When we found out we were surprised and excited—on cloud 9. It was around my husband’s birthday and close to Christmas. J was such a gift, and we had a few special weeks of keeping it just between us. We’d always been ambivalent about parenting . . . until the moment we found out he was coming. Then we were all in!
Our birth was difficult, and we had a near-emergency C-section. I was very weak and I couldn’t hold him until nearly 3 hours after he was born. I was in and out of consciousness. I was so grateful my husband could hold him and care for him while I couldn’t. When I finally held my little guy, everyone was anxious to get him nursing right away and I was so blurry, so I don’t really have a memory of that first moment together. That’s a loss I’ve grieved, and it is real for many, many mamas and doesn’t get much attention.
How has being a mom changed me as a person? How much time do we have?! If there’s such a thing as a pure-hearted perfectionist, I’m close to it. My whole life long I’ve wanted to do everything just right, both for the sake of its rightness and the good things that would follow. Parenting and perfectionism just don’t mix. Waking up to that was tough, but I’m forever grateful that some of the difficulties we faced forced me to begin that lesson early in J’s life. Every day is an adventure in living right in the moment, prioritizing love and connection and growth over control and to-do lists and my perceived ideals.
I think it’s tough to balance preserving his child-like innocence with letting go. Now is the time we start loving him though some of the harder things in life. He’s very much like me—super sensitive, a thinker, an old soul—and he’s already begun weighing things like hurts, fears, and loss with a sophistication beyond his years. As he grows more and more, it’s hard to know what his little heart can take, and how much of the burden to carry with and for him.
Motherhood can be very lonely, especially at the beginning—and especially when you’re marching to your own drummer. Even with the wonderful friends and family I have, there were days on end of just the two of us, figuring it out together. People want to help, but we’re all stuck in our little bubbles trying to figure things out . . . if we do this again, I will ask for help when I need it.
Also, I didn’t know I would get hurt so much. Accidental toddler head butts are painful!
I’d love to keep the joyful, wondrous abandon of childhood forever. I hope to be forever able to meet hurts with kindness, empathy, and a snuggle, and to trust that if we wait long enough we’ll feel better again. I’d love James to always be completely himself and keep his courage when meeting life’s challenges. I hope beyond hope that James grows into kindness, generosity, and courage as he lives his life. I hope he knows himself, knows his values, and finds a way to live them out in a way that impacts the world. I hope he has a deep spiritual life. I hope he grows in wisdom, knowing both how to care for himself and how to look out for others. I hope he embraces his quirks and imperfections, valuing creativity and humility and strength and quiet confidence. I hope he is the kind of person who makes other people feel loved and valued, leaving a wake of grace and compassion.
I believe in being a safe, stable base for my son, where he can always return from the big world. I believe in warmth, empathy, nurture, and firm limits. I believe in flexibility, even though it’s hard for me sometimes. I believe in laughter and playfulness. I believe wholly and completely that children are every bit as human as adults and deserve the same respect and consideration.
Motherhood is different for everyone, and it is always a big deal. Own that. One in 7 moms has a postpartum mood challenge—depression, anxiety, OCD, trauma, or more. Chances are you know someone who does. If you’re really not yourself, get some support. If you’re doing ok, look around and support someone who needs it. You don’t have to listen to every voice offering you advice. Much advice, though well meaning, is unfounded or has nothing to do with your child—even from professionals. Read well-researched, best-practice parenting information, for certain. But, take the time to nurture your own intuition and tune in to your child’s needs. There’s where you’ll find most of your answers. Focus on your children. Laugh with your kids as much as you can. Chances are, you’re doing a great job.