Once a mother very few people see you as anything other than a mother. The title can come with expectations and presumptions about you. You wear the label with pride but it’s a heavy load when your most basic and personal decisions fall under a microscope of judgment. This judgment, it can be a peculiar thing. New mothers are new to it. We are all not mothers, until we are. Especially odd if you are someone to whom motherhood has for the most part of your life been an entirely foreign concept. I am a mother yes but I haven’t always been one, I never imagined becoming one, and I’m still learning what this means to me and what it means to my child. While you see a generic mother, I see a girl in the mirror wondering if she got it right today?
What if you’re not one of those girls that grew up dreaming about the moment she would become a mother? Perhaps we accept things may eventually happen in a predesigned order. A partner, a wedding, a home and one day, children. None of us can escape the questions, are you seeing anyone? When are you two getting married? When will you have a baby? When will you have the second? The questions they come in that order don’t they? You can blag or talk your way around or out of most things. Babies however, what if the very idea of them sends your heart racing? It can be controversial to say out loud, “I’m not too sure I want those”. I think we stay open for the most part to a partner, a wedding, or a home. Children, well they seem to be more of an optional box to tick. Some of us are as naturally closed off to the idea of children as others who cannot wait to have them. Not all women are born ready to become mothers. Some women have to work damn hard to have them, and others spend a lifetime explaining why they rather not have them. We are a spectrum of women, wonderful women, not afraid to make choices that are right for us.
I for one was not at all born ready to be a mother. At no point in my childhood did I nurture a maternal disposition. It seems natural that I didn’t think about children. Yet, I wasn’t totally against the idea as an eventuality either.
First of all, there was a lack of interest. The very topic of children engaged me minimally, dare I say I was busy being a child. Sports, books, travel, horses, education and dance – those things piqued my ears right up. But babies, I barely noticed them, and certainly didn’t spend much time desiring them, imagining them or picking out future names for them. As time went by and the question of a child became pretty unavoidable I was undoubtedly petrified, caught unprepared. Me, a mum? oh boy oh boy. or should I say oh girl. either way, oh my. I didn’t think I’d be very good at that. I’d never even picked up a baby, I’d not even admired one from a distance. Perhaps I should do those things first.
Secondly, there was something quite physically frightening about the whole thing. The invasion of your body, the lack of control over how it will change, perhaps permanently. On the most superficial level this was the surface of my disinterest. Motherhood receives pretty poor publicity at times. I’m sure you’ve heard those jokes about never sleeping again, hello eye bags from hell, and your breasts becoming milk bottles. They featured like a post stick note on my brain saying “let’s postpone motherhood”.
Thirdly, the enormous responsibility of children. I was always an avid pet owner and I take care of my things. A human being though, that felt like the big leagues. Something that has no training or preparation beyond books or observations. No certificate or affirmation that I can study and achieve telling me I’m the bees knees and oh so ready. I didn’t feel ready, and never ever thought I would be. In fact, I’m not sure even those that do plan for the clear-blue confirmation moment their entire lives are ever actually ready! Being ready might well be a myth.
Fourthly, the restrictions. People with children seemed to have so much stuff. The minute you enter a home the evidence of a child’s presence is overwhelming. Also, there seemed to be a need for child friendly specifications to be added onto most decisions; homes, cars, outings, holidays, restaurants and such. I wasn’t sure I could ever be selfless enough for that. I like to do things. Just do things with not much forethought or planning, as whimsical as my heart beat guides. Would a baby fit into my world, because I like my world and I’m not sure I want it to change.
Now, for someone with so many fears or inhibitions, the moment I met my bundle of joy was something I looked forward to with anticipation and hopes for instant answers. When my moment came after not the easiest of pregnancies, my fear seemed to escalate, as well as a new more pleasant feeling I didn’t recognize began to wash over me. One day at a time, one experience after another, relief and fear seemed to dance through me. I wouldn’t say I instantly become a die-hard fan of motherhood. No not at all. What unfolded as I got to know my child, and she got to know me, was the most natural and miraculous discovery I have ever made, despite not being maternal at all. This was something I could never have understood until I did it for myself. Gradually, I learned how to be a mother, with the cutest teacher in the world. While my child had very little patience for most things, her patience, love and acceptance of me were nothing short of breathtaking. Children accept you as parents. just as you do them, and this inherent bond is the foundation on which you start to build. I won’t say I can’t imagine my life without a child, because I can. I hadn’t spent my life waiting or planning for this. What I will say is I am so inexplicably grateful that I am a mother and this is why I write this article. So let me share with you this…
Firstly you will not be interested you will be fascinated by the tiny person staring back at you. The feeling of the grip of their fingers, the wonder in their eyes as they widen at the simplest things, and the way they need you for survival, those things awaken something inside you. Interest in kids is not something you need before you become a mother. Nature takes care of that instantly, in a miraculous moment. Your body, heart, soul, mind and emotions will evolve with the feeling of holding, touching, and smelling your baby for the very first time, and every time after that, even when they are arguably too big to pick up anymore. You might not even be that interested in reading this point of mine, but I assure you, that doesn’t mean you wouldn’t enjoy it, long for it and revel in it should you become a mother. So don’t doubt yourself if kids aren’t your thing, your kid will be.
Secondly, from a physical perspective, things change differently for all of us. Then again, things change when you indulge at Christmas too. Your baby will be the greatest motivation you have ever had to be the healthiest version of yourself you can imagine. You might even have a better body than you had before! Our bodies are going to change anyway as we age, things don’t stay where they are supposed to anyway. We get marked in all sorts of ways as we grow don’t we? Some things leave scars. I assure you the marks and changes left by motherhood will be the only ones that make you smile. I like to think motherhood has made me view my body exactly as I ought to, rather than fret for sake of objectification. Beauty looks different to everyone, and those that see you as beautiful for the right reasons will continue to do so.
Thirdly, the responsibility for good food, health, academics and child-friendly add ons. It becomes a very natural part of your daily patterns and rituals. I’d say it makes you healthier, safer and more knowledgeable. Truth is we should at some point start being responsible with our lives whether we have kids or not. Noteworthy is we all cut corners when we need to, fast food nights or toys shoved into a cupboard when visitors come. You do what you want and need to. If you keep your eyes on your nest rather than compare yours with anyone else’s, you should find yourself proud and happy with your efforts even on your slower days.
Fourthly, the restrictions. It’s a momentary phase to be housebound and need baby proofing. You do what you and your baby need for as long as feels right. To be honest we worry a lot as new parents, what kids need is pretty basic. You can buy into as much or as little of “kids” things. I promise though, those signs that a child is in your life, from car seats to doodled walls become imprints of love. Of course your freedom and spontaneity are curbed, but with a little planning there is nothing you cannot still do. Its about perspective, positivity and balance. It’s a hard balance to strike, and like anything in life the more you resist change the harder it is it to change. If you welcome the good that change brings, you find yourself in a new place, needless of comparison, too valuable to judge, as better or worse than before. A new chapter, and it too will not last forever, and you will have your time just you again, eventually. I never thought I’d say it, but I want my daughter’s childhood to last as long as I can stretch it; it’s the most beautiful thing I could be responsible for or restricted by.
Motherhood is a choice you can make to experience or not. Reject judgment of whichever path you choose as a woman. I’m not for or against motherhood, I am just an unlikely mother who wants to make sure you don’t not choose motherhood for reasons that have blurred what it’s really about, for reasons that you cannot understand until you are one; I want to dim the noise. Motherhood makes you look after yourself. It makes you experience firsts for the second time, and some things for the very first time. Motherhood is not defined by sleepless nights, and nappy changes. It’s defined by the beauty of childhood, personal discovery and unconditional love. All my fears were valid, but misunderstood. I looked through the eyes of someone who hadn’t experienced that first touch, and someone who hadn’t known this limitless love. You see things differently when you are a mother, feel things differently, and I would wish the experience on the unlikeliest of women. For I truly believe it is unlikely mothers, the ones who aren’t for or against it, that need their hands held so that they don’t deny themselves this magic. If I were to have a second, I’d be just as fearful as the first time. That proves I haven’t changed. What changed was the presence of my daughter and the gifts she brought into my life. Second time round, my fears would only dissolve as my second taught me what being a mother meant in our unique story which would be our first story. I’d be a mother for the first time, a second time. That’s just how I believe it goes.
To unlikely mothers, don’t judge motherhood from the outside peering in to the stories being written by other women. Judge motherhood for yourself, on your story, as you start writing it. The experience will be filled with as much love and positivity as you choose as you are the creator, the author and the captain. Motherhood doesn’t need training, it is not to be assessed and examined. It’s a natural journey. You might never feel ready, and that’s ok, you will evolve when the time comes. So next time you see a mother, remember, she’s just a woman experiencing her own. Don’t let her influence you any more or less than you would normally be influenced by observations of people going about their ordinary lives. I hope to give motherhood the reputation it deserves so we encourage women rather than put them off of what we know deep inside is indescribable love.