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 that I am lucky enough to call my son. He is everything that 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 that 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 when I thought maybe I was being too hard on myself, the well-intentioned 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 all honesty, 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.
The truth was, 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, and 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 was supposed to have. Ashamed that my world hadn't shifted, 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, 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.
photo by Danielle Brady Photography