After spending months in a sleep deprived fog, swimming in feelings of both love and inadequacy, it’s as though I have just completed an intense seven and a half month journey through recovery. I stare with mild amusement at the words “dare I say we are ready.” The words I wrote just one week before our son was born. How naive I was. I’ve come to recognize that one is never truly ready to become a parent. Parenting, like war, is something you can prepare for, but can’t fully comprehend until you have experienced it for yourself.
I have gone through several stages during my aforementioned recovery. The first stage was shock from the trauma my body had just experienced. Of course I knew birthing a child would be difficult, but I wasn’t prepared for the mental drain one experiences when primal instincts take over and the response is fight or flight. Although I did not run screaming from the room or take up arms against the nurses (despite considering both as viable options), the birth plan went out the figurative window as I fought to get baby out, and as with any good battle, walked away nursing my wounds to begin the slow process of healing on my home turf.
The second stage of recovery was frustration. I had years of babysitting and working as a family social worker to prepare me for being a mother. Visions of me holding this small sleeping bundle of sweet smelling baby snuggles danced in my head as we approached his birth. However, these visions were quickly torpedoed by his violent wails. My husband and I frantically swaddled, bounced, hushed, and did anything else we could think of to satisfy his needs, but still he cried. He would cry if we put him down. He would cry in the car. Sometimes, he would just cry. I remember asking myself things like “Why is he so unhappy?”, “What are we doing wrong?”, and “Why did nobody tell me it would be this hard?”
Once I started to learn some techniques that worked well for my son, and as he got a little older and began to realize that living on the outside was not so bad, the fog lifted and there I stood. What I found was a little horrifying. Is it just me, or does having a baby put ten years on? All of a sudden there was this mom body. I began to question whether I should just give in and buy myself a nice pair of mom jeans, grannie panties, and an oversized sweatshirt and call it a day. I eventually settled on yoga pants. Enter stage three, transitioning into the mom role. My priority was no longer myself. A quick shower, brushed teeth, and some deodorant was the new morning routine. Why waste time on makeup, outfits, or styling my hair when I’ll be adorned in spit up, pee, and poop within mere hours (sometimes minutes). This not-so-glamorous life as a mom made the pre-baby days (four or five months ago) seem only a distant memory which I reflected on nostalgically like a long lost friend.
The fourth stage is where I find myself now. As my son gains some independence by sleeping through the night (mostly), exerting better control over his bodily excretions, and learning to do some things on his own (i.e. spending a total of five minutes playing by himself while I do a few dishes), we have begun to find a new normal and here I am. Not just a mom, but a woman and a wife. No longer overwhelmed by the daunting task of learning to be a mom, I am able to revel in the sweet baby snuggles, tiny hugs, and contagious giggles. I’m still not sure I’m ready, but with basic training behind me, I am once again bursting with excitement for everything this amazing little human has in store.