13 Lessons of Motherhood
Like so many women, I had long imagined myself as a mother. I thought I would have a son, and that he would become ‘part of my life.’ I thought that he would have his own room, in which all of his belongings would stay. I thought there would be parts of the house, of my body, and of my life that would remain untouched by him.
My son shares everything with me. He keeps his Lego bricks in my pillowcase. He coughs, sneezes and splutters his bodily fluids in my face, to make sure that whatever cold he has gets passed right along. And if he’s eating something he doesn’t like – be it a burrito or butternut squash – he will reach for my hand and eject it into my palm.
In return, I am expected to share everything with him. Nothing is private anymore. He will refuse his own sandwich, but insist on eating half of mine. He will sit on the bathroom floor and test every cleanser, toner and moisturizer in the cupboard – cheerfully oblivious to their price tags. He empties my underwear drawer, rearranges my bookshelves, and has been known to walk into the room with a quizzical look on his face, grasping a handful of tampons.
I was forced to acknowledge, very early on, that my son was not ‘part’ of my life. He was my life, and that life was now a messy, unpredictable and all-consuming thing.
Here are some other important lessons that I learned in the early days of being a mother.
1. In the first twelve weeks of pregnancy – exactly the time when you should be giving your growing baby the biggest intake of nutrients – you will be unable to stomach anything except gummy bears and cherry cola. This will be your first experience of maternal guilt, something you will become well acquainted with in the following years.
2. Just because you have no stretch marks at 38 weeks doesn’t mean that you will have no stretch marks at 40 weeks. At 40 weeks you may have stretch marks in crevices of your body that you didn’t even know existed. No amount of cocoa butter can fix this.
3. You have to get over the embarrassment of buying hemorrhoid cream. You just do.
4. Giving birth provides an excellent lesson that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life as a parent, and it is this – whatever grand and well thought out plan you had in mind for the day will most likely be to shot to pieces.
5. It is totally normal to spend six hours holding your crying newborn in your arms and praying for him to go to sleep… and then five minutes after he does finally fall asleep feeling you have to poke him awake and make sure he’s still breathing.
6. If you can fit back into your skinny jeans within a month of giving birth, don’t tell other mothers because they will hate you.
7. Don’t get too smug about fitting back into your skinny jeans, because a year later when you have stopped breastfeeding but retained your breastfeeding appetite levels, you may find yourself back in stretchy waistband maternity pants just to accommodate all the cake.
8. There will be an inverse relationship between the amount of time you spend preparing a meal and the amount of pleasure your child gets from it. Healthy, organic vegetables that you spend an hour preparing will be dumped unceremoniously on the floor. Fish sticks and fries will disappear in minutes. Don’t take it personally.
9. If you have a gut feeling that your child is now tall enough to vault out of their crib, lower the mattress immediately. Do not wait for the thud in the middle of the night that proves you were right.
10. When the third person in a row has complimented you on how beautiful your daughter is, it’s time for your son’s first haircut.
11. Unless you want to pay an obscene amount of money to repair water damage to your cell phone, keep it our of your child’s reach while he is teething.
12. When people tell you that a baby who sleeps well through the night does not necessarily equate to a toddler who sleeps well, do not laugh this off. They are quite correct.
But here is the most important lesson. The one that remains as true now – with a five year old – as it did with a five week old and a five month old. Just when you are reaching the end of your tether, just when you think you can’t push through the exhaustion and the emotion and the impatience, your son or daughter will do something amazing for the first time.
You will walk in the room and they will give you a big gummy smile of utter delight, or they will look at you with round, sparkling eyes and tell you that they love you, or they will proudly hand you a wonky crayon rainbow.
And you will remember that this life – this messy, unpredictable, all-consuming life – is not so bad after all.