It might not be the reaction you'd expect from a newly-minted mom, flushed with post-delivery hormones and cradling a miraculous little human, and yet in my first days of motherhood, I couldn't help thanking the good fortune that had allowed me to have my first child while in a loving, committed relationship, and at a moment in life when I knew I was as ready as I'd ever be...because even in these, the best of circumstances, becoming a parent was hard.
What if I didn't have a dedicated partner to help me through this? What if I didn't have the material resources to take care of myself and the baby? What if I'd had to give up my dreams to become a mom?
Pregnancy itself had presented some discomfort, but it was nothing compared to the double whammy of having to physically recover from the birth itself while attending to the round-the-clock needs of a helpless little being. What if I didn't have a dedicated partner to help me through this? What if I didn't have the material resources to take care of myself and the baby? What if I'd had to give up my dreams to be a mom? Becoming a mother affirmed my long-held belief in a woman's right to choose, especially in cases of underage pregnancy and situations where the mother lacks the resources - material, emotional, social - to care reasonably well for herself and her baby.
I Am Such a Wimp
Back in the day - by which I mean, all of human history until about half a century ago - getting pregnant was a game of Russian roulette: delivery was either excruciatingly painful, or it was excruciatingly painful and then you and/or the baby died. Read any Victorian novel and you'll more than likely stumble across some character whose mother "died in childbirth." (Maternal mortality is, sadly, still a very present reality in many places, and more prevalent in the U.S. than other developed nations.) I admire those modern mamas who opt for delivery sans pain medication (if only because I appreciate the nod to our hardy maternal predecessors), but I'm no masochist: I gladly accepted the epidural as soon as it was offered, and still moaned in pain when the medicine only partially worked.
Parenting - Not Biology - Makes the Parent
Many speak of an instant bond between mother and (biological) child - a sense of mutual belonging that charges the mother with an instinctive drive to nurture this child above all others. Yet while I loved my son from the moment I laid eyes on him, I wasn't sure I'd have been able to pick him out of a lineup of newborns and say, that one is mine; he seemed to have been delivered from the mysterious abyss of the universe, not my own body. I realized we had a long way to go in getting to know each other, and that that bond would be forged through our shared experiences in the weeks and months to come. I was reminded of the scene from The Little Prince where the fox explains that to "tame" another creature is to render them unique and precious. I also felt a strange solidarity with those who become parents through adoption, believing our experiences to be quite similar after all.
...he seemed to have been delivered from the mysterious abyss of the universe, not my own body.
Changing Diapers is Literally the Easiest Part of Parenting
Caring for a newborn is shitty business. Make no mistake, you will certainly be handling diapers that are smeared, soaked, and/or oozing with colorful, fragrant varieties of poo. And while some of that poo may (okay, definitely will) end up on you, your clothes, and your furniture at some point, diaper changes are far from being the most trying aspect of parenting. A few things that are way harder: sleep torture that can last anywhere from a few months to 5+ years, giving up virtually every aspect of your adult life as you knew it, and the permanent, pervasive fear that comes with being responsible for another human being. Dirty diapers? Not so bad after all.
What about you? Did you experience any epiphanies or unexpected emotions as a new parent? Reach out and share!