I never dreamed of having children. It just wasn’t something I thought about much when I was younger.
I also never dreamed of marriage. I just wasn’t one of those girls who spent years fantasizing about their wedding.
Yet I met a man. And we fell in love. And I can’t imagine being more happily married.
The same seems to be happening with my daughter. I didn’t dream of her, yet she’s beyond a dream come true. I never had much interest in babies at all, yet every cell in my body seems to be in love with her.
After what I can only describe as an emotionally and physically draining pregnancy, I worried that parenthood for this new mom would also bring a scary depth to its difficulty. I worried that maybe I wasn’t really meant for motherhood, and that this might all have been a big mistake.
Yet once she was born, that very day, everything changed. Everything.
I knew instantly that I was meant to be a mother. Her mother. The mother of this beautiful soul. This sweet girl who melts my heart with every toothless smile. Whose dark brown eyes seem to reflect the best part of my soul.
During pregnancy you get bombarded with horror stories. Stories of early motherhood woes, all valid of course, and scary.
For some reason I chose to ignore those stories. I would sit with my husband and tell him how I expected early motherhood to feel. What I described sounded unrealistic. I wanted it to feel peaceful, loving, nurturing, relaxed and beautiful… those were the feelings we always infused into our home and relationship. I chose not to see the chaos, the exhaustion, or the stress. Of course those things would come, but I didn’t want them to be my emotional foundation.
Before our daughter I had almost zero baby experience. I didn’t even like to hold other people’s babies, always worried I would drop them.
The first night in the hospital with our daughter, I changed my very first diaper ever, hers. And I spent the rest of the night watching her. Making sure she was breathing. Catering to her every need.
Was I exhausted? Sure, I hadn’t slept much in days. And like much of my pregnancy, the birth didn’t go exactly as planned… And yet, that first night felt just as I wanted it to… peaceful, loving, nurturing, relaxed and beautiful.
And every night thereafter during those first 6 weeks when days and nights seem to flow by in a haze, those feelings stayed with me. A haze of loving, learning, nurturing, feeding, diaper changing, and praying to just keep this tiny little being alive. Through it all I felt infused with the feelings I wished for.
People in my life have been surprised at how I seemed to just ease into to motherhood and so I’ve thought a lot about why that might be. Night after night as I sat with her at 3:00 AM, tired and groggy, looking down at her, the only thing I could think was what a privilege it is to feed her, to nourish her, to care for her. What a gift she is.
I was immersed in gratitude. And that gratitude helped me feel the peace and ease I hoped for as I dragged my tired body around the house at all hours of the night.
Perhaps it was my difficulties with pregnancy that helped me grab on so strongly to that feeling of privilege. For me pregnancy was so scary, so physically taxing and so full of unknowns. As cliche as it is, I truly learned what a miracle it is to birth a child.
Perhaps it’s the lessons my husband have taught me about love that led to the ease I’ve felt with early parenthood. He’s taught me that no matter how difficult things get, no matter what life throws at us, the feelings we infuse into our relationship should never change. We can’t control life or others, but we can control what we bring to our emotional table as a couple, as a family.
Whatever the reason, I made a promise to myself, and a promise to her, to never let go of that feeling of privilege. Because it’s that feeling of privilege that makes the hard seem easy, the tough seem peaceful, the exhausted seem manageable.
It’s that feeling of privilege that I hope will keep me smiling wide when I look into my daughter’s eyes – full, happy, teeth out, eyes dancing kinda smiles – even if things around us get rough.
I surrendered to my daughter the day she was born. I surrendered to being her mother. To being all hers. I surrendered to her because she is my greatest privilege. And in that complete and utter surrender I found the peaceful, loving, nurturing, relaxed and beautiful start to motherhood that I had wished for.
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