Before I became a mom, I read a lot of mom blogs. I loved the ones who just posted about day-to-day life. I would dive back through archives, trying to piece together some idea of what life with kids looked like. I knew I wanted it, but the daily reality was a mystery to me.
I soaked up stories about favorite books, baking cookies with a baby in a Bumbo seat, stroller walks, summertime at the pool. I dreamed of being that kind of mom. The smiling kind, the patient kind. The kind who has half a dozen activities up her sleeve. One who cooks family dinners and has a sweet little bedtime routine of reading books and singing songs.
Now I am a mom to a sweet and rambunctious 2-year-old I do so many of the things I imagined doing—I color with my son! I read 3 books every night at bedtime! I sing “Do you know the muffin man?” and “Old McDonald” over and over and over! I do the things, but I don’t feel how I thought I’d feel. I thought I’d feel different. But I just feel like me.
When I gave birth to my son, I felt like I had failed. I was so disappointed. Oh, I had the “natural” unmedicated birth, just like I wanted, but I did not enjoy it. (Yes, please feel free to laugh at me here, y’all.) I wanted a hazy-happy-Ina-May experience, but reality was just really, really hard. I spent hours and hours and hours of my labor thinking things like, “Oh-my-god I just want an epidural” and “Maybe they can ‘just’ cut the baby out of me and I can be DONE NOW” and also “I don’t even want to have a baby anymore JUST MAKE IT STOP.”
In my mind, those feelings outweighed the thing I actually did, which was birth my son. My husband gently reminded me, a day or 2 later: “You know, you actually did it. You got exactly what you wanted.”
Right from the start, I have judged myself so harshly as a mom for my struggles and negative feelings, without giving myself credit for what I actually do. The actions matter more. But my brain gets hung up because I didn’t feel motherly and angelic while I was doing it.
I expected motherhood to transform me completely, to transfigure me.
When I dreamed of becoming a mom, I never put much thought into the mundane or ugly parts. It turns out, most of motherhood happens in the mundane parts, and a lot of it happens in the ugly parts, too. A lot of motherhood is handling really gross bodily functions, for instance. It’s hard to feel beautifully transfigured when you’re dealing with a toddler’s poopy diaper and trying not to gag. The crazy thing is, that’s exactly the moment that finds you transfigured: while you’re doing something you never imagined you could handle. I might be gagging and I might be swearing to never feed my child raisins again; these are not lofty emotions. But I’m doing it. I’m changing that diaper because my child needs me.
That’s what parents do.
I don’t feel any different inside, I just feel like me. But to my son in my arms, I’ll always just feel like Mom.