Sunday, May 09, 2010

On Motherhood

Being a mother is everything I dreamed about yet not quite like I imagined. The first weeks left me, normally a somewhat confident and competent woman, anything but. I looked, felt and smelled better in my fantasies of motherhood than I did in the realities of life with a newborn. I remember envisioning sitting around in the evenings with a tiny baby resting peacefully between us and having plenty of leisure time during the day to sip coffees with friends in a clean house while the baby napped. Yes, I'm chuckling now too at the absurdity of those visions but surely while pregnant we all imagine the glossy times and fail to realize that the laundry will pile up with frightening speed before our very eyes as the baby that should really be asleep spews on both of us yet another time.

While the first six weeks of motherhood were some of the most challenging of my life, the newborn period is gone all too quickly. Friends with children kept telling me to enjoy it as it would be over before I knew it. I remember trying to treasure those moments but being too consumed with various difficulties and the physical pain I was in to really enjoy it. Then, by the time I got somewhat on top of the whole parenting thing, I no longer had a froggy newborn on my chest, but a wriggling baby who would rather explore his new world than cuddle with his mama. Sigh.

Still, beyond the chaos, I look at Riker now and swell and with pride and joy. Often, I see not a helpless baby, but within him the man that he will become. I envision him as an adult and the kind of person I hope that he will grow up to be. I do this not because I want these early years to pass, but because in seeing the person he will become, I am better able to respect the person he is now. When I'm feeling frustrated with broken sleep and messy, well, everything, I remember that I have been entrusted with a great and honorable responsibility - to help this little being achieve his full potential.

So, for example, when I'm changing his diaper, I try to not look at it as a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. I like to explain to Riker what I'm doing, knowing that I would hate it if someone rudely thrust my legs up into the air without giving me any notice. He trusts me to meet all of his needs and I aim to do so both gently and respectfully. But, then, being human, I lose my patience, find it again, feel guilty and start all over. What a tough, yet amazing job I have. Which reminds of a great quote I heard years ago which now has real meaning for me:

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone


  1. Yep. And I had a PhD at the time and felt that my education had totally failed me. Nowhere in my extensive education did they offer me instruction on even the basics of baby rearing - much less how to handle a toddler or teanager. I understand that the school system (but not the university) is slightly better these days. But why isn't child rearing a required course? Much more useful than fluid dynamics or heat and mass transfer. But, I always figured that if babies survived many years ago, my kids had at least a chance of survival in spite of my lack of preparation. And they did.

  2. Yeah that's right. I remember being taught how to balance a checkbook, sew a pair of pants and bake a cake but not much on child rearing other than that sack of flour I had to tend to for 48 hours once. And the real thing is nothing at all like that quiet, dry and immobile flour!

  3. Well we now do offer child development classes, but it's only if you want to take it and if it fits into your schedule... Congrats on your accomplishments and reflections as a mamma!

  4. Well that's progress anyway! Do you have to carry around a sack of flour for a week?