“The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.” – Rajneesh
For the past seven years, my colleagues gave me boosts of confidence by saying things like “you’re lucky you’re a teacher before a mom — you’ll be a natural” and “see, after all this experience with parents, you’ll be such a good one”. Even though I smiled and shrugged off such comments — I kind of thought they were true. How could they not be true? I knew how to take care of kids — how to make them laugh, console them, read their emotions, teach them how to communicate, and learn and read and make friends. I knew how to stick a bandaid on an injury and encourage a genuine apology. I knew the popular toys, action heroes, princesses, and favored recess games. I knew all of that and more. But here’s the thing — all that, is the easy stuff. I thought about having kids as a teacher, but not like a mother.
Javi is 8 weeks old now and I feel like I’m just starting to turn the corner on this mothering thing. I had unrealistic images in my head of motherhood which is unfortunate because I read the books, watched the documentaries, attended classes, talked to “real-life mothers”, got advice, asked questions, and thought with every bone in my body that I was prepared. I definitely missed something in my search of “how to successfully raise a child”. But I guess if I’m being totally transparent I should have asked about “successfully having a newborn at home without feeling like you’re losing your mind”. But even if I had asked, I’m not sure I could have grasped the answer. Because I don’t think there is an answer.
Weeks 1 and 2 are now a blur. I had a little scrunched up guy in my arms, nearly 24/7. I learned how to hold him, to change his diaper, to feed him and to dress him. There were a lot of tears — from both of us. Days and nights were confused and before I realized it the seasons had changed (literally… summer became fall). At one point, after 5 days of being at home, I went to the doctor and left the house wearing flip flops and summer clothes. Imagine my surprise when I realized the 90 degree days had turned into 50 degree days. I struggled tremendously with breastfeeding, cried more than I’d like to admit and felt like a failure. The next two weeks (week 3 and 4) were even harder. Partly because Sean had to go back to work and partly because I just felt defeated every day. I struggled with the broken sleeping patterns, I came to terms that my attempt at breastfeeding was causing me more harm than good, struggled with getting into a pumping routine, but started going for daily walks mostly just to keep him from crying. Weeks 5 and 6 allowed a little more breathing room. I started taking him places (doctor appointments, Sean’s work, my parent’s house). I became more confident driving with him, and bathing him, and dressing him, and feeding him. And I cried a bit less. Week 7, and now 8, have been the best yet. Partly because he’s developing a routine and a schedule that I can sort of predict and partly because practice makes progress. Emotionally, I’m in a better place than during week 1 (physically, too) and I’m starting to feel, and listen to, those motherly instincts I’ve heard so much about.
This is not to say that I don’t second guess myself because I do. In fact, in a day I probably go back and forth on what’s best, or important, or safe, or irrelevant 3 or 4 times. I now know his cries and can decipher hunger between boredom between a wet diaper. I have a really, really broad form of a daily schedule that we stick to. My body, while mostly healed is also starting to come to terms with the fact that 8-10 hour sleep stretches are a thing of the past. But most importantly, I’ve learned how to make him laugh, to console him, to predict and read his emotions. We communicate and read together and sing songs together. And at 8 weeks in, I’ve already forgotten what life was like before him. Being a teacher first may not have made me the “natural” that I thought it would but I’m positive that this mom thing is for me.