A year ago on February 28th, I was rushed into the hospital, shrieking in pain, wheeled into an operating room, and met the shrieking, red-faced, cone-shaped head human that a small Chinese surgeon pulled from my belly. (Picture appropriately attached to match the graphic description).
I know that many mothers feel euphoria when they meet their babies for the first time. I cannot say I was one of them. My labor experience was such an emotional rollercoaster that it wasn’t possible for me to feel the bliss juice that I expected to flood my body.
The first few weeks were rough. After not sleeping for nearly two days during the hospital stay and then only sleeping in 45 minutes increments after we brought our baby home, my body was wiped. It was hard to be emotionally available to the baby when I was so exhausted. During the first three weeks when my husband was on paternity leave, I often asked him to go and play with the baby in a different room so that I could be alone and try to sleep. Other than my time nursing her, I didn’t really know how to interact with a human so small and vulnerable–and I honestly didn’t have the energy to figure out how to.
Even though I have always been in love with babies and been told by many that I was meant to be a mother, when I actually had a baby I had many moments of feeling unsure about motherhood. Fortunately, these post-natal depressive thoughts dissipated about a month in. The joys of being a mother finally started to sink in for me. I began to feel more confident taking care of her. I started to understand her likes and dislikes. I learned how to soothe her cries. When she started interacting with smiles and silly noises, our times together became much more fun.
A year has passed, and I won’t be repeating the cliche thing that I hear most mothers say, “I can’t believe they’re growing up so fast!” One of my intentions as a mother from the start is to stay present in every moment–good or bad, easy or hard, rested or sleep-deprived. I wanted to soak in every moment that I had with my baby. I disciplined myself to not think about work or dwell on worries during my time with her. I didn’t want to miss a single smile, expression or moment with her.
I truly do not feel like time has got by too fast, not do I feel like it has gone by slowly. Time has passed by in perfect speed, and I have loved watching the day to day changes that my little one goes through. I attribute this feeling to my be-in-the moment-every-moment approach to life.
I don’t want to brag…but being a mother at this stage has been fairly smooth compared to many mothers I have met who have children of the same age. I am lucky that my baby has an easy and calm temperament. She is the type of baby I can bring into a restaurant for long meals, crowded parties or long trips without having to worry if she can handle it. She is well-balanced in her skills as an observer–able to watch her environment and just take things in without reacting– and as a participant–able to interact with others by waving, making eye contact and displaying interest. When we are in public, people easily notice her high level of engagement. We always make lots of friends when we go out.
One year in, I have no doubt in my mind that I was destined to be a mother. Since having a baby, I have grown in so many ways as a wife, a daughter, a sister, and a healer. Being a mother has intensified my love for children and a desire to protect them. Being a mother is allowing me to re-experience life as a child, heal old wounds, and help create what I believe to be a healthy, joyful life for a little human.
Something that has surprised me–but honestly shouldn’t–is that I’ve become less of a so-called hippie since having a baby. I’ve long been a staunch believer in not supporting the meat industry as well as an avid believer in making minimal waste. I’ve always been one to go out of my way to make my lifestyle adhere to my beliefs. However, after being a vegetarian/pescatarian since high school, I started eating meat again when I was pregnant and now continue to periodically eat meat. I discovered disposable food pouches and occasionally use them as travel baby food. I primarily uses cloth diapers but find myself not hesitating to use a disposable diaper when I find it to be easier for the occasion or when I feel lazy.
Okay, so I haven’t completely thrown my environmental principles out the window. But the reality is that I’m not able to be as much of a purist as I used to be or would like to be. I have conflicting feelings about this. On one hand, I feel like a complete hypocrite. I feel like I have submitted to the demands of modern life, prioritizing convenience and self-indulgence over the well-being of nature. On the other hand, I’m okay with my choices for now because I know (or hope, at least) that they are temporary. Right now when I am responsible for a newly walking infant who requires an hour to eat a meal, I am extremely protective about every free moment. And if this means, using a disposable diaper or buying store-bought baby food every once in a while, I shouldn’t beat myself up (…right?).
I am learning that a huge part of being a mother is about practicing compassion. Compassion for myself when I mess up or when I feel ignorant, irritable, insufficient or lazy. Compassion for my baby when she is screaming in the middle of the night or refuses to eat the food I spent all afternoon making for her. Compassion for my husband when we get bicker. Compassion for my family when they give too much unwanted advice. Compassion for other parents and families.
All in all, I absolutely love being a mom. Beyond the physical, emotional and financial challenges, beyond the fatigued mornings and washing dishes late into the night, beyond the uncertainties and fears, there has been nothing more joyful than giving life and living life with my child.
And now–it’s time for bed. Until we meet again.