Becoming a Mother
Text by Jeanne Darling
A “new beginning” has the ring of hope, optimism, anticipation of good times.
And it is – but it is not without bumps in the road and a certain amount of work. Nothing embodies the meaning of “new beginnings” quite as much as when we become parents. Life gets turned on its head, and it takes quite a while to adjust to its dizzying changes and readjust our equilibrium.
Becoming a Mother – New Beginnings
Forty years ago, when I set out to be a mother, I had a greeting card notion of the kind I would be.
Loving, patient, devoted and above all, wise in my decisions of raising my child. I had read lots of books, and I wanted a child so badly I could taste it. I was ready.
Nonetheless, when I first held my newborn, my initial feeling was confusion and “Who is that?”. I had anticipated feeling an overpowering love that would reduce me to tears. But within a few minutes of my daughter’s birth, I knew I was in trouble.
My daughter wasn’t at all who I had pictured in my dreams (a delicate nymph with dark ringlets framing her tiny face). I struggled to get used to her large, round face and her bald scalp. Additionally, I was overwhelmed with the notion of having to care for this stranger.
It took me three weeks to “love” my baby. I remember the afternoon when the feeling finally hit me. She was in my arms, I was humming to her, and yes, I broke into tears. I subsequently nicknamed her “pumpkin” and began to feel like a mother.
I confess that there were times during her childhood when I wanted to stop being a mother.
The urge to give up “motherhood” made me feel guilty each time. There were instances when I felt like reneging on the responsibilities for “guiding” (disciplining) a child and, later, a teenager. And there were moments when I desired to ignore a whimpering, whining toddler or feed a picky eater fixated on peanut butter sandwiches.
Worse was the feelings of “I don’t like this child very much”. This sentiment often crept when we battled over bedtimes, curfews, or chores. They made me feel as though I should never have been a mother.
These taboo feelings were real whether or not I wanted to admit them to the rest of the world or even to myself.
But what I learned is that motherhood is not a pastel picture painted with feelings of love, devotion, patience and wisdom.
Indeed, it is sometimes grinding—a combination of the daily flurry of acts – with some better thought out than others.
Sure, there are times when deserting the post would be a relief. But feelings, both good and bad, are fleeting.
I discovered that it is in our actions, not in our dreams, that we define ourselves as mothers.
Thus, we should not feel guilty if we stop and sometimes wonder why we ever took the step to start a family.
It is a “new beginning” that will define who we are for our entire lives. Parenting changes constantly but never ends.
When I list my blessings, my children are at the top of the list. There are even times to this day when I feel rewarded—when I look at my grown daughter, and the overwhelming love floods me again, sometimes to tears.
What began forty years ago was filled with hope, optimism, and anticipation, as well as confusion, self-doubt and just plain fatigue.
It has been a mixed blessing, but one that I would not trade for anything.
The BCT Blog is incredibly grateful to Jeanne Darling for her generosity and ongoing support. You can find her other articles here (Confessions of a Grandmother).
Jeanne Darling is a retired educator, having taught children for over twenty-five years in Basel. She continues working with children, offering “Story Times” and workshops at several schools and libraries. She also wrote the children’s illustrated book “Basel’s Hidden Stories”.