This wasn’t what I expected.
I expected to feel tired. Really, really tired. But only for the first few months until the baby started sleeping through the night (bless me). I did not anticipate the bone-deep exhaustion capable of stretching on for years and a sleep deficit so great I fear I’ll never truly feel rested again. I didn’t know about sleep regressions or consider all the nights that would be lost to teething, sickness, big boy bed transitions, trips away from home and things that go bump in the night. Multiplied by each additional child.
I expected my body to change. I braced myself for softer, lower, stretched. And all of that came, plus eczema and new moles and different hair texture. I wasn’t expecting to be so bothered by it, to feel like a stranger in my own body, the one I thought I knew so well. I wasn’t expecting to feel strong, but hefting babies then toddlers then preschoolers does have that small perk. On a related note, I wasn’t expecting the back pain.
I expected to know what I was doing after the first child. I forgot that babies are people, each with their own personality and preferences. I didn’t remember that most siblings have very little in common, aside from a gene pool. I wasn’t expecting having a second child to be so hard. I wasn’t prepared for my tried-and-true soothing methods to fall flat, for my schedule to be useless. I forgot that we would still need to introduce ourselves to one another and find our own rhythm together. I didn’t know how hard it would be to learn how to weave those two relationships – the one I had already established with my son and this fresh new one with my daughter – together.
I expected to have good days and bad ones. I had no idea that the good ones would be so good. Little pieces of brightness and heaven beyond anything I knew possible. I had no way of anticipating the darkness of the bad days. The wracking sobs of a mother who feels like she’s failing. The bubbling anger and resentment when the patience runs out and the exhaustion overwhelms. The fear when your baby is sick or hurt.
I expected camaraderie. I wasn’t the first in my group of friends to have a baby, nor was I the last. I thought it would be a love-fest of swapped advice and playdates. I didn’t expect to feel lonely. Despite a husband who is my partner in every sense of the word and a network of supportive family and friends, motherhood feels like an island sometimes.
I expected the love, although the depth, breadth and ferocity of it still takes my breath away. But it’s the drive to protect them, a compulsion stronger even than the love, that I wasn’t prepared for. It’s the piece of motherhood that terrifies me the most, to be honest.
Loosening my grip and letting go a little bit at a time, so they get to live their own lives instead of in the shadows of mine. Understanding that they’ll push against my love and protection every step of the way, carving out their own paths. Anticipating how much that will hurt me, to have them bristle at my touch and roll their eyes at my loving words. Knowing that I’ll spend the rest of my life hovering on the sidelines, stopping myself from intervening every time I see a risk they don’t.
I expected the love; I just didn’t know how much it could hurt or what it would cost me. It is brutal, exquisite and bankrupting, this mother’s love.
This isn’t what I expected. It’s more difficult, more exhausting, more beautiful. Simply put, motherhood is more.