The longing to join the exclusive club of mothers is a strange phenomena and one I entered into without any real awareness of what I was signing up for. How can you really know? If I did, would I change anything? Absolutely. Would I turn back and retreat? Absolutely not.
Motherhood is like a dancing partner. Unique, someone you need time to establish a rhythm with, and someone with whom you have the chance to lose yourself in moments that capture the wide range of human emotions from immeasurable joy to unrecognisable despair.
As I stretched out my hand to begin the dance, it was clear there was no turning back. If I close my eyes I am in the room where we shared our first days. In that room on that first day, it was as if time stood still. Nothing else mattered. There was no world beyond the door. He was the world and he swept me up with a force that thrust me forward, ready or not. There was an intensity nothing could have prepared me for. How do you capture it? Can the still shots in your mind translate to words on a page? Can words do justice to the ribbons of love and fear dancing inside your soul?
There is nothing like learning as you go, fumbling around with the best of intentions. Occasional glimpses of light would be my beacon and at times my saviour.
He was not as people say ‘an easy baby’, but he was my baby. I felt helpless as I paced the floor when he screamed after each feed. At times it seemed his tiny eyes were pleading with me to ease the pain and I didn’t know how. The only thing I really knew was that I loved him. I had no idea just how much I would love him, the longing, the constant gnawing in the pit of my stomach, the all encompassing, consuming, powerful love that would dominate all else.
Nobody told me how I would change. I morphed from a seemingly well rounded, articulate and somewhat interesting person into a feeding, leaking, sleep deprived zombie with eyes only for the creature responsible for it all. I looked at the world differently: my husband, my friends, and my life.
For a time, I fear I made things more difficult than they needed to be. For a time, I fear I lost myself in the need to perfect it all, to figure it out, and to be the best. What you come to realise over time, is that it isn’t always going to be like this. Motherhood doesn’t come with the perfect manual complete with perfect steps. Your technique may be wobbly or rusty but you are doing your best so you just keep dancing.
I am learning to trust my instincts, to follow my heart. I am learning to set small goals and take each day as it comes. I am learning to let go of the parts of myself that are not conducive to life with a small child. The perfectionist in me and my need to control everything is slowly disappearing and I am able to embrace the different pace this beautiful little boy has given my life.
The fingerprints on the windows are not mess, they capture a moment when he paused to admire a bird or watch the rainfall. The biscuit squished all over the lounge can be removed and one day I will read the increasing pile of books that I stare longingly at, yet don’t quite get to. His complete joy at the sound of a dog barking or the tickle of a cool breeze running through his hair, has allowed me to stop and see the world through his eyes. His passion for knowledge, for exploring and for life has given me a chance to appreciate the world in a new way. In such moments, just like the day he was born, it truly feels as though time stands still. I’m not sure words can ever do such exhilaration justice.
Yes, there are moments when I feel frustrated, when I remember the carefree life I used to live. There are moments when I dread the monotony of the daily routines and when I long to escape the exhaustion I feel at the end of each day.
This is the hardest thing I have ever done but it is also the best thing I will ever do. Indeed, two years on from my first tentative steps, the dance continues. It is clear to me now that it will never end. There are moments of frenzied movements, of a pace that leaves me breathless, spent and seemingly unable to go on but then there are moments of calm, of synchronicity and of true beauty. Life with him is an eternal dance. I am honoured to share it with him and vow to always hold his hand.
The truth is that on that day, time stood still then propelled me into a world I didn’t know or expect, yet it is unequivocally home. Now, two years on, at different points along the way, it continues to seem as though there is no world beyond our door. These are moments of magic, dancers locked in time, unaware of all beyond their existence. It may not be perfect, but it is my dance, my world.
“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