The US presidential race has as a special place in my heart (others might call it indigestion). Two election cycles ago, I remember sitting on the edge of my couch waiting, counting the minutes, as ballot totals rolled across the bottom of the television screen. One way or another, I knew my life would never be the same. It was the evening before my eldest son was born.
I won’t go into the details too much, but suffice it to say, Kiddo wasn’t particularly interested in leaving the mothership.
After an incredibly long day over which I convinced myself more than once, I must be dying, a rather loud pink thing lay in the room with me. The whole process had given my immediate family ample time to fill the waiting room, (did I mention how very long of a day it was?) and though my mom was never far, soon my hospital room became a revolving door of other well-wishers.
During one visit, my sister smiled at me as she commented with a hint of disbelief, “you’re a mom now.”
I suppose, I technically was by the definition of the word, but I sure didn’t feel all that different, well any more different than being exhausted and more than a wee bit bloated (understatement of the year). My dad likes to tell us about how when my brother was born, time simply stopped until my brother’s eyes (and lungs) opened. I didn’t have that moment, I didn’t experience that new parent glow. I will admit, I felt a little cheated. And tired. And disgusting. And maybe even a bit of a fraud. I felt a lot of I’s. Weren’t moms supposed to be self-sacrificing? My mom sure is. She’d taken the last week off work at the hint that Kiddo might finally decide to arrive with nothing to show for it. Shouldn’t my first and foremost thoughts now be centered on that wailing, hungry, pink thing and not about how none of this day had gone to my plan?
Please do not think I didn’t want my son. I very much did! I just sort of thought that being maternal would be, oh I don’t know,.. more instinctive. So I read parenting books. I did all the things that moms were supposed to do, and my son slept, pooped, and cried without so much as a thank you. I told myself I didn’t need much. A simple coo would do! I read more books, watched how-to videos and solicited recommendations. Kiddo slept and cried some more. People used to tell me I’d make a great mom some day. I was beginning to suspect they were wrong. I wanted to cry too. My mom had made motherhood look so easy. All I wanted now was to be was to be just a little like her (and sleep, lots and lots of sleep).
“After I lost, I slept like a baby: Sleep two hours, wake up and cry, sleep two hours, wake up and cry.” – John McCain to Stephen Colbert on losing the presidential election.
Then late one night, some days if not weeks later, as I sat with Kiddo in a rocking chair, humming the melodies of songs my mom used to sing to us before bed, I suddenly realized I was no longer hesitant to return him to his crib because I feared he might wake. I simply did not want to let him and this moment go. Perhaps I was still being selfish, but there are worse things to be selfish about. But it did make me wonder, when had the transition happened?
I decided it was best not to question it. The exact hour of the change didn’t matter, only that I finally felt like a proper parent (even if I still don’t always feel like I know what I am doing). At the same time, I became even more in awe of my mom. Going through the whole process with one child had been exhausting, but somehow she’d managed to survive it more than once.
One day, quite some time later, my mom confessed that she was never much of an infant person either. It turns our early days weren’t all that different after all. But she also told me that as much as I adore my children now, it just gets better. What she may not realize is the same can be said about her.
Mom, I still wish I might one day learn to be half as good a parent as you. Love you.
Happy mother’s day.