A thousand loads of cloth nappy laundry, a thousand bottles prepped (and a breastfeeding journey cut very short), tears, sleepless nights and counselling.
A thousand smiles, milky snuggles, first words, first steps, first meals. First hugs with family we haven’t seen for a year. Church dedications, books read, nature explored.
A year of motherhood in all its joyous, messy glory. A year of getting over an incredibly challenging pregnancy and season, a year of blessing and gratitude.
Having celebrating G’s birthday this week, I wanted to sit and reflect on how motherhood has shaped me as a woman. There is absolutely nothing as groundbreaking, soul changing, or as earth shattering as transitioning from ‘me’ to ‘we’. All of my reflections come together in an overwhelming theme of ‘growth’ - here are a few.
Having a child will grow and stretch you, body and mind. It will bring out the best and worst of you, and help you reflect on who you want to grow to be.
For me, it’s all about selfishness. I don’t think I realised the innate level of selfishness in being human until I truly could no longer put myself first. I’m not talking about self care here - as that, I have come to learn; is vital. What I mean here is waking up in the morning and your first thought always being of someone else. Your key needs being met naturally incorporating the needs for another part of you that lives outside of your body. The not being okay until they are ok feeling. The absolute willingness to take on any danger or fear providing your child doesn’t have to experience it. Until, I think, you become a parent (or key carer to someone vulnerable), this undercurrent of ‘me-first’ is totally natural. You can sleep if you have time, your day is planned around your wants and needs. If you’ve been otherwise healthy pre-children, you do not truly know exhaustion or tiredness. But this lesson is a beautiful one, as are many parenting lessons! Having put my wishes to the side so frequently, I hold onto them less tightly. I remember what I truly need, want - love, family, faith. The rest are frills.
Recognising our own personal flaws, imperfections and mistakes as a parent without self criticism provides a healthy model for our children
The responsibility of parenting feels heavy, but admitting our vulnerability, our flaws, our ability to make mistakes and keep growing for better, is a beautiful lesson to share with our children. At every stage, I’ve second guessed myself and my parenting decisions. At every stage, whether that’s in whether we utilise the TV, whether G starts weaning, whether we take her into the outside world, I have felt guilt. I and my husband are the sole providers for this little soul, and I don’t want to get it wrong. I have questioned if I’m doing the right thing, if she’s going to look back and ask me why, but I’ve mostly made peace with that. Perfection is impossible, and I’m allowed to make mistakes. I use them to model to G that I’m human too, that I’m not an infallible master who controls everything. That I’m just as broken as anyone else. That I’m doing my best, and that’s enough - it’s all I’d ever ask of her, so why hold myself to different standards?
We grow together.
I’m reminded a lot of Ovid’s Greek myth of Philemon and Baucis when I reflect on the growth of G in connection with the growth of my husband and I as parents. If you’re not familiar with it, the TL;DR is that the couple are granted a wish from Zeus and Hermes to live forever as trees, growing intertwined with each other throughout time. Although superficially it’s a romance legend and a moral tale, I absolutely think at its core this myth can also reflect on all kinds of deeply held love. I feel that each new thing G does, each new nuance of her communication, I grow along with her. The same goes for her: each new parenting reflection, new story we read, new approach I try, she responds and changes along with me. As growth for parent and child is intertwined, I think it’s both beautiful and messy. Seeing G fall and trip as she learns to walk is hard for me. I desperately want to protect her (hello anxiety) but I know that if I’m constantly watching her every move to avoid a bump, that’s going to prevent her freedom to explore and discover. I know that my need for tidiness will stop messy play and imagination in its tracks. I have to adapt my feelings and anxieties just as she grows to learn what is and isn’t safe. I have to grow as she grows.
Oh motherhood! What a beautiful, joyous, messy journey. I can’t imagine a better
road to be travelling, and I’m grateful that God is growing me just as he is growing G. I both hold an excitement for how G’s future will look, while wanting to freeze time and take on the baby snuggles for as long as I can.