I had a friend over for a coffee and catch up the other week. She’s also a new mum to a sweet little three month old boy. Naturally we talked all things baby and I imparted my months of baby rearing wisdom to her (yeah, right!). One of the questions she asked me which has been in my mind a lot was “when do they start to feel like they’re really yours?”. My answer? “I’m still waiting”.
There are no words that could possibly describe how much I love my adorable, sweet, funny, cheeky, cute , incredible little girl, Violet. But it still hasn’t really sunk in that she is my daughter and I am her mum. Of course intellectually I know this but on some level it still feels like I’m babysitting someone else’s child… 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for the last 7 months. Which is totally ridiculous.
I wasn’t naive enough to believe that the moment my baby was born and placed into my arms, there would be some epic cosmic shift. That lights would shine, birds would sing and a magical feeling of total love and devotion would wash over me. I know that for some women it happens exactly that way but that wasn’t me. I think the first conscious thought that entered my head when they lay her on my chest was “oh wow, that’s quite a funky smell” and was shortly followed by “she looks a lot like Lee and nothing like me”. There were so many times in those first few weeks and months where Lee and I would have to remind ourselves “hey, we’re parents now!” It was something of a novelty, when it wasn’t sending me into a hormone driven breakdown of despair for the loss of our old life together, as short as it was.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved her from the start. But it felt more like the love I felt when I first met each of my nieces than the all-encompassing I think I was expected to feel for the truly amazing little creature that I had created (with a small amount of assistance from Lee) carried and birthed. I knew it would take some time for my understanding of reality to shift and for me to really FEEL those feels of being a mother and having a daughter. I just didn’t expect that 7 months later I’d still be waiting for that lights-shining-and-birds-singing moment to hit.
It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot since I was asked that question. When will Violet really feel like mine? When will I really feel like a mum? Where is my big moment? And when I’ve thought about it, the feelings that it has bought out in me have not been good ones. I’ve felt guilty, I’ve felt sad, I’ve felt disappointment (in myself) and I’ve felt failure. I’ve been asking myself, is there some reason that I don’t feel the way that I’m supposed to? Is there a reason that I still don’t have that intense connection to my new role and my new life? Is there a reason that I am still yet to experience that big moment that I hear and see so many other women experiencing?
Is it because mine was an unplanned pregnancy? I do sometimes feel a little bit undeserving of the incredible blessing that has been bestowed upon me with such ease. I feel guilty that there are so many deserving women out there who are experiencing so much heartbreak trying to conceive and safely deliver their longed for babies. The babies that they have talked about, decided to try of, planned for and wished for. Surely they deserve it more than I do with my careless accidental pregnancy just a couple of months in to a new relationship.
I don’t think that’s it though.
Although I didn’t plan to have a baby at that very moment, having a child is something that I have always wanted. Even if the timing wasn’t perfect, there is absolutely no doubt that Violet was very much wanted and welcomed with excitement and anticipation and love.
Is it because on some level I wasn’t yet emotionally ready to say goodbye to the carefree and easy jet setting lifestyle I had? Am I too selfish for mourning the loss of that life and the freedom that came along with it?
That’s probably not it either.
I don’t think anyone is ever truly ready for how completely your life changes when you have a baby. Even when it is something that you’ve been planning for some time. And with such a massive change, it’s only natural to feel some sense of nostalgia, even sadness, at the lifestyle you once had and will likely never have again. I could be totally cliched and say that I’ve gained so much more than I have given up but sometimes, it just isn’t true. But I know that as tough as things may get right now and as bright as my past may seem when I’m looking back on it, it really wasn’t all sunshine and roses and I know in my heart that the best really is yet to come for the future now that I have a family.
Is it simply that I’m too cold and unemotional? Well no, that can’t be right. You can ask Lee and he will tell you without a moments hesitation that I am very emotional. But I do have a tough time connecting with people. I think I always have. Perhaps it’s because I am too introverted and too emotionally distanced.
I actually have no answer for that. I do worry that these particular traits will make me a bad mother. But it’s something that I’m aware of and I think at worst, it may just mean that I won’t be the best mother (which is my own mum, by the way). Even so, I don’t think that can be the reason why I’m still yet to feel those intense mother feels.
Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t actually anything wrong with the way my feelings towards being a mum and having a daughter are developing at all. We (the collective we) accept that dads won’t feel those strong dad feelings when the baby is first born. In fact I’d go so far as to say that we actually expect that they’re not really going to build that bond and feel those feelings until much much later. You know, when the baby is more “interactive” (seriously, how many times have you heard that?). And while I understand the argument that for women it’s different as this tiny human being was literally a part of our bodies for over nine months. But it’s still a new person, albeit an adorably tiny one, that you’re meeting and are expected to fall madly in love with. Why shouldn’t the same allowances be made for mums?
Although I haven’t had one of those big moments, I have had lots of little moments. Like…
– seeing the way that her face lights up in a smile through the fog of sleep when I first go in to her in the morning. That is a moment that only we will ever share.
– preparing food for her and thinking about how the food that I make for her now is going to influence the way that she eats and the relationship with food for the rest of her life.
– walking past the baby clothing section in Target and seeing all the winter clothes out and realising that Violet relies entirely on me to make sure that she’s dressed in clothes that will keep her warm through winter
It’s these small and relatively insignificant moments (there are many more of them than the three I’ve mentioned) that light a small flame deep within me. In those moments, I really do feel like a mum and I really do feel like she’s mine. And I think that’s ok. There is no one size fits all in life, nor should there be in the emotional journey that is parenthood.
So yes, I am still waiting for the time when Violet really feels like she belongs to me, belongs with me. I know that in time, those feelings will grow and develop and intensify. What I know with absolutely certainty for now is this:
I love Violet with all my heart. She is without a doubt the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life.
There is absolutely nothing in the world that could make me want to be apart from her. Ever.
In my truly dark moments, she is the light that brings me back. She is my reason why.
I think that is more than enough.