‘For the growing bellies’
Catherine Cameron on preparing for motherhood
Recently, more and more bellies have been growing around me, as friends fall pregnant for the first time.
I watch them in awe, ruminating over my own experience of pregnancy as memories of fear, hope and wonder resurface.
For me, becoming a mother was nothing like I had imagined.
The hard parts were harder than I thought I could endure.
The good parts were more than I thought my heart had room for.
The parts in-between were never, ever the same.
And the rest?
The rest were countless snap shots of me being and doing things that shadowed all of the being and doing that came before
The shock of the first weeks of motherhood are still fresh in my mind. Shock, even though I had foolishly thought books, advice, and observations were all I needed to be prepared
And so, I am wary in offering the growing bellies around me advice.
Because, really, nothing can prepare you for motherhood.
However, there are a few things that may have lessened some of the intensity I experienced in stepping into my new shoes of motherhood, had I known them before.
I wish I had known that the first year would be a string of both firsts and lasts.
Firsts, in hearing her cry, and feeling my insides tug at the sound. Firsts, in feeling as though I had nothing left to give, and realising in fact, I always do.
And, lasts. Lasts, in the last time she fell asleep in my arms, a little mouth hanging open for air. Lasts, in the last time I helped put on her tiny little shoes, because just like that, she can do it herself.
I wish I had known the inescapable nature of being a mother.
What hit me hardest as a new mother was the relentless weight my daughter had (and still has) on both my heart, and mind. Her biological needs, the relentless fretting over sleep, and, the animalistic protectivity I felt was overwhelming.
All of my senses heightened the minute she was born. Every emotion cut deeper.
And still, every moment of every day, a part of me is with her.
I wish I had known the power a child has on a relationship.
During our first year of parenthood, my husband saw colours in me he had never seen before. For many months I held our daughter in my arms to keep her calm, and he, held me.
I wish I had known the sudden shift in my social life. Friends I thought would always be there, weren’t, and those who tried to be there, weren’t always welcomed. Shunned, by my fears they drop by and I miss a window to close my eyes, should the baby finally fall asleep.
But with this, came new friends.
Friends, who morphed from strangers into sisters in a matter of weeks as our bumps became babies. Friends who came into my life as unprepared as I was, and who continue to blindly navigate the ever-changing nature of motherhood by my side.
I wish I had known about the dark side of sisterhood.
When my daughter was just a few days old, I was scoffed at for shedding tears of exhaustion, as, just wait until I discovered the horrors of a teething baby. When we both suffered our first sicknesses together, my struggles were belittled because didn’t I know how lucky I was that she couldn’t walk yet. When she refused to let me sleep for months on end, how dare I complain, as that was nothing compared to the ‘terrible twos’ that awaited us.
Well my dear sisters of negative foreboding; if you think this is by any means helpful to a mother; it isn’t, wasn’t, and never will be.
Finally, I wish I had known the woman I had been all along.
All the strength, resilience, and instinctive impulses that guide me as a mother were within me all along.
As soon as I gave life to her, she gave life to me.
Perhaps if I had known this, I wouldn’t have felt the need to frantically research, listen and fear.
Perhaps I would have saved $25.00 on the baby whisperer book that ended up in the recycling bin.
Because what I had was enough. No, who I was, was enough.
So now, I will be so bold as to offer some advice to the growing bellies around me.
Look inwards mamma.
Ignore the negative foreboding, and accept that although change is inevitable, we are biologically wired for everything that motherhood throws at us.
Cherish the firsts and lasts that fill your heart and dig deep through those that challenge you. Trust that even the roughest waves of motherhood will eventually calm.
And know that all you are right now, and all that you will be for your baby, is, enough.
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