Okay, I get it now! I get what moms are talking about. I have only been at this for 5 months, but the clarity comes immediately with childbirth. I understand why motherhood is so amazing!
My daughter was born at the beginning of March. The labor was intense – much more painful than I ever imagined. I had strong Pitocin-induced contractions that made me shiver, sweat and swear like I never have before. It took every ounce of my energy to endure the intense, primal sensation of birthing a baby. I got through it one contraction at a time, one breath at a time. I understand now what childbirth feels like. But as soon as our little girl was born, I knew it was all worth it and I would do it all over again to experience the joy that it brings.
I understand now the indescribable elation that washes over you when your child is born. I was thrilled that this was finally a reality and that our family could begin. I was relieved she was healthy. I was grateful to have the honor of being a mom. This tiny baby in my hands was something that I helped nurture and create. She was so miraculous and determined, yet fragile and innocent. She was completely dependent on me to be there to take care of her every need. I felt prepared and ready for the task.
I have always heard about having incredible sleep deprivation when you have a newborn. I thought I would be a zombie. I wasn’t. I understand now the tiredness that comes with being a new mom, but it was a different kind of tired. I didn’t sleep much in the beginning but I didn’t want to. I was so in awe of this precious baby. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep because I just wanted to marvel at this beautiful little girl. She would lie in my arms to sleep and I would kiss her forehead and tell her how much we love her. She had a little whimper when she cried and she would giggle in her sleep. Her expressions were endless. She stared and studied everything around her.
Now that the newborn months have passed, my tiredness comes mostly during her nighttime feedings. My eyes blink slowly and heavily. Sometimes when I am sitting up in bed with her on the nursing pillow, I catch myself dozing off in the quiet darkness of our bedroom. I am surprised I haven’t tipped over yet! Something usually stirs me back to stability and we finish and go back to bed. Just last night, my girlfriend woke me up as I was lying on my side, propped up on my elbow. I must have been in the midst of side-lying nursing and just fell asleep in a semi-upright position.
My main goal in the beginning was to be sure she was eating well. Despite it being the natural way to nurture, I understand now that breastfeeding is not as intuitive as one may think. It took about a month, along with some frustration, tears and help from others with experience, to really feel like I had the hang of it. I finally got to a point of loving it. The bonding and connection it establishes between mom and baby is like no other. It is like a sigh of relief, when I come home after being away for several hours, to feed and nourish my baby. Not only am I giving our daughter the food she needs, but I am also giving her hugs, holding, comfort and warmth. Breastfeeding is so much more than the milk!
I started going to the La Leche League meetings for support and new friendships in this new world of mommy-hood. My girlfriend and I call the meetings our daughter’s “eating school”. After meeting other moms and hearing their stories, I understand now why some moms breastfeed their children beyond 6 months or 1 year. They are normal women who want to lovingly care for their children a while longer than many are comfortable with in our culture. The experience of pregnancy and motherhood has made me more accepting of people doing things differently than what I do or what I used to think was the “right” way. There are a million ways to raise a healthy, loved and well-adjusted child. We will choose the one that works for us.
I understand now how your relationship changes with your partner when you bring a child into your lives. You must deal with two people, with differing viewpoints, trying to compromise on many decisions. Each person’s solution to a problem can be different, but seems completely logical to them.
The most important thing I have learned is that we both love our daughter dearly and, despite what we disagree on, we both agree that we have the best intentions for our child. I truly believe that we need to be good role models for our children and encourage them to get an education and be great people, but that we can also show them how to cherish and nurture our relationships with one another.
My partner and I both come from divorced-parent homes so we have to figure out how to forge this new path on uncharted territory. We don’t have a model to start from. We have to look to other couples that have done it well. I know that we need to smooth out the little wrinkles before they grow to be too big. I also know that we need to always carve out time for ourselves, despite our busy schedules. Finally, I know that we need to keep in mind the reason we were drawn together in the beginning.
I understand the protectiveness a mother feels. I call it my “momma bear ” or “momma bird instincts”. It is triggered at various times when I feel a possible “threat” or just someone or something that doesn’t feel right around my baby. I am very watchful around her. I keep my baby in my line of sight and swoop in if I feel my feathers ruffle for any reason. I am quick to tell people if I do not like something around my baby and unapologetic for doing so. Before, I usually had a more go-with-the-flow character. Now that I have a baby to take care of, I watch over and protect her like my life depends on it. I know I will need to give her space to explore and learn as she grows, but during these infant months, she needs her mommies to look out for her.
I understand now how having a child makes you take a close look at whether or not you want to leave them to go back to work. The emotional bond between mother and child is so great that it is difficult to break. Physical separation is heart-wrenching, especially in the beginning. The first time I had to leave her to go to work, I cried the whole drive there. I know that some moms don’t have a choice because of financial circumstances. Some moms have a deep inner force that makes them want to stay on top of their career game. Some moms get bored being at home all day with their baby. It is different for every mom and dad who has to face the question of how to handle their work / home balance after having a child.
I am fortunate that my photography work is something that I love and that feels worthwhile in my life. It is fulfilling on a different level than mothering is. When I photograph a family or a child I feel like I am giving an irreplaceable gift. I know the importance of photographs for a family. Photographs become their history, their heritage and their memories. There is a fondness and comfort that comes with looking back on photographs of the people you love. You hold those moments close to your heart. When photographing your own family, there is always a person missing in the picture – the person behind the camera. I love that I can give a someone “the whole picture” of their family.
These moments of childhood are fleeting. They go by quicker than you could ever imagine. People tell you all the time how quickly they grow up. It is true, but ten times faster. It is a bittersweet irony. I felt it right after my baby was born. I completely adore who she is now, but I am nostalgic of the tiny newborn baby she used to be, holding onto each stage of her development, while anxious to see her grow. It is a balance between adoring who she is growing into and letting go of what she has already grown out of.
I understand that motherhood has many layers! I know my 5 months of experience is just scratching the surface. Being a new mom brings up fond memories of my own childhood. I wonder if my mom felt the same excitement when she had me and my brother. I wonder what hopes my parents had for us. It also makes me think about the qualities and values I want to pass on to my daughter.
There are going to be many winding roads ahead. I know it’s not going to be all hugs & belly laughs. There will be runny noses, maybe broken bones and some broken hearts along the way. Whatever motherhood brings, I will be fully present. This is what I signed up for. I am incredibly grateful I get to be a mom. There is nothing I have experienced in my life that I find more fulfilling. Bring on the next 18 years!