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“I anticipated a lot, but no one prepared me for just how much love I would have for my child.” ~ Unknown
My daughter is nine months old now.
I spent a little over nine months growing her, and now I’ve spent the equal amount of time getting to know her.
I can remember this time last year when I was in the early stages of pregnancy. My husband and I enrolled for a birth and pregnancy course. I eagerly took notes like it was a quiz I could ace.
It makes me smile as I reflect on it now. As if the enormous life-changing task of becoming a parent could be condensed into a six-week course. But having that course every week settled my anxiety; it gave me a sense of control.
It was both an exciting and terrifying time. I was terrified to become a mother and even more scared to give birth. Being pregnant felt like an eternity. Every single day slowly inched along. I felt I was stuck in mud, moving in slow motion.
Now my baby girl is crawling around the house, getting into the things I wish she weren’t. Screaming and squealing, adding a burst of enthusiasm and energy to our used-to-be quiet home. I love it. My life is so much richer with her in it.
These past nine months have been jam-packed and always changing. I’m often overwhelmed by contradicting emotions. Sometimes it feels too much all at once. Is there enough room in my body to contain it all?
I didn’t realize that within this journey of becoming a mother there would be so many beginnings and endings. From the outside looking in, they are small, but in my heart they feel huge. With every first, comes another last. I didn’t anticipate that there would be so many back-to-back.
I didn’t anticipate this enormous realization that my life is not really my own anymore. Of course, I knew this on a certain level during my pregnancy, but now it’s real. Being a mother is also such a strange concept. I almost feel startled when someone is with my daughter and asks, “You want your mama?” I have to pause and remember—oh yes, that’s me. I’m the mama. It is both strange and wonderful, like a compliment I never fathomed could be associated with me.
Being a mother is a role that got put on me like an oversized jacket that doesn’t quite fit. Yet it’s a big part who I am now, and this role does not end when I close my eyes to sleep. Nor does it end when I go out on a rare night with friends, or when I get a burst of inspiration to create something that inspires me. Suddenly I need to think twice—it’s not just impulse—then act. It’s impulse, and then wonder how this will fit in with my mother duties, then act.
Life as a mother continues, forever. It’s not just a few cute cuddles and singing lullabies together. It’s nonstop, around the clock. It’s the constant demand of attention and changing a million dirty diapers. This is the start of my life as a parent and the beginning of life for my daughter.
We stand at either ends, both of us at the dawn of a new life. I stand proudly as her guardian. I vow to do my absolute best in helping her thrive and flourish in the sheer bliss that is childhood.
I feel simultaneous privilege and honor as I do pressure and overwhelm. I know I won’t be perfect, and I don’t expect to be. But I know the mother I want to be and the type of childhood I want my daughter to have. Sometimes it’s my own expectations that I must wrestle with.
Becoming a parent shines a bright light on my own mortality, but in a different way than how I felt after my sister died. Instead of an urge to see and experience it all, I’m reminded of the importance in remaining healthy to stay alive for as long as I can.
It’s also made me viscerally aware that I am just another person in my family tree—one link in a long line of people who have come before me and those who will come after me. It’s made me feel both significant and insignificant all at once.
It’s caused me to think about what role I want to play in my family lineage. What will future descendants think about my life? How will what I do shape their life? I also find it so odd that to a person on the street I’m just another nameless stranger—a nobody in their eyes. Yet in the eyes of my daughter, I’m everything. My life is but one light in this entire spectrum of living species. But for my daughter, it’s the brightest one. It’s a funny feeling to be both all at once.
In the past few months, I’ve also felt myself ageing in more evident ways. My skin has deeper wrinkles and little brown spots have formed from an accumulation of years in the sun. Sometimes I catch myself in the mirror and wonder who is this person.
In those moments I see a flash of myself as an old woman and can’t help but feel a pang of sadness. How ruthless it is to age. How vain it feels to not want to let go. My youth is slipping further and further into my life story like books in an old attic. Dust is gathering slowly. I hope I never forget these old stories about the person I once was.
Music helps me remember. I’m grateful for those songs that drag me in with the strength of a strong undertow and immerse me fully into a memory so old it feels like a different life. In a split second I feel all those same experiences, intense feelings, and old dilemmas rush in again as if they were happening right now. It surprises me that those things that were so monumental and all-consuming at the time completely dissolve and feel so foreign in my life now.
Part of me feels relief and another part of me feels sad that this massive portion of my life is a memory now. It’s over and done, almost like it never even happened. My past is just a memory. It’s a place I can visit through songs and sometimes even with people, but I can never truly live there. This is both incredible and also heartbreaking. There are so many people I loved in my past—dead and alive. I hate that they have been downgraded into a memory.
I don’t say all this because I’m sad or depressed. In fact, I feel the opposite.
These days I feel a lot like a sponge to life. Everything permeates. I know there is so much to look forward to, and I know I am only 34 years young. But this isn’t the point. It doesn’t take away from knowing that life is slowly fading away, even though it’s born again in another minute. It doesn’t take away from the fact that I’m in a different place in my life now than I ever was—even if it’s an amazing place to be.
Everything that is happening right now, everything I’m experiencing, is also slowly fading into a memory. It hurts knowing that. Life is constantly forcing us to adapt to a new reality. No matter how hard I try to pause it, to outsmart it, I lose. I never seem to find a way to let go, no matter how many opportunities I’ve had.
To be a human being means to experience it all, isn’t it? And sometimes it happens all at once. Sometimes it feels all too much to bear. But I know that the opposite is feeling nothing at all. That, to me, is a much scarier place to be.
Instead, I’ll sit here with these feelings inside of me that feel both deliriously beautiful yet deeply painful. Knowing that all they want is to be heard, to be acknowledged. Writing gives these feelings room to be experienced. It gives them oxygen. Sometimes that’s all they need.
So here they are. Out in the open. A dissection of my thoughts. Floating out there on the internet, waiting to be absorbed into the consciousness of another person who feels similar. Another person who nods and says, “Yes, I feel that sometimes too.”