Saturday, January 07, 2006

What's a mother to do?

The challenge of motherhood became mine six and a half years ago. I call it a challenge because it was not wonderful and cozy and loving like I had so often fantacized in the days of my puberty and young adulthood. It was terribly, excruciatingly hard, the most difficult thing I had ever done. That realization hit me like a ton of bricks in just the first few weeks of my dear firstborn's life.

Before I became a mother I knew what to do about all the problems children have. Once I became one I was suddenly as helpless as she, my nearly 30-year-old brain a mass of mush with no sense to it at all. I no longer had all the answers; I drew a blank when it came to how to satisfy a baby who was angry with the world.

So I pulled out the books and skimmed through them, looking for clues to my dilemma. All first-time mothers have all the books and have spent hours poring over them, as somehow the authors know more than we do about our own children. I read that a child is to be fed every few hours, lain down in a crib in her own room, and left to cry until she falls asleep.

Something about those cold words staring up from the pages did not ring true. I put the books down and began to listen to my own heart — the one that was confused because this new role of mother wasn't glamorous or even attractive anymore — and it spoke to me.

In the middle of all my tears because the baby was feeding so much and so long, it said let her. Through the fog of frustration because if she wasn't feeding, she herself was crying, it said hold her. It said put her in bed with you; you'll all sleep better.

It said she's a baby and can't comfort herself. That's your job. You're the mother. This is what you wanted, now you take it, all of it, and love it and the human being your love brought into the world. So I did. Or at least I tried.

Six years later, I still hold her, comfort her, and put her in the bed with me. It's a challenge, it's not always something I want to do, but I'm the mother. I may not always love the role of motherhood, but I love her.

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Don said...

That is so true. All the books in the world can't prepare you for the actual living, skirming, pooping person that the hospital insists you take home with you. My wife and I have been through four of those. It never really gets easier.

And then they turn into teenagers, and begin pooping all over you again (so I hear - my oldest is only 9).

HappySlob said...

Hey Michelle,

:) I had to write and comment on this post of yours. I thought it was so exquisitely honest - I really loved the line:

"I may not always love the role of motherhood, but I love her."

Thanks for the kind words about my blog too - you're a fantastic person, and I'm glad to have found your blog as well.