I thought you would be a halo of peaceful luminescence, interspersed with cute yet amusing events such as laughing at how little sleep I had had. I thought my baby would look at me and smile on Day One (I know, right? Nobody told me otherwise…)
Instead you dragged me, completely unaware, into a place of terror, confusion, at times despair, and you threw me into a deep hole of where I felt like I was drowning in my own inadequacy. Why won’t my baby stop crying? When will I get some sleep? What day is it? Why can’t I get this right? Why is everyone else coping so well? I pleaded.
You brought me strange gifts – guilt, mostly. I felt guilty all the time for not being a good enough mother. You brought me exhaustion like I had never known before. Anxiety – lying in bed with my heart pounding in my ears, not able to breathe properly. Self-doubt. But with these, you gently brought some other gifts into my life. And tentatively, I began to notice and accept them.
You brought me connection. In those early days, I learned who my tribe was. I walked for hours with my tribe and our babies. Some of them were experienced mothers with adult children who emailed me from across the seas, with encouragement. Their babies had been like mine. They turned out ok. More than ok. They knew what I was going through. There was light at the end of the tunnel.
I now know how to seek out my tribe, wherever I go.
You brought me tenderness, and with that a fierce protective love that buffered me through those difficult early months and years.
Courage in the face of vulnerability.
Empathy. Compassion for people who are in a dark and desperate place. I can now sit next to them knowing that is probably all they need.
Humility. Awe. Hope.
You forced me to confront the neuroses that had haunted me all my life – my impostor syndrome, for example – but that I had always managed to blithely ignore because I was a young, carefree child-free adult who could patch over these difficult emotions with my holidays, my yoga classes, my fancy dinners for two, my weekends filled with enjoyable and non-confronting things like having coffee in a trendy cafe, or visiting a museum. I now know what I must do instead. Be mindful. Name emotions. Channel my wiser self. Practise gratitude. Reset my comparisons. Be comfortable with the discomfort. Breathe.
One of your most difficult lessons was about self-care and self-kindness. I get it now.
Each year, you bring me an opportunity to reflect on how time is marching on. Those wrinkly babies grew into chubby toddlers, boisterous preschoolers, and I now have a ten-year-old who prefers to keep her room door closed, thank you. My child-free friends have to rely on New Year and birthdays for this opportunity, and they don’t get to see how much life changes in one year. With each milestone – first steps, toilet training, reading, learning to shower on their own – we let go, just a little bit more, with both joy and trepidation.
Thank you, Motherhood. For the gifts you brought. For your wisdom, even when your lessons were harsh and I resisted. Thank you for the joy. And the heartbreak. It has made me authentic.
Thank you for the opportunity to make memories for two of the Earth’s members.
And thank you for turning me into a leader.
On our ten-year anniversary, I can honestly say I’m so glad you entered my life. And will continue to gratefully accept all the gifts and lessons that are yet to come. My heart is full.