6.23.2011

expectation, adjustment, regret & improvement

What I wanted for my child’s daily life and what I wanted for my daily life were so dramatically different, sometimes the reality of the choice I made to be a SAHM was shocking, painful, complicated.

It took me a really long time to adjust to being a mom, and even longer to adjust to the loss of my previous identity.

I had an expectation that I would smoothly transition into my new role, just as I’ve been able to smoothly transition in other times of my life. I knew what I wanted for my child, I knew the life I wanted to build for her, but I just couldn’t see how I would fit into that life I had built in my head. I envisioned a life with mama at home, to hug and hold and play. I envisioned a childhood of coming home from school and having a snack waiting, having help with homework and fun afternoon activities. I saw my Pie growing up with a devoted and happy mom. I just couldn’t see myself as that mom. I wasn’t interested in unwavering daily routines. I wasn’t prepared for the isolated drudgery of motherhood. As much as I wanted the life for my Pie, I hadn’t expected this for myself.

I spent a lot of time in those early weeks and months struggling with who I was, what I could be and accomplish as a mom, what my purpose in life was now that my life was so different that what I had envisioned.

I clung to my previous self, I cried, I gave up, I tried to re-define. I cried some more. I over-committed all while saying I wanted to be “present” with my baby – because while a focused & committed mom was what I wanted for my baby, a lonely life of menial tasks was not what I wanted for myself.

During the adjustment, I missed out on a lot. It took me a long time to really know how deeply I loved my Pie – I couldn’t quite touch the wholeness of that mama love while I was struggling with who I was as a mama. I saw all the little baby moments, I expected to enjoy each development as she learned to be a little person.

I feel like I missed out on so much – I was there, but I wasn’t always happy about it. I went through the motions. I trudged through the muddy, messy sleeplessness. I cooked and cleaned and diapered and wiped up a never-ending font of spit-up.  I was there, I was doing the care, I had happy moments and even some good days. But now when I see other tiny newborns, hold and watch them, see all the little facial expressions and watch them drift in and out of sleep, I think of how I didn’t always look on the Pie with this kind of wonder and adoration. Sometimes I just held on and tried to get through.

I regret not having those moments of endlessly staring at her little sleeping face. I wish I had been able to find myself as a mama sooner, easier. I wish I had been more emotionally present. I wonder if the Pie felt the emptiness that I now think was an occasional presence in our lives.

But I look at her smile now, and her outstretched arms. I listen to her laugh and chattering and playing and clanging. I see her dig in the dirt, lunge for the water, pet the cat and touch her nose. She’s OK. We’re OK. We made it through that tough part together, and it will keep getting better. I can be more present now, as I’ve further adjusted to my new role as a mama. I can be a better mama than I feel like I was. She had enough care and love and consistency to feel secure, but I still feel like I cheated her out of the best mama she could have had.

My desires and expectations, coupled with my complicated adjustment to motherhood, took me away from my baby even when I was right there. I continue to make the adjustment, to find my purpose and my direction as a person and as a mom. I feel like I didn’t take in every passing moment with my tiny baby, but I can take in every moment coming.

2 comments:

  1. So well articulated. Those first months are unlike anything a new parent has ever dealt with before, us included. Amazing to see what lack of sleep really does to a person.

    As much as I loved the baby stage, I'm glad it's behind me and Mrs. LIAYF too.

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  2. thanks for reading, James! It is so hard to articulate, so hard to remember and hard to even feel - the conflicting love and hope and expectation and regret and wishing things were different or more or less. I look at other babies and want to hold them and smother them with the calm love that I feel like I didn't offer to the Pie, but looking back at pictures and remembering her 5 months spent in the wrap remind me that even if I wasn't "there", I was as present as I could manage.

    The baby stage is sweetest I think, when seen from a small distance.

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