When my first child was just a few hours old, my then 7 year old niece was among the first visitors to arrive. When she entered my hospital room her dad leaned down and said “she’s been coughing today, I think she’s pretending to have a cold, but I warned her that whether she can hold the baby is completely up to you.” Looking at him through my exhausted and weepy eyes I remember replying “I’ve been a mom for like an hour, you’ve been a dad for fifteen years- is it ok for her to hold the baby?” Whether my brother-in-law remembers this moment I have no idea, but, for me, this moment has defined my mothering experience and I think of this exchange almost daily.
Why? In that moment it became clear that when my daughter was born, so was I. I was as new as she and neither one of us had any idea how to exist in this brand new world- she on the outside, and I as her mother. I consider this one of my wisest moments as a parent- somehow, instinctively knowing that I needed to ask for help from those experienced parents whom I admired without guilt or shame.
My first child is now just shy of 8 years old and although it feels like I’ve been mom-ing for a while, somehow, I always feel a little bit new. With each stage her needs become more complex. Her questions, her concerns, her physical being, her emotions, her body become different. Not necessarily harder or easier to manage, just- different. With each stage I find myself wondering in which ways I will need to adapt to her while understanding that she will continue to surprise and confuse me.
Mothers tend to feel that “keeping it together” is a priority. Sometimes to impress our peers, to create a sense of stability for our children, or to simply act the part- a strategy that can lead to success, but that can feel isolating and frightening. A most cherished and fulfilling aspect of my work at The Postpartum Stress Center is creating spaces that invite sharing of the raw newness that we all experience throughout our mothering experiences. Without this opportunity, it is easy to become caught in the masquerade and to miss the opportunity to grow as mothers, as women, and as human beings. I encourage every mother I meet to seek out opportunities to truly confront the part of herself that is brand new. I believe that when we do this, and when we do this within a community of other parents, we are able to see that along with the new comes a profound beauty, strength, and wisdom.