A very common question a new mom receives postpartum is, “So, how is it being a mom?” This question mainly comes from people without children because the ones with children know it can be a complex question to ponder, let alone answer! Maybe it’s just me, but I still have trouble putting into words what it is like to be a parent—but I want to try and convey my thoughts so you can have an after-the-fact perspective if you’re thinking about starting a family.
I should preface this may come across as negative, which is NOT my intent. When asked on the spot, I feel the pressure to give a generic response out of fear of offending or fear of opening up a bigger than necessary conversation with a mere acquaintance. For anyone wanting to know one woman’s truth as of today, here is my real talk response on stepping into parenthood.
First point, there is no “stepping,” only stumbling. Matt and I got pregnant by surprise, so we arrived to the party later than others. There wasn’t a lot of baby talk prior to the double pink line, so we had our work cut out for us. What you can do physically to prepare (save money, build a nursery, prenatal care, etc.) only goes so far. It’s the emotional adaptation that takes the most time.
Being a parent may happen immediately, but the weight and responsibility of that takes time to set it. Even taking your tiny baby home from the hospital won’t “do it” for everyone. It may be days or weeks in when you realize he or she needs you again, and again, and again. As single people we don’t come to the table practicing tending to others in the same capacity. It’s a consistent development that happens to help shape us to do our job. Every time your baby cries, you choose to die to yourself and serve another person. You may not feel that contrast is accurate, but in it’s simplest form, I think that’s what it is.
Being a parent is getting used to the very heavy notion there is no “off” switch. Like a leaking faucet, a small part of you is constantly flowing out for your child. I notice this the most in my anxiety. I didn’t really experience anxiety or tension before birth. Now I feel this constant, underlying twinge of being alert, awake and “on” no matter what. In my sleep, I am awake. In my “rest,” I am still listening. In my peace, there is always temptation to overly think, obsess or worry. There is absolutely no abandonment of thought or escape of the day. You will wonder if you will ever truly shut down again. You realize you will have to find a new way to sleep, to relax, a new way to experience peace and balance. You realize it truly will never be the same again because you gave life to something, and you realize how profound the word “creator” is!
Being a parent is feeling deep, almost painful love for your child who you realize loves you deeply, too. You will feel undeserving, possibly guilty and humbled by their affection for you—because you know you have gone through waves of emotion to learn to love them back. You will be flooded with joy for their existence while also feeling unable to figure life out with them. You will realize you are stronger, faster, calmer (maybe), softer and honestly, better. You will hurt as your heart grows and thank God every day they are too little to watch you crumble. You will pray you have it together by the time they start comprehending life because all you want is for your kid to think you are great. You will claim you can never do it again, then contemplate having five. As you can see, it’s a wild ride.
Again, these are not negative things, but REAL things. This is how it is! This is the real adaptation for me. I don’t think I could be more in love with my girl, and that’s why all of this self-reflection is so important. I want to know this process and take my experiences with me. There is so, so much more to say, but I’ll leave it for another time. Just know becoming a mom, becoming a parent is truly unlike anything you will probably experience, and much of it is too personal to prepare for. I always cling to a verse in John that says, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you …” That’s what I want to impart to my fellow moms and dads going through a lot—peace be with you all!