My baby boy is turning a year old at the beginning of this month and it shocks me. “Where has the time gone?” is on the tip of every mother’s tongue during this time in her baby’s life, and it has been my mantra these past few months. Really it’s an existential question, and it’s a lament. We are filled with wonder and yearning, sadness and joy because it’s not just about where the time has gone. It’s about knowing that it’s going to keep on going.
I was the best mother there ever was… before I became a mother. I knew all the rules, had read several manuals, knew exactly how I would raise my son and was supremely confident in my ability to do so while keeping my house clean. Alas, a year of motherhood has humbled me. A year of motherhood has taught me a few things.
I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. I recovered from a C-Section while taking care of a brand new human whose only form of communication was the heart wrenching wail. For nine months I slept no more than two hours at a time. Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us so I also pumped for nine months. I’ve survived the cutting of eight teeth so far, and I know I’ll get through the others as well… I think…I pray. When I felt it was time, I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I let him cry it out so that we could start getting back our sanity. When I didn’t think I could handle two minutes of it, I handled two more, sitting on the bed, biting my lip, fighting back my own tears. A lot of strength is needed to carry this unconditional, all-encompassing, never wavering love we have for our children.
There are (ultimately useless) baby manuals out there. Probably thousands of them. But unless you happened to read the one that jives with your baby’s personality and yours, you‘re out of luck. I read a lot before becoming a mother. And after? Well, who has time for that?! Most days I pat myself on the back if I’ve succeeded in feeding him, changing him and keeping him from falling off of whatever he’s managed to climb this time. I’ve thrown the directions out the window and I improvise. After all, no two babies are the same. Haven’t we all heard that one before?
I can rediscover the magic through him. All I have to do is watch him attentively and he brings me joy. He laughs every time he sees our dog, or any other animal for that matter. They enchant him. He basically goes into a trance any time he’s close to running water. The faucet, the hose, the water dripping from our gutters stop him in his tracks and soothe him. He loves being outside and he discovers his surroundings with wide, searching, curious eyes. He adores his daddy and giggles every time he sees his picture on the fridge. He wants us close to him constantly, preferably laying on the floor so he can climb over and on top of us, and if one of us leaves the room he gets upset. I love the way he loves us, the way he lives every moment as if it was the most important, the way he shows me what’s wonderful in this world. I can’t wait for him to discover new things so I can share in his wonder.
I’m not as awesome as I thought I was. I admit, I thought it would be easy. I had plans, ideas, theories. I was going to get this perfectly and my child would be the best raised child there ever was. He would be calm and happy and well balanced and well mannered and kind and strong and perfect. Not all of his attributes have developed yet, but I already know that calmness is not part of his personality. I look around at all you mothers out there, mothers whom I may or may not have judged, and all I can say is Respect. I no longer have the illusion that parenting is easy. It’s hard and messy and what the hell am I doing? All I can hope for is that I don’t screw him up too badly because my God, I never knew this kind of love before!