Friday, May 11, 2012

Becoming Mother

This is my second year celebrating Mother's Day, an this past year has been...interesting. One year ago, life was similar to the way it is now, at least on the surface: I have one son. Life is challenging. I am always tired. But on the inside, things are very different. I tried to articulate these feelings along the way, but they haven't always come out the right way or been received well.

There are two articles in particular written by experienced mothers that touched me this past year, and I want to share them here in case you haven't yet read them. Hearing the truth, hearing the hard, raw, socially unacceptable truth is very freeing.

Don't Carpe Diem
"Being told, in a million different ways to CARPE DIEM makes me worry that if I'm not in a constant state of intense gratitude and ecstasy, I'm doing something wrong."

I immediately identified with this author. During pregnancy and my son's infancy I had this expectation that every moment would be blessed and beautiful and enjoyable. Ha! Turns out that the blessing was in the mess. I let go of expectation after expectation, but it was still so very difficult that I was unsure I would make it to the next day.

"Maybe the fact that it's so hard means she IS doing it her own way...and she happens to be honest."

And honestly was not something we mothers are expected to give. No one wants to hear about how my whole day, whole entire days of my life, were dominated by poop and sleep-deprivation. Nope. Society is unwilling to sympathize with such a negative picture. But I appreciate this author's heart:

"And here's what I hope to say to the younger mama gritting her teeth in line: 'It's helluva hard, isn't it? You're a good mom, I can tell. And I like your kids, especially that one peeing in the corner. She's my favorite. Carry on, warrior. Six hours till bedtime.'"

My confession: most days were an agonizing countdown until my husband would return home from work and bail me out for an hour so I could at least cry alone and not have to hold anyone else while doing it. Of course it felt like failure. No one told me this was ok to do. That for many, many women, this is reality, this is normal, and it's ok.

And it doesn't mean failure. It means acceptance and perseverance are working.

Here's another encouraging article, and I'd be surprised if you haven't read this one yet:

To The Mother With Only One Child
Admitting that we lose part of ourselves as we gain a family member is freeing. It's all right to grieve, and it's all right to laugh in the face anyone who expects your life to carry on the way it was before.

Top lessons I've learned in the past year:

They were right: He did eventually sleep. Thank God! No seriously, THANK GOD!!!! And though we chose the harder path of not doing mainstream sleep-training, we are at peace with how our unique little person transitions to sleep. We refused to traumatize him into submission--because that's what it would have been for him--and feel the payoff in security and confidence were worth the wait. He usually sleeps all night now, and takes a predictable afternoon nap. Not that he loves it, oh no! he tries to rouse himself with thrashing and talking. This shift has been one of the biggest sanity-savers in our family.

They were wrong: It got easier, not harder. But that might be because he was a particularly challenging infant. We have a perspective now that lots of people don't. A perspective that allows us to smile when our toddler climbs into bed to greet us in the morning. How can we not love his joyful face and sweet kisses and insistence that "Up! Done!" because he is so excited to start the new day with us?

I REALLY appreciate my mom. I can only try to put into words how thankful I am for her work, how now I understand a little bit of what she meant and felt, and how suddenly all those sighs make sense. The "you're-just-as-stubborn-as-I-am" sigh and the "why-Lord-why" sigh. The "you're-so-beautiful" sigh and the "job-well-done" sigh. It's just the beginning of a deeper understand of my own mother.

I was not born to be a mother. It's a process, not a job, and I'm still becoming Mother one step at a time. I've heard it said that a woman's physical purpose is to bear children, that her body was created with beautiful design to bear and nurture babies. While the defiant child within me wants to scream, "That's not all we're good for!" I have to remark that pregnancy and birth are an amazing miracle. But being a mother is beyond physical. If it were solely physical, I would have broken long ago.