Some say becoming a mother starts at conception. Others say it starts a little later when your tummy grows, and your whole body changes around it. Ahh, yes, pregnancy and all the joys it brings. The bloating, the morning sickness, the ravaging hunger, the uncontrollable emotions, not being able to sleep, not being able to see your feet. It is a wonderous time that, rightly so, many women do not enjoy at all. (Side note: Never look into what happens to a female body when pregnant. It’s too incredible for our understanding and will freak you out.)
Many women also go through pregnancy as if they are going for a walk in the park. No skin off their nose. No issue whatsoever. Blue skies, happy baby bumps, and ankles you can still see. Good on them!
But, back to my motherhood narrative. When do you start being a mom? Those who say it begins at conception are so wrong. They couldn’t be more wrong if they tried.
Being pregnant and delivering a baby into this world does not make a mother. You become a mother when they put that tiny baby in your arms, and fear is the first thing that hits you, right down to your bones. It might take a few hours, or days, weeks even. That fear might even be concealed behind the massive rush of love you get thrown at you. But it’s there.
Cold Chilling Fear
Fear as I had never experienced – the first of the three unique things I’ve learned from being a Mom. A mother’s instinct to protect their baby comes from deep-rooted evolution. It has nothing to do with options or likings. Nature knows what it’s doing when it leaves certain emotions to the reptilian brain and not to our sometimes-undiscerning own choice.
And it’s not fear that you can put your finger on and identify clearly, like “I’m afraid they’ll get a pea stuck up their nose, and it’ll sprout into their brain” (which is silly and does not happen, by the way). No. It’s a general, all-encompassing fear of absolutely everything, even ourselves. Or, better said, especially us. What if I drop the baby? What if I don’t change the nappy on time? What if the bath water is too hot? Or too cold? What if I can’t breastfeed? What if I can but don’t want to? What if I want to but can’t? What if the baby doesn’t sit up independently when it is five months old? What if it’s raining and I’m outside WITH THE BABY? What if the baby’s hungry, and I don’t know how to tell? What if it’s cold? Or too hot? What if I can’t stop it from crying? What if it doesn’t cry?!
The fear, feeding off our insecurities and worst nightmares, will gobble you up and make a mockery of you if you don’t learn how to control it, breathe deeply and think about the millennia of evolution and women rearing their babies into adulthood – that and learning to take advice from those who mean it and don’t want to only validate their ideas through you. There’s a difference. We learn to spot it after a while.
The ultimate two fears? What if something happens to my child, and what if something happens to me? Both are life-changing and will put you in your new-found place in a heartbeat.
Fear was the first thing that hit me, closely followed by a wholly changed notion of time.
Time and its weird mechanics are the second of three unique things I’ve learned from being a Mum.
“Time goes by so quickly when they’re babies. Enjoy every moment.”
Some days take weeks. Some hours take days. Time changes completely and turns everything on its head. Maybe it’s because of the sleepless nights or having new routines (or no routines), but the notion of time and what it means changes.
Whenever someone who hadn’t seen my child in a while would say, “they’ve grown so much! Time flies, hey?” I’d look at them and think, no, it doesn’t. Those 3cms and 1.5kgs were all suffered into existence, one second, minute, and hour at a time.
And then the math starts to creep up on you, and time changes again. Your mortality is thrown into the arena, hitting you like a ton of bricks. You begin calculating life spans and what you’ll see and not see, what you’ll miss and not be there for. Your breath accelerates, and it’s just all so overwhelming. So, so overwhelming.
And then, the third of three unique things of being a Mum rushes down on you: Love.
The connection I felt with my baby was the third unique moment for me. It’s not always immediate. It may take a while. Some women report feeling a huge rush of love as soon as they set eyes on their baby for the first time, falling even more in love with them then and there. It’s not always like that, and that’s ok. Everything has its time (as we’ve seen).
That rush of love was more of a trickle at the beginning. I was so caught up in my mission not to let anything happen to that tiny human that all the fear and anxiety blocked out the rest. Time stood still and trapped me in a full-alert mode that hijacked all my attention. It came later, a week and a bit later, when I felt a little more confident and could just sit and be instead of sitting and worrying about where and what I should be doing and wasn’t (the clothes and dishes would just have to wait). The love was overwhelming when we settled into our routines, and the bond started solidifying. It was like having a permanent hot water bottle close to my heart. A warm, enveloping feeling of pure, raw emotion; a deep, indescribable feeling of closeness, togetherness, and devotion. The tiny human I held in my arms was (is) of me. To this day, I am still in awe that a person is growing in front of my eyes, that this future adult is being formed, and that I’ve been trusted with helping to show them the way. Or some of it, at least.
This brings me to the most important thing connected to the rush of love we feel for our kids: The realization that children are of us, but they don’t belong to us.
This might be strange to say and feel, and not everyone will agree, but I cannot avoid looking at my child with a tiny bit of distance. I’ll explain. The respect I have for my child as an individual has made me not think or ever feel that I “own” them. Their independence, path, time, fears, and love must be respected. I don’t want them to grow in my image or shadow; I want them to thrive and grow with and for themselves, even if, for a while, they will need some guidance. This realization, acknowledging their existence beyond our own, is probably the most profound, ground-shattering any mother can have. We’ll protect them from the world, from themselves; we’ll give them time, take our time with them; we’ll bestow all our love on them without hesitation. And still, despite all that, we must never forget: our children are of us, but never ours.
Being a Mum is challenging. It has its not-so-obvious ups and downs. It has its moments. It can be as rewarding as it is heartbreaking. Children are not the best thing in the world, no matter what anybody says. But, boy, oh boy, do they come terrifically close.
Guest Post by