I didn’t always want to be a mother. When I was in my early 20s and I envisioned my future, having children just wasn’t part of that picture. I didn’t even like kids – I felt awkward around them and felt they could see right through me. I also felt that I wasn’t warm and loving enough to be a mother. In college one of my closest friends told me I was emotionally unavailable. For years I believed her and sadly, I used that observation to allow me to keep my relationships at arm’s distance. When I met my first husband, part of the reason I was attracted to him was that I didn’t need to be vulnerable in the relationship. He was just as closed off as I was. He had three children and I felt that was perfect for me – a premade family that I could jump into, but one where I didn’t need to be that warm motherly person that I couldn’t be.
I’m not sure exactly when things begin to change, but eventually I found myself deeply unhappy and unfulfilled. I looked at my life and where I was heading and I didn’t want to go to that future. I began yearning for more intimate friendships and closer relationships with family. And suddenly, I found myself wanting a child. Maybe it was my biological clock giving me a nudge or maybe it was because I had finally realized that I wanted and needed more love in my life.
I tried to incorporate these sudden changes into my marriage but ultimately it didn’t work. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, or long enough…but that’s another story. I moved on and dared to hope that I’d still one day be able to have a baby. I got my happy ending. I met my husband, married him and found out that I was pregnant.
That wasn’t the ending however.
Throughout my pregnancy I battled with myself. That old comment from my friend never left me. I tortured myself by questioning whether I’d be a good mom, whether my baby would feel loved by me, and whether I was selfless enough to be a mother. What if she doesn’t know me as soon as she is born? What if we don’t bond? What if I don’t fit the perfect mom mold that is portrayed on Facebook and Pinterest? I had so many “what ifs?”
Eventually, my daughter was born. Instead of feeling that all-consuming love that is portrayed on diapers commercials, I felt relief that it was over and concern that my baby was ok and healthy. We brought her home and instead of feeling excitement and fulfillment I felt exhausted, sore from feeding and I cried every morning. When people asked how I was doing, instead of saying that I was wonderful and so happy I told them that being a mother was harder than I could have ever imagined.
I scrolled through Facebook in those early weeks and saw my friends who were also new moms post that their baby was “the light of our lives” and “the best thing that ever happened.” They looked so happy in their pictures while in contrast, I was counting down the minutes for my husband to get home so I could pass my baby to him and get a break. I felt as if my worst fears were confirmed – I was not cut out for this.
And then one day she made a sound other than a furious cry and I laughed in surprise. A few days later she smiled for the first time and it took my breath away. A few weeks after that, my mom made her giggle and we both had tears in our eyes. Two weeks ago she finally learned how to hold on to toys and I felt an immense sense of pride. On Monday, my mom was holding her and I was telling a story. Savvy began cooing and smiling at me, so excited to hear her Mommy talk. I felt like my heart was exploding.
Being a mom is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as it might to other women. I can’t be blissfully happy when my baby is wailing in my arms, just because she’s in my arms. I get frustrated when she won’t sleep and still welcome the opportunity to let someone else hold her. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love her.
What I have learned over the last few months is that my friend was wrong. I’m not emotionally unavailable. I just love a little more quietly than others. When I love, it’s a strong, internal love that spreads like warmth against my heart. People may not always be able to see it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. They just need to step a little closer, and listen.