By Sheryl Paul
There's so much we don't tell new mothers. As with all transitions, our culture presents a skewed image of motherhood which falls into two diametrically opposed categories. On the one hand, we expect motherhood to be a Huggies commercial where mother, father, and baby are swathed in a pastel, diffused light, blissfully enjoying their transition without a blemish or challenge to be found. On the other hand, our culture presents an image of endless martyrdom and meaningless sacrifice where new mothers lose all of their independence and their very sense of self. Neither image is accurate. While there are tremendous sacrifices involved in becoming a mother, there are also unquantifiable gains, and what we don't generally understand is that it's through consciously grieving the losses that we can fully embrace the gains.
The following is an excerpt from my Birthing a New Mother E-Course. It's one of my journal entries as a new mother from the section in my program called The Loss of Efficiency, Achievement and Completion – The Wells of Surrender, Perspective and Patience
September 26, 2004 – 10 weeks
Being a mother means letting go of the way things used to be.
It means leaving things half- finished: a pile of clean towels left unfolded on the bed; clean wet clothes half in the laundry and half in the dryer; a salad bowl, dirty, on the counter.
It means being late sometimes, even when I’ve always been a person who’s on time.
It means not knowing how to do many things, but being willing not to know, to make mistakes, and to learn.
It means being flexible, which means it might take me three hours to do my grocery shopping, or I might have to leave a cart full of food in the middle of an aisle and come back later.
It means that I don’t always answer the phone when my friends call, or that I may have to end a conversation mid-thought and call them back later.
It means spending less time reading, and when I do read, it means that I often put the book down mid-sentence.
It means less time spent alone, in solitude and silence.
It means less time spent with my husband: less time watching movies, less time cuddling, less time going out to dinner, less time talking about topics other than our baby, less time…
Being a mother means it took me three hours to write this, because I have a little one on my chest, then at my breast, then over my shoulder, and finally asleep… and right now, his needs are more important than mine.
So with the dishes half-done and the laundry half-finished, a journal entry half-written and a phone call half-completed, I attend to my son, trying to learn his language, trying to love him as best I can, knowing that this time when his needs are paramount is finite, and before I know it he’ll be off to kindergarten, then borrowing the car keys, and finally moving out of our house and into his own. And then I’ll have plenty of time, as I’ve had already, to do the dishes and laundry in one sitting, to write in my journal and talk on the phone to my heart’s content.
But for now, this is all there is, and it doesn’t matter if I’m late; it doesn’t matter if I don’t write anything for a year. It doesn’t matter that I don’t know how to go to the grocery store with a baby and I don’t always know how to soothe him when he cries. The only thing that matters is that I love my son. I love him like I’ve never loved anything on this earth.
Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide via her private practice, her bestselling books, and her website, conscious-transitions.com. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top television, radio, and newspapers around the globe. Her home study course for pregnant women and new mothers, Birthing a New Mother: A Roadmap from Preconception Through the First Year to Calm Your Anxiety, Prepare Your Marriage, and Become the Mother you Want to Be, can be found at birthinganewmother.com. She lives in Boulder, Colorado with her husband and two sons.