Becoming a mom was the hardest thing I ever did. Well, the actual becoming was pretty easy. That part is just biology. That is how women and men take on the title of Mother and Father. Becoming Mom? That is something else entirely.
Let’s skip all of the inevitable yucky, owie childbirth stuff. It hurts like a mo-fo and we all know it. The first two days are special and blurry and also yucky and painful, but sweet and joyous, too. It is generally day three that kicks our ass.
Sort of like the flu.
Day three with my first born went something like this: I woke up exhausted. I got spit upped and peed on all day. She never napped. She cried. A lot. I became comatose in a wakeful state. I got spit upped and peed on some more all evening. She refused to sleep at bedtime. I became a Mombie. (You know. That thing where you are so sleep deprived that your brain stops working and you are more zombie than mom, but you still have to make snacks and stuff.)
Sometime around 3am I figured it out. My sweet baby girl, for whom I’d waited 40 long weeks to love and cuddle and cherish, was trying to kill me. She had been sent here by her alien leaders to exploit our weaknesses as humans and, together with the rest of her tiny infant-ry, pick us off, one by one. Babies aren’t adorable little bundles of squishy, powdery goodness. They are extraterrestrial mercenaries sent to destroy.
And my baby was their leader.
As she lay on my bed, screaming at the top of her lungs for God knows what, I broke. She broke me.
She was clean and dry. She was fed. She was safe. I tried to rock her, nurse her, walk/bounce her, sing to her, pat her, buy her a car, promise a pony, and finally, through eyes that wouldn’t even open but could still fill with tears, I sobbed out the words, “Why do you hate Mama?!”
I was broken.
Do you know what I learned in that moment in the dark with my beautiful, newborn daughter?
I was a failure.
I was a new Mama. I was beyond tired. I’d entered a new reality where I was just trying to survive. I was a single Mama to boot, so double it all up and wrap it in a bow. I adored my daughter, but infancy isn’t easy. I never expected easy, but I was crushed by what I perceived as total and complete bust on my part to care for my daughter.
I went into this with high expectations. I was really good with kids; babies loved me. I was a nanny for a long time. I had read all the books and I had gathered all the stuff. I wasn’t some young kid and I had a support system in my family. I was ready.
Except that I wasn’t.
Because NO ONE IS.
This is one of the hardest things a person can do. Not because we can’t make decisions or because we don’t know right from wrong. We all know the basics of what is involved in keeping tiny humans alive. The hard part comes in the constant second guessing of our choices. The difficulty is in wanting to give our kids what is absolutely best for them and always wondering if we really understand what that is in every situation.
Four kids and 20 years of experience later and I’ve learned something new:
I was never a failure.
I have been many things as a mom. I’ve been new. I’ve been tired. I’ve been overwhelmed and underwhelmed by my children.
I’ve been wrong, I’ve been apologetic. I’ve been sorry, sad, and mad.
I’ve been worried, I’ve been fearful, and I’ve even felt at the end of my rope.
I have made many mistakes.
I have never been a failure.
I have, from the very first moment that I knew each even existed, loved my children. I’ve loved them through the first sleepless nights when they had colic, had nightmares, and had absolutely nothing wrong with them except the aforementioned desire to destroy me with sleep deprivation.
I loved them through terrible twos, threes, fours, tweens, and teens.
I loved them when they woke me in the middle of the night to tell me I was sleeping.
I love the two who are upstairs right now fighting in excruciating scream-y voices over cleaning their room.
I loved them when they thought they hated me.
Sure, I will make mistakes with my kids because in the history of kids and parenting this is the first time my kids have been kids and the first time I’ve ever parented them. We’re. All. New.
Every step I take as a parent is uncharted.
Now, on my hardest days, when I’m questioning everything I thought I was sure of as a parent and I start to hang my head in frustration and defeat, I think back. My newborn daughter didn’t hate me on that third night. She didn’t know what she wanted, but we worked through it together and we didn’t really fail.
I know I will never fail my children because, no matter what mistakes I make as a parent, I love them and that love will always drive me to be the best parent I can be for them.
I will not fail.