It's been said that the moment a child is born, a mom is born as well. I was born five and a half years ago. After 32 hours of labor, exhaustion stole my strength, and instead of cradling my newborn daughter in my arms, she laid on my chest covered in vernix, taking her first swallows of air. I looked down at her strikingly, pure blue eyes. I lost myself in that moment, not knowing that in the years to come that I would find myself in motherhood.
Due to my long, complicated labor, my milk took days to come in. I nursed, pumped, and repeated for days and days, as we bottle-fed and supplemented with formula. After ongoing complications—bleeding, cracking, and soreness that penetrated my body—I found myself crying in the bathroom, wondering why I couldn't feed my own baby the natural way. My husband, ever supportive, said, "Well, maybe nursing isn't for you." An unfamiliar emotion rose up inside of me and told me that was not the answer.
Shedding my private and modest self, I sat with a lactation specialist while she poked, prodded, and taught me about latching and expressing milk. I successfully overcame breastfeeding challenges and nursed my daughter for 11 months. I found a fierce determination to persevere, as this new found person, a new mother.
In the months that followed, surprises were at every corner. I made the decision to walk away from a corporate career to be at home with my daughter, which was a choice I didn't see coming. Once a very social person, I easily turned down invitations to galas and fun events, preferring quiet nights at home over heels and cocktails. I dove into domesticity. I made my own baby food, baked homemade bread, and embraced the new mommy me.
My son was born three and a half years later, and he arrived with his own set of complications. Motherhood was different for me the second time around. He battled acid reflux and struggled to gain weight. Naturally a calm person, I didn't recognize myself as the anxiety and sleep deprivation compounded.
But through struggle comes strength. Before I experienced it, I probably would have judged others for their anxiety and depression, thinking maybe it was a choice or a personality issue. I used to believe that people could just change their attitude and they'd feel better. I now marvel at all who experience this debilitating heartache. My judgment has been replaced with compassion and empathy. I'm a deeper more understanding person because of my experience with anxiety as a second-time mom.
Our daughter started kindergarten in the fall, and I felt myself acting as somebody I didn't know, once again. Not one to drink the Kool-Aid or be a joiner, I shockingly, yet immediately signed myself up for the PTA. I volunteered to march in the Halloween parade and held my Cinderella's hand until she dropped mine, surprising me with her new found, school girl independence.
I've never been artistically inclined, but I embraced my daughter's passion for art, and I volunteered to help with an art lesson. I squirted black ink on paper plates and helped the wide-eyed kindergarten students use a brayer, a tool I didn't even know existed. After the tools were washed and put away, I was covered in ink, and I laughed and remarked, "Oh, the things we do for our children."
Through my children I've discovered different sides of myself, finding a new part of myself with each new experience. Motherhood is the role of a lifetime. I've discovered it's not what I thought it would be. It's better.