Before ever becoming a mom, I thought I had parenting down—pah ha ha!
Let me give you some background. I’d spent nine years working with children and families before I became pregnant with my daughter. I knew kids, I loved kids—what could possibly go wrong?
I took to pregnancy with relative ease. With only mild sickness and a newly developed love for chocolate milk I enjoyed the swell of my belly and bathed in the excitement of our impending arrival. We created a beautiful nursery, purchased teeny tiny clothes and keenly attended our birth preparation classes.
Long (very long) story, short. Despite the classes I was not prepared for birth. I distinctly remember seeing my daughter for the first time and being overwhelmed not by love but by pure, unadulterated relief and exhaustion.
This relief was short lived. My first lesson?
The actual act of giving birth is a drop in the ocean of parenting.
Despite a dedicated obsession with birth for my final months of pregnancy I rapidly understood that the wailing infant in front of me was less concerned with her mode of arrival than she was with adjusting to this new place she called home. I’m certain that there were times when we both wished she could just pop back inside for a few hours break.
I distinctly remember the moment when reality hit.
Three weeks in, I was staring at the clock on the kitchen wall. It said 11am but I knew that was wrong because this day had literally gone on forever. I can recall the feeling of growing panic as I assessed the number of hours until my husband would come home. I looked back and forth between my daughter and the clock, my sleep deprived brain attempting to solve the problem.
And then it hit: this isn’t going to end.
That might seem rather obvious. Not that this day would go on forever or even that I would always have a baby—but that I would never again be who I was before. I would never stop being this little person’s mother. Whatever happened, wherever she eventually went, this was it. We were it.
Never before in my life had there been a situation so permanent. Sure, there’d been jobs and relationships that seemed hard to leave for one reason or another but always blinking in the background was the exit door, ready and waiting.
As I sat there that day in my kitchen, staring at the clock, there was no exit in sight. Frankly, it was terrifying.
I can only tell you, as most new mothers can, that the following few weeks were a blur. Time became both the most important factor and the least.
I could tell you how long since she last fed or slept but had no concept of being in rhythm with the outside world. I watched people walk to work and couldn’t remember what it felt like to start a day.
Long dark night feeds blurred into hazy endless days. Everything was simultaneously in slow motion and sped up. Six-weeks-old already, but how long have I been sat on the sofa? Who knows?
It became easier, as it does. Chrysalis-like, we emerged from those foggy days as partners. Our days began to acquire rhythm. We left the house before noon. She become alive in the world and I watched every second.
Endless people told me how fast it goes. ‘Not at 5am’, I would counter in my head, flashing what I hoped was a maternal smile.
Two and a half years later I understand a little more what they meant. I see my little girl and those foggy baby days seem distant.
I am beginning to feel ready for another baby. To plunge back into the endless night and lose a little of myself for a while because now I understand something else.
I’m never going to be the person I was before but also, becoming a mother has made me more myself than I thought possible.
But I still can’t tell you how the time thing works. That’s a mystery.