I was never one of those women with an innate need to have children but I met and married a man who had always wanted children so I knew that one day I would become a mother.
Before meeting my husband I had made no secret of the fact that I was not the motherly type and had often commented that I just did not really like children. Everyone told me that I would feel maternal when it was my own child and having a baby and being a mother would just come naturally.
I wanted to believe them and I soon found myself getting caught up in my husband’s excitement and so six months after getting married, I was pregnant. I bought and read every book and magazine with pregnancy in the title and bookmarked countless websites to help me prepare, so I was more than ready to become a mother.
As the due date approached I became more and more excited and could not wait to meet my little baby. After a traumatic birth including high blood pressure (me), dropping heart rate (baby) and an emergency C-section, little Archie was in my arms and I was finally a mum.
Well imagine my surprise when it dawned on me that despite nine months of research I had absolutely no idea what to do with this tiny baby who was doing his best to communicate with a mother who had forgotten to buy the book titled Babies and how to understand them.
I second-guessed everything that I did and found myself wondering if maybe everyone was wrong and I just did not have the maternal gene. It was this wondering that started a silent panic and made the first few weeks of Archie’s life the most challenging and confronting weeks I had ever faced.
I had never experienced such self doubt in my life. I was good at my job, had a wonderful relationship with my husband and had generally experienced success in my life. This feeling of inadequacy was so foreign and very unwelcome.
I was a woman who prided myself on my organisation, who was sociable and who loved trying new things, suddenly I found that I could no longer control my day. I was proud if I managed to organise time for a shower. I craved phone calls, text messages and visits just so I could have a conversation and the only new thing I craved was a good night’s sleep.
I felt constant guilt that I was not feeling overwhelming love for motherhood as a new role. I loved Archie and I loved elements of motherhood but the whole package was utterly exhausting. I thought about all the gushing mothers I knew who would espouse the joys of motherhood and felt terrible that I just did not see it. When people asked me how I was enjoying it all I wanted to say was how hard it all was but instead I gushed like I thought I should.
I now wonder if other mums felt like I did and just pretended to make others feel less uncomfortable. The strangest part was that I was not depressed. I was just mourning a life I had known and loved for a new life of unknowns and challenges.
This story is not all doom and gloom.
With every day that I kept Archie alive I started to gain confidence. With every gram of weight he gained I started to think I might be succeeding, and when he started to look at me and smile I started to enjoy being his mum and started to gush with total honesty.
I still have times when I miss being able to leave the house in under 10 minutes, and when I miss wearing an outfit for a whole day without it getting dirty but I think I would miss having someone stare at me as if I was their whole world much more.
I am still unsure, still make lots of mistakes and still second-guess myself when faced with a new challenge but I think this is a normal part of becoming a mother and becoming responsible for the life of another. I wish I had trusted myself more and had given myself time to learn and appreciate the changes happening in my life.
I guess in the end everyone was right...when you are holding your own child in your arms it is impossible to not be a mother. I am a woman, I am a wife, I am a friend and now I am a mother...and I can do it all.
“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*
I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves – thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.
* Gloria Steinem