Two years ago, as Mother’s Day loomed in the horizon, I was counting down the days. May 12 was my due date, the day after Mother’s Day, so I thought that for sure I would be celebrating the Hallmark holiday cradling a baby in my arms, fully embracing my new role.
As the days passed, I was hyper-aware of every twinge and shift, expecting to go into labor at any moment. And when Mother’s Day arrived, that baby was still firmly lodged inside me, showing no signs of an impending departure. Even though everyone I knew seemed to be having their babies early, my little munchkin had no way of letting me know he would be 12 days late. Twelve. Agonizing. Days.
So while I spent Mother’s Day walking (pacing) through the Lincoln Park Zoo with my husband, hoping to kick-start a labor that wouldn’t happen until my induction two weeks later, I remember having vivid doubts about what was to come.
Worrisome thoughts swirled in my mind: If I wasn’t patient enough to wait for this friggin’ baby to arrive, would I be patient enough as a parent? If I could barely survive through my pregnancy-related insomnia, would I be able to take care of a baby who was up a zillion times throughout the night? Would I be a good mom? Was I ready for this?
I’m sure there are other expecting parents and new moms with the same swirling doubts. The good news is that the answer is yes. Yes for me, and for nearly every other mom out there.
Would I be patient? Yes, but not every minute, and as veteran moms can attest, this is totally okay and very, very normal. Caring for a child is no small task, and whether you are dealing with your fourth night waking or your four thousandth tantrum of the day, there will be moments that you want to yell, to cry, to hide under your bed and daydream about your carefree pre-baby days. Patience is a skill that comes with lots of practice, and parenthood offers endless opportunities to hone your craft.
Would I survive without sleep? This one is different for every mother, but what I have learned over the past two years is that exhaustion is relative. In my exhaustion with a newborn, I looked back wistfully on my sleep during pregnancy (which was terrible). When I was exhausted chasing a mobile baby all day, I looked back wistfully on the slower-paced days of his infancy when I was tired, but I could lounge with baby on the couch all day. When we faced sleep regressions and teething that brought back those night wakings in toddlerhood, I looked back thinking that his first year was a breeze compared to this new normal. Now that we have hit a sweet spot in the sleep department (knock on everything), I still feel exhausted from chasing a high-energy toddler day in and day out. Having a kid who rises with the sun (or even earlier) has taught me to function better on less sleep, and to maximize my down time efficiently so I can rest and recharge my batteries.
Would I be a good mom? Honestly, I think it takes a lot of work for someone hoping to be a good mom and with the means to support her child’s basic needs to be a bad mom. The parenting world is littered with theories and strategies and philosophies about what makes a good mother: breast versus bottle; cribs versus co-sleeping; working versus staying home; to cry-it-out or not. All of these “mommy war” issues are fine and good, and really, the honest-to-goodness truth is this: if you love your baby, you’re already doing it right. All the apps and well-meaning offensive comments and viral blog posts that make you feel insecure in your parenting decisions – they don’t know you or your baby.
Even in the moments where you feel like a walking #momfail poster girl, know that in my greatest “momfail” moment, I watched my “not yet mobile” baby do a back flip off of our bed onto a hardwood floor and chip three teeth. And that little bugger survived to tell the tale (at least, he would tell it if he knew how to talk and remembered it happening – two things on my side right now!). We’ve all been there. Despite our best intentions, no parent is perfect. Accidents happen, and it’s how you deal with the hard stuff that matters.
Am I ready for this? All the books and classes in the world can’t prepare you for the transition that comes with your new role as a parent. But here is the secret that nobody knows. Ready? Everyone feels this way, and we are all figuring it out as we go along. There is no perfect time – you’ll never feel ready. But once it happens, you’ll figure it out as you go. You’ll build a village, seek out a support network and before you know it, this whole “mom” gig will be second nature.
Pregnant and new moms: If you are facing any of these doubts, you are not alone. On this Mother’s Day, I am giving you permission to pat yourself on the back for a job well done (even if that baby is still in utero; trust me, I know it counts even then).
Are you expecting or raising a Jewish baby under 24 months? JBaby Chicago has delivered and is here to help Chicago's Jewish and interfaith families build a village together by providing access to resources both within and outside of Chicago's Jewish community to help new families navigate their early years together.
Find more information at www.juf.org/jBabyChicago or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to take you out for a cup of coffee (doesn’t every new parent need a cup of coffee?) to tell you all about how you can get involved!
For more posts in the “I Love You Too, Mom” series, go here.