Here is the truth: nothing can adequately prepare you for motherhood. Like so many other mothers, I read everything I could get my swollen hands on while pregnant, and WhatToExpect.com was a great resource. However, reading about it and living it are two completely different things.
Here are a few things that I learned during the first few months of motherhood that books definitely didn't prepare me for:
For starters, motherhood is challenging. Like, really, really challenging. Just for one moment, may I take this opportunity to scream at the top of my lungs that it is absolutely okay to admit that it's not always easy? There is no need to pretend that every day is perfect or wonderful because it isn't. Yes, I love being a mother, but that doesn't mean that I like it every day. I know that truth is carved in stone somewhere. If it isn't, it should be.
Something else that needs declaring? Becoming a mother doesn't dictate that you become a martyr. Your overall health is just as important as the health of your baby. With that said, accept help graciously when or if it's offered. Allow the in-laws to hold the baby so you can nap for thirty minutes or, better yet, shower. Let someone bring you a meal. Please know without a doubt that trying to be a super hero and being an amazing mother are not mutually inclusive.
When I gave birth to my daughter, Marlo, it's like a switch turned on. I developed an acute empathy for all other mothers, children, and families. Other mothers became my comrades and their children felt like my own. Motherhood made me feel more intensely and everything became more personal.
While we're on the topic of judgement, let me state for the record that nothing teaches you to not judge other people quite as efficiently as motherhood. So what if I breastfed Marlo for eleven months? I also understand that it doesn't always work for every mother and child. The same goes for co-sleeping versus sleep training in a crib; baby-wearing versus a stroller; the crying it out method versus rocking your kid to sleep every night. The universal rule of motherhood is that you do whatever works best for your family and allow other mothers and families to do the same. Nothing cuts deeper than trying your hardest to keep your head above water and feeling like an outcast because it isn't what every other mom in your playgroup is doing.
Lastly, I never knew how much I could love someone. Yes, I loved my husband, our families, and our friends before Marlo was born. However, the love that I have for my daughter compares to nothing I've ever felt before because it's truly unconditional. That love is the kind of love that puts life into perspective. It's the kind of love that makes the challenging, difficult, and sometimes unnerving role of a mama all worth it.
Christine is a contributing writer for WhatToExpect.com and the founder and author of The C-Word, a satirical and anecdotal approach to motherhood, marriage, womanhood, and everything in between. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Joe, and her young daughter, Marlo.
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