No book, class, or person on earth could have prepared me for motherhood. I could have spent my whole adolescences studying how to be a mother and still wouldn’t be proficient enough. It’s a role you can only truly learn and understand by being.
I am three kids, and just over seven years, into motherhood. I am nowhere near knowing all there is to being a great mother. They say your firstborn is the “guinea pig”. This is true in a lot of aspects, but each child is a guinea pig in regards to learning how to mother. Every child comes with different characteristics and traits. This makes motherhood the most evolving role I have or will ever have.
It’s hard trying to become someone while needing to be that someone at the same time. In nearly all other roles, we study then become. The role of a mother is opposite: we are as we become. Each day I am having to become a mother I have never been before, because I am mothering to children who are changing each day. This role has provided me the miraculous blessings of becoming; becoming better, becoming stronger, becoming a mother.
I was so excited when I finally was expecting my first baby. Conceiving was a hard journey, though that’s a story for another time. With my studies as an undergrad in Marriage and Family I believed having a baby would be nothing but a joyous time.
After giving birth to a baby boy, life felt wonderful. Yes, the sleep deprivation was an awakening, but I thought I could manage. I was just so happy to finally begin the path I had been looking forward to for years.
Four weeks after his birth everything changed. He cried constantly. I felt I could never console him. I would spend, what seemed like forever, getting him to sleep, and then would finally lay him down for him to wake.
Nights were filled with feeding, holding, rocking, and intermittent sleep. Days were spent holding, feeding, and trying to fit in a shower. Yes, I was a new mom with the false belief he shouldn’t cry, but his crying seemed far from the normal I had learned about and seen with other babies. He also appeared to be spitting up more than he was keeping down.
At his two month wellness check up I knew I needed to seek help from his pediatrician. Fortunately, it was visible to the doctor how fussy he was. His weight gain was also concerning. It may seem ironic, but I actually felt relieved when the pediatrician said he was one of the fussiest babies she had seen. This recognition made my worries and frustrations validated.
Adjustments were made to help him but changes came slowly. It wasn’t until he was nearly four months old when I began to see his demeanor change. During those two months of transition there were many sleepless nights and long days.
A major lesson I learned during that time was empathy versus sympathy. Many people would say “this too shall pass and one day you’ll miss it.” Even though they meant well, this truly didn’t help. In fact, it was not something I wanted to hear. It did not help me in that moment. Those comments only added guilt to my burdens.
Of course I wanted to enjoy the new experience of motherhood and my son’s first months of life, but the struggle I was going through made it nearly impossible. What I really needed to hear was; “it is hard, it’s exhausting, but you will get through it and be stronger from it.” Because, at that time, just having someone recognize what I was going through would have been comforting. Sure, it wouldn’t have changed the circumstance, but validating my feelings would have given me encouragement and helped me find reassurance. This would have been far more helpful than trying to help me see into the future.
Helping me to find joy in that current moment and circumstance was what I needed the most. My future fondness couldn’t help me at that time. And guess what? Even though I do miss, my now seven year old, when he was a baby, I don’t miss colic. I’m not sure I’ll ever miss having a colic baby. It’s a terrible infant phase which left me feeling robbed of the joyous first time experiences of motherhood, but it also provided me the insight to what I should say when others are going through a hard time.