Role of a Lifetime

Happy Mother’s Day 2014! As my first time officially celebrating as a mother, the day holds a sweet poignancy and sense of immense gratitude. Becoming a mother was the answer to many, many prayers, not just from me, but from loved ones.

I don’t know how or when the longing to become a mother was planted in my heart. Sure, as a youngster I had a baby doll that I toted around. Sure, I watched my mom in that role as I grew up. But somehow, there was an inner confidence that if I had a child … I would be good at being a mother. I just knew it. I would be kind, patient, loving, and gentle. I would be like Ma Ingalls in Little House on the Prairie: sewing by the fireplace and always there to lovingly steer my little ones. And in return, my children would reflect all that I had put in by having mannerly, quiet, and genteel dispositions.

Fast forward to 2013, to the hospital room where I’d just given birth to my daughter. I felt overwhelmed with relief, joy, and exhaustion. But where was my confidence? Suddenly it had abandoned me.

I didn’t know how to keep this little critter happy. She was already wailing … I was almost afraid to hold her, much less change her diaper. One wrong move, and I would be the Worst. Parent. Ever.

It didn’t help that I encountered difficulties with breastfeeding . Oh, the discouragement I felt when it didn’t just click “naturally” and baby wasn’t gaining enough weight. Our pediatrician urged me to supplement with formula, but it didn’t feel right to me. Mastitis hit too, and it was like I was living in a furnace built of my brick-hard boobs. Baby sucked hungrily, and I sucked in my breath with pain. There were nights I just had a good cry on the couch while everyone else was sleeping. I didn’t know how other moms coped with all this! Or maybe it was just me, stumbling gracelessly through motherhood!

Around this time I also experienced the joy of a barrage of parenting advice, telling me I should/should not:

  • respond to baby’s cries right away
  • put baby to sleep on her belly
  • use a pacifier
  • hire a babysitter
  • use disposable diapers
  • co-sleep
  • etc. etc. etc.

I was mocked for reading parenting books instead of just using “common” sense or just raising children the same way it has been done for “ages” (with the comment “well, we survived!” thrown in). While I trusted the experts I read, it still made me wonder why the older parents felt so confident. Did they really know more than all these authors?

Well, it’s been a long road in the 9 months since those hospital days, so fast and yet so laborious at times. While I still waver on trying days, I can finally say with confidence that I was born to play this role. I was meant for my daughter, and she was meant for me. And while I may not always get it right when it comes to parenting, there’s no doubt that I love my child and would do anything in her best interest. If I screw up here and there … if I think in the back of my mind, “I would do that differently if we had a second child,” I put it all down to trying anything that’s new. There’s some trepidation, some uncertainty, but if you are driven by passion and love, then the knowledge and confidence will come with time.

And maybe one day down the road, I’ll be dispensing parenting advice to a newcomer … just kidding. My only advice would be to enjoy every moment of being a new parent. All the emotional highs and lows are part of the growth experience. You’ll look back on those memories and smile to yourself … at how much both you and your child have come in such a short amount of time.