Recently, singer and new mom Carrie Underwood shared what a surprise motherhood has been for her.
“I think I honestly expected — it’s gonna sound weird — but I expected the worst. I’ve never been around babies before, to be honest, but he’s so laid-back!”
Like Underwood, I also had different expectations of motherhood before I ever became a mom. When I was a little girl I played “mother” with sweet-smelling baby dolls. I always wanted one of those expensive dolls that “really drank a bottle” or “really pooped.” It crushed me that my baby doll experience felt so incredibly inauthentic. How was I going to learn how to parent when it was time for me to change a baby’s diaper?
I had an idea that being a mother to a baby was frantic and busy. The image in my mind was this bizarre cartoon loop of a woman washing and hanging diapers to try, boiling (!!) milk for bottles, burping, feeding, changing, rocking. This woman was never still. She never took a moment to pause and enjoy.
When I was ready to become a mother, I was such a cliché. It was as if someone turned on the lights and hung up a sign around my heart shouting, “I am ready to love!” Of course I didn’t expect to have to navigate a rocky road of infertility, unexpected expenses, emotional collapses, and loss. The longer it took for me to achieve motherhood, the more I became convinced there might be a reason for it. Obviously there was something physically that needed assistance, but all of these delays and failures, could it be a sign that I wasn’t ready?
I worried that each failed cycle came with a fortune cookie of a hidden message telling me, “You need to prepare more.”
My days were spent as a caregiver to my grandmother with Alzheimer’s. On days that were especially challenging with her, I worried. If I couldn’t handle being a caregiver, did I honestly think I could take care of an infant?
When I achieved a successful and viable pregnancy, I read every parenting book I could find. No, I never had the baby doll that pooped, but I counter-balanced that by reading entire blogs dedicated to what I could expect to find in my newborn’s diaper. I went to workshops and read archives of mom bloggers. Every day there was something new to be worried about.
Should I get cloth diapers?
Should I pump?
Should I co-sleep?
Can I watch the nightly news while I nurse?
It took so astonishingly long for me to become a mom — the last thing I wanted to do was botch it with some rookie mistake. I wanted to be an expert before my son was even born. The desire to become an expert made me a total hot mess.
A few weeks before I was supposed to give birth to my son, someone in one of those due date message groups asked everyone what their birth plans were. The record scratch in my brain was sharp and loud.
Birth plan? What?
I hit refresh on the message group site and watched as all of these pregnant women shared incredibly detailed bullet points about the HOWS of their upcoming deliveries. Some had plans that read like a “choose your own adventure” saga. “If this happens, then turn to page 3 of the plan and do the following …”
I had spent so much time fretting and stressing about what to do once my son got here that I hadn’t spent any brain space on delivering him. But then something shifted in me as I continued to read everyone’s amazing and elaborate plans.
I realized I didn’t want to plan anymore.
I had spent over half a decade wrapped up in the plans of fertility schedules. Now that I was on the cusp of motherhood, the ONLY thing I wanted was to have him in my arms.
When someone on the message group nudged me to ask for my birth plan, I wrote, “Have him. Bring him home. Love him forever.”
I thought motherhood was going to be something I could study up and prepare for. I thought reading all the books and quizzing all of my friends would be just what I needed to get ready. I’ve never been more happy to be so wrong.
My son W arrived on his schedule, in a dramatic way that no one could ever have prepared me for. I cried the moment we met with instant relief that he was alive and healthy and all mine. I completely surrendered to my son the moment I met him. When he was sleepy we napped. When he was hungry we nursed. When we were happy we cooed to each other.
Motherhood simply happened because he was in my arms and I wasn’t the least bit frantic.More On