I have a baby, but do I feel like a mom? What is that supposed to feel like? When would I feel like a member of the mom club?
The c-section didn’t do it. Three minutes into the procedure, Baby was in the world, and I was a mom, but I wasn’t officially in the club. Within a few weeks, my incisions healed, and I will eventually forget the pain that came once the spinal block wore off. So, no, the c-section didn’t do it.
The 2 a.m. feedings didn’t do it. Four weeks into my membership (retroactive) in the club, I am in need of a miracle under eye cream, one that specializes in erasing dark circles. I thought this would be the motherly requirement that would break me because no one on the planet loves her sleep more than me, but the mom club isn’t about exhaustion.
Being covered in all forms of bodily fluids (and even one that should not be fluid) did not do it. I thought I would feel like a member once the spit up dripped down my neck into my hair or when his sprinkler-like business sprayed urine up and down my arm, or when after a particularly fragrant cuddle, I placed him in his car seat to discover a 5” X 5” green stain on my loveliest white blouse. Not crying or screaming when I discovered the stain will go down as my number one moment of patience in life thus far, but I still didn’t understand the club.
Our first trip to the grocery store just the two of us didn’t explain the heart of the club. Yes, I felt very smart parking right next to the cart corral so that I could put Baby and his carrier right into the cart for the game of Frogger that is required to cross the parking lot of said grocery store. (I would like to thank whoever spit out his or her gum in the parking lot. Getting it stuck to the bottom of my shoe made this adventure much more exciting. Seriously, who still spits out gum? Classy, real classy.) Baby and I made it all the way through my list without a meltdown from either of us, but no, still not a card-carrying member.
For years, I questioned whether or not I wanted access to the club. Did I want to give up my freedom in order to take care of a baby? Would raising a child mean changing who I am? Would I be suffocated by my new role of mommy?
Then came the urge to write. Baby was sleeping, but only wanted to sleep on me. If I tried to place him in his crib he let out cries that broke my heart and stung my ears. So, I sat in my big, plush rocker, placed Baby on my chest, balanced my laptop on my knees, and started typing. I realized in this simple act what motherhood actually is, and my initiation into the club began.
In that moment of quiet, with only the clicking of keys and Baby’s snoring to fill the space around me, I learned how wrong I was. Motherhood is not about limitations and sacrifices, sleep deprivation and various types of goo. It is a broadening of the heart. I have not lost me. I have gained. There is more compassion, more patience, more peace, and way more love.
I recently saw a production of In the Red and Brown Water by Tarell Alvin McCraney. In the play, the distraught lead character Oya, before handing a sleeping infant back to his father, told the child, “I give to you more love than the world got air.” The line haunted me during my last weeks of pregnancy. Now I understand that particular love.
Yes, Baby, that’s what you’ve given me, more love than the world has air, and I will give that back to you, now that I’m a member of the club.