This post won’t be for everyone. In fact, it might not be for most of you, but it will be the words that some mama out there needs to hear. For her, I am finally writing this.
I have a perfect, wonderful, beautiful, healthy, sweet slice of heaven whom I am lucky enough to call my son. He is everything I’ve ever wished for and more. I work every day to make sure that he is grounded, nurtured, cherished and loved beyond reason.
But I am not different now that I am his mother.
I thought I would be. I knew I should be, but I’m not. I am still the same person who married a great man, went to work every day, had wine nights with girlfriends, and loved to sleep until noon.
In the hours and days after I gave birth, I waited. I waited for the tidal wave of feelings, the rush of extreme love that every other mother was telling me I should be feeling. I waited, and it never happened. I never changed.
In the moments where I thought maybe I was being too hard on myself, the well-intended texts and emails would remind me of my emotional shortcomings:
Have you ever been so in love in your whole life?
Doesn’t the sight of him make your heart race?
Do you finally feel complete?
That was motherhood, I thought. Feeling a passionate love for another human being who has needs that are all-consuming. Feeling complete with the arrival of our firstborn and all-knowing in the power of my maternal devotion.
The trouble is, it seemed that I just wasn’t that type of mom.
Admittedly, I already felt complete. In fact, I sought to tackle some of my demons and work on the business of being as complete as possible before attempting to start a family. My husband and I worked hard to conceive our son, we prepared and planned a life for him that would hopefully keep him safe and nurtured, and I worked very hard to stay pregnant for 38 long and painful weeks. His birth was a welcome relief, but my world did not shift when he was placed in my arms for the first time.
In fact, my world never shifted; it seemed to merely adjust.
But I still waited. I waited to have the feelings that would signal that I really was a mother. They never came.
I didn’t feel different. I felt like me with more responsibilities. Me with a little more loose skin and a lot more wrinkles. Me with a new schedule and the same love for Real Housewives marathons. And I was ashamed. Ashamed that I didn’t have the feelings that every mother is supposed to have. Ashamed that my world hadn’t shifted, that my universe wasn’t altered. Ashamed at the thought that maybe I was shortchanging my son because I didn’t look into his eyes and feel complete.
Ashamed that I was failing at my very first task of motherhood.
And don’t even get me started on the guilt that accompanies that kind of shame.
But here I sit 18 months later, with time and a tiny bit of experience under my belt, and I can say one thing for sure: I was not failing.
Motherhood is all things emotional: rocky, painful, exhausting, rewarding, humbling, and the shifts within us can be small and gradual. I still don’t feel like a different person, but the changes are there if I look hard enough. I am more affectionate, softer, and more understanding of choices made by other mothers. But for all intents and purposes, I am still me—and proudly so.
I like who I am as a person, friend, wife and, yes, even mother. I like that I’ve maintained my identity and can show my son that I have interests, goals and accomplishments outside of my role as his mom. I can’t let others’ expectations of my emotional capacity change what I like best about myself. And I won’t. For him, for me, I will do this the best way that I know how, by being myself.