didn’t know.
We are only six months in to this parenting thing and still trying to wrap our heads around what it means, what it’s supposed to look like. Nearly every day I add another sentence to my growing definition. (It is clipping your kid’s fingernails more times in a week than you clip your own in a month. It is walking into the kitchen to make dinner and discovering the lunch you didn’t have time to eat earlier. It is picking someone else’s nose in public.) Genuinely, truly, with all my heart, I am excited about finding out what else it is. The last six months have been some of the best of my life (and I lived in straight-up paradise for three years, so….); I am so looking forward to seeing what the next six months hold.