Months ago, while I was still pregnant with baby girl, a dear friend talked with me about her labor and delivery experience. She offered a bit of advice -or maybe a warning, rather- that has proven to be altogether true and powerfully relevant for me. She explained that after labor and delivery, probably one of the most traumatic and trying experiences your body can encounter, you will feel as though you need ample time to rest and recover.
But that won't matter.
Because right away, you are mommy. You are mommy to this new baby who is completely and entirely dependent on you for everything in this life at every moment. So regardless of anything else going on with your recovering body, you are mommy, and that role dominates everything else - even a wrecked, exhausted, body.
And she was completely correct. After a seemingly-long nine months of preparation and waiting, that moment of really becoming mommy hits hard. It hits with the full force of beauty, love, and fulfillment. Ironically, it also packs a punch of anxiety, uncertainty, and clumsy responsibility that leaves you reeling even as you secure your first grip on that new life.
Right away, you are mommy.
Being a mother teaches you a lot. There's a lot to learn about baby care. You could study every book in the parenting section at Barnes & Noble and still have questions that no book can answer about your baby.
You can buy the high-end thermometer and read the manual front to back, but that feeling you get the first time you stick that tool to your baby's feverish forehead is something for which no manual can prepare you.
You can practice using the car seat a hundred times before baby arrives, but the first outing will still seem clumsy and altogether uncoordinated.
Another mommy-friend told me, "It would all be so much easier if each baby came with its own manual..." A baby just does not come with a customized how-to-care-for-me guide. Yet, you are mommy, supposedly knowing how to fix everything and solve every problem. Right away.
Being a mother teaches you a lot. But you have to be a mommy in order to learn it all. I can call my mom with any question or problem with baby girl, and she is going to have an answer. At the very least, she will make a suggestion. She will always tell me to double-check the advice, but interestingly enough, the doctor usually offers the exact same advice.
At first, I was amazed at how good she was at this whole mommy thing.
Then I felt ashamed that I had never noticed how good she is until now.
Then I felt overwhelmed by how little I know compared to her.
Then I realized something...
While you are "mommy" right away, you have a little bit of time to get good at it.
My mom has been mommy for over thirty years now. Over thirty years of late nights, sick babies, home remedies, boo-boo kisses, band aids, accident cleanups, hugs, questions, uncertainties, small victories, huge battles, and yes, phone calls to her own mother along the way. She knows a thing or two about this mommy business. The amazing thing about it is that her role has transformed a bit now as she helps me learn how to be a mommy too.
And THAT is one of the most awesome things I am learning about motherhood... It is this amazing cycle of growth and love that starts in one powerful moment, but continues for a lifetime. Not only that, but it includes this incredible community of women who are all fighting the same small battles, learning the same little big lessons, and are all too willing to help others along their way.
Mothers are truly amazing people. I say that, not because I am one now - believe me, I am the least of them - but because being a mother has opened my eyes to a new aspect of my mommy-friends' identities. It has helped me see my own mother more clearly. You could do this alone; but I thank God I don't have to. I don't know what I would do without the help of other moms. I am beyond grateful for their insight into this strange new parenting world.
Being a mother teaches you a lot.
Happy Mother's Day to all of my teachers, helpers, and mommy-mentors out there.