I have the world's best mom. She's everything you could want in a mother: selfless, loving, gentle, humble, smart, kind, creative, patient, open-minded...The list goes on. When I reflect on my childhood, the memories are enveloped in feelings of security, bliss and contentment.
One of the stories I most loved hearing was how my mom was never a "kid person." She always knew she wanted them, but she waited until she was 30 years old to get pregnant and before that never felt a huge pull toward it.
Having my brother, sister and me changed her life, she said. We became her new reason for living. I loved imagining my mom undergoing this transformation. I loved knowing that she was one person before and, after us, completely changed. I felt like the most special person in the world, so very loved.
Throughout my childhood and into my young adult years, I identified with my mom's pre-parenthood feelings on kids. I knew without question that I wanted them, but I certainly didn't classify myself as a kid person. I hated babysitting (though if any of the kids I babysat for are reading this, I loved you). I didn't go all gaga over little babies. Spending any more than 15 minutes with kids utterly exhausted me and I couldn't wait to escape. In my mid-20s, my now-husband and I talked about how we wanted kids one day but that it could definitely wait. Our life was great, and I was in no rush to change it.
Fast forward a few years, and I was pregnant with our daughter. I spent all 9 months daydreaming of our future as a family of three. I looked forward to the magical transformation that I would undergo the minute my daughter entered the world. I imagined every detail of new motherhood, from the snuggles in front of the Christmas tree to the surely devastating moment I'd leave her at daycare and return to work. I was so ready for the next chapter.
But when my daughter was born, that transformation never happened. And it hasn't happened in the 10 months since.
I love my daughter more than anything in the world and feel lucky beyond belief to have her, but that's where the similarities with my mom's experience of motherhood end. I've found being a new mom mostly terrifying. The days are challenging, the constant worry draining and the sleepless nights downright miserable.
When I headed back to work after three months, I felt mostly relief that she was in hands I deemed far more capable than my own. I've often felt like a fraud, spending more time than I care to admit missing my old self and wondering if I'll ever get her back. Every month my daughter gets older, I feel joy that we've made it this far, rather than sadness at how fast she's growing. These months are hard, and I look hopefully to the future.
I know many women like my own mom who are crushing it at this motherhood thing. They've flourished in their role, savoring the little moments and managing to juggle everything with what looks like complete ease. Though I suspect the truth isn't quite that straight-forward, I envy them regardless and spend a lot of time wishing I could be half the mother they are.
No, this is not how I pictured motherhood. Slowly but surely, though, I'm discovering who I am as a mom and learning to embrace her because she's the only mom I can be. I may not be the natural I expected to be, but I always come back to this: No one could love my daughter as much as I do. I'm not the best mom in the world, but I'm the best mom in the world for her.
I hope one day when I tell my daughter about my life before and after her birth, she'll see only how my heart grew exponentially with love. That she'll feel like the most special person in the world, so very loved. In the meantime, I'll continue trying to learn from the best.