It's 4 am, I'm nodding off in the rocking chair as my 1-month-old baby feeds for the fourth time since I initially "went to bed," and fear sets in—morning is almost here again. Another day that's beautiful in its own right yet is packed with the worry that inevitably goes along with owning the privilege and title of "mother."
Before I had kids, I thought I was invincible. I thought I was bold and brash and so, so strong. But fearlessness just a few years ago had a much different face. It was about jumping out of airplanes. Bungee jumping. Traveling solo abroad. Standing up for myself in adverse situations. My personal fears before kids were few and conquering them mattered only to one person—me.
Those things all seem so simple now. Jump out of an airplane? Gladly. Propel my bungeed body off a bridge? In a second. Travel abroad? Yup. Try it with two tiny kids. Stand up for yourself and others? Obviously. Now teach your toddler daughter to do the same.
I now have a different definition of fearlessness. Because motherhood doesn't come with a parachute or a bungee cord. It doesn't come with a map or a guidebook. Today's fears are plentiful yet take on a much different tune.
Maybe you can relate, mama:
Fear that the baby will wake up and I, once again, won't get any sleep
After every late-night and wee-morning-hour feeding, I swaddle my baby boy, hold my breath, and ever-so-delicately place him in his crib. It's as if I'm holding lit sticks of dynamite, praying that they won't explode in my face. Because before kids I relied on a solid nine hours, and now I'm the zombie who feels good about a two-hour stretch.
But despite my exhaustion, I know this time is fleeting. That in a matter of weeks, these bleary-eyed feedings will be a thing of the past. That in a matter of months, these middle-of-the-night snuggles with the world's softest skin will be gone forever. Who needs sleep anyway? As they say: sleep is for the weak.
Fear that my body will never be the same
It's been stretched out, stitched up, scratched raw, and sucked dry. My shoulders hunch to cradle a nursing infant. My stomach's not what it was. And, while temporary, every inch of me seems to be constantly soaked in human milk.
But every imperfection is worth it. And I'm getting stronger every day. From daily trips up and down the stairs while carrying not one but two kids. I'm back in my happy place, on the ski slopes, six weeks postpartum. I make time for weekly yoga classes—they help me walk a little taller and open my heart up again. My body is by no means perfect, but it never was. Never will be. But, I'm up for the challenge.
Fear that the screaming baby will create distance between my partner and myself that we'll never be able to recoup
Screaming kids put no one at ease. Especially when it's in your home. Your safe space. At a time when it's natural to be sleeping. (Or during the day, for that matter.) Screaming is an animalistic sensibility that puts people in survival mode and when you're running on fumes while trying to appease a toddler, it creates a level of stress we didn't know existed.
But take a minute to remove yourself from the situation. Before the babies, it was just you and your love. Your sweetie. Your Valentine. The love of your life who helped create these angels in the first place, and that's still the case. When times get hard, remember to lean in, not out, and know that they need you as much as you need them.
Fear that my first baby will resent me now that I cannot give her the same constant attention
Adding another child to the mix is emotional in many ways, but, for me, I couldn't help but sob whenever someone asked how my daughter was adjusting. For two and a half years, my baby girl was my whole heart. My sweetie pie. It truly didn't seem possible that I could share that same love with another being.
But it is possible, and my daughter seems to be coping just fine. In fact, she's obsessed with her brother. My husband and I joke that our son likes his sister more than any of us. And it's probably true. Sure, it's tough to build Magna-tile towers with my little girl while the baby's attached to my breast—but, I've always been one for multitasking.
Fear that my clients will look elsewhere if I take maternity leave
As a freelance copywriter, my clients are my lifeblood. What if they need me while I'm recovering from having the baby and I can't immediately deliver? Will they see me as weak for making time for myself and my family? Will they think I'm incapable of producing the caliber of work I'm known for because they think that my mind will be preoccupied?
But my clients are more than just faceless payors—many have become my friends. They know me. They respect my work and my work ethic, and they know that having a baby won't make me any less competent. If anything, it will only make me more determined. More dedicated to maintaining our professional relationship. More driven to do great creative work that provides for my family. More passionate about my writing because I have that much more love in my heart.
Fear that my friends without kids will never want to hang out again now that I have a growing family
Social media has a ruthless way of letting you know that your single and kid-less friends went out this weekend—and that you weren't invited. These friends innocently assume that you're content staying in with your kids. And while that may be true sometimes, you automatically assume you're no longer fun or cool. For a moment you believe that you're officially a boring parent and that your social life is over.
But your true friends will always be there, and you know that. You've always known that. But now you find it truer than ever. Having a kid doesn't make you any less cool, if anything, it gives you a force of nature you never knew you had. Along the way, you'll also make new parent friends. Men who can share a sanity-saving beer with your husband after the kids go down, and women who can truly understand your hopes and fears as a mother because they openly share many of the same.
Fearlessness isn't about the complete absence of fear—and neither is motherhood. It's about exercising courage in spite of your fear. It's about mastering your fear. Motherhood isn't for the faint of heart. It's for those who look fear straight in the face and say, yeah, I've got this. And you do. You've 100% got this, mama.