Man. Where to begin?
What is it about being a woman that lends itself to feeling so damn inadequate? I'm sorry if you're a woman and you've never felt this way and you think I'm making an obnoxious generalization. I've never met a woman like that, but if you're her, I do apologize and I want whatever you're having.
Now lemme bring it back to the subject. If I had a dollar - no, a dime - for every time I thought of myself as "not ____ enough" I'd have a showroom of Chanel bags by now. No area of my life is safe from my own personal demon of self-doubt. My husband gets on me ALL the time about putting myself down, even going so far as to threaten me with a pin money jar: a dollar per put down. He may be on to something.
As a girl I went to high school with says (and has the t-shirt to prove it), "Mommin' Ain't Easy." No, Sheree, it is not. Prior to becoming a mom, I wasn't the most self-assured person in many respects, but as a mom I swear I've gotten so much worse! It goes something like this...
(During pregnancy): Am I too old to have a healthy child? Did I just exercise too hard for my baby's safety? Should I Google every ingredient in this smoothie to be sure it's safe for pregnant women? I bet other pregnant women just automatically know these types of things...I hope no one is looking at me and thinking I'm putting my baby at risk...
(After birth): Why won't my baby stop crying? Why can't I figure it out? Is it something I did during pregnancy? Is it something I'm doing now? Is it something I'm NOT doing now? Why does my husband seem so much more natural at this than I do? If I have to ask my doctor for help, will she think I'm an unfit mother? How do other mothers figure this stuff out? They're probably just more natural at it than I am. Why can't I lose weight breastfeeding? I'm so tired, I should have this cookie. Oh, that's why I'm not losing weight. When do I get to have wine again? OMG I had a glass of wine and of course now is the time my baby wants to eat earlier than the normal 2-3 hour window...am I going to hurt her if I feed her?! I wish she took bottles better. Next time (if there is a next time), I don't know if I'd breastfeed again. It's just so lonely and isolating and I just want some shred of my old life back. Man, I'm a selfish mother. Other moms would kill to be able to breastfeed their baby, and here I am bitching about it...what's wrong with me?
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I have two dogs and they don't get nearly the attention that they deserve. When we moved back to Asheville, we moved into a townhouse and while we LOVE living in Biltmore Park, we really miss having a backyard for our dogs to play in. Loading up two dogs and a baby to go walking in a high traffic area is nerve-wracking so they don't go out nearly as much as they should. On a positive note, I am gaining confidence and just yesterday took all four of us on a long, 45 minute walk - progress!
I already mentioned the weight issue and, again, sorry if I'm contributing to a narrative that women need to be a certain size or look a certain way. That's not my intent. I do, however, want to fit in the clothes I own aside from my yoga pants. I used to be SO active; now I'm lucky to get that one walk in a day. I took Harlow to the gym once and she lasted about 20 minutes before I had to jump off the treadmill mid-stride to avoid a scene. She's still so young and I'm still so afraid of daycare germs. I WANT to take her, but if she got sick then I'd just hate myself for exposing her to an illness when it wasn't necessary - I HAD to go to Body Pump and now she's got pink eye. Worst. Mom. Ever.
I really feel like the worst wife ever. Mike and I love to go explore and engage in where we live. Dinners, drinks, festivals, day hikes, overnight camping...we do it all! And we cherish the small stuff, too. Every day of our relationship, Mike has kissed me goodbye before he goes to work. Now, because sleep is such a treasured commodity in this household, we've had to press 'pause' on that daily ritual. He gets up for work around 5:30AM and sometimes he's getting ready to leave right as I'm falling back asleep after nursing Harlow. It stinks. It's all changed SO much. When parents or mom friends tell you "do ____ now because your life will totally change once you have a kid," you understand what they mean, but I don't think you can ever really know how much that change will seep into every nook and cranny of your life.
Parenthood is the ultimate example of 'you don't know what you don't know.' I think patience and perseverance are lessons God intended women to learn as mothers, from pregnancy and beyond. Things will rarely happen exactly how and when you want. That perfect birth plan you meticulously crafted? Probably didn't go according to script. Those breastfeeding courses made it sound like a breeze, right? Well, if it was all up to you maybe so, but you've got a partner in this dance and they've been in the world a matter of hours or days and they don't have a Powerpoint or educational video to watch and go 'ahh, got it.'
When we brought Harlow home, stress, sleep deprivation, fear, and self-doubt all congealed into one storm cloud of emotion. (And - hello! - hormones!). I was just about convinced I couldn't do it. The first two months were TOUGH, I'm not going to lie. Lots of tears. I cried in the pediatrician's office at our two month check up. I was tapped out, I had nothing left to give and desperate to know when oh when would my baby ease up on poor mommy? Our doctor told me I would be in much better shape by our four month visit. FOUR MONTHS?! Impossible. I wouldn't last the afternoon, much less another 60 days.
But you do. And minute by minute, day by day, week by week, you gain confidence. You take on daunting tasks, big and small. You surround yourself with support because we were NOT meant to do this alone. You share stories, both embarrassing and triumphant, and eagerly listen to other moms divulge their horror stories, lessons learned, and "I didn't know betters." You realize that more often than not, time and experience are the ultimate educators for ev-er-y-body, not a genetic predisposition to postpartum care.
I'm a Taurus, so I'm more stubborn than some (err, most...Harlow gets it honestly), but eventually I hope to learn that the latest inadequacy will fall by the wayside just as the others before it. Learn that this uncomfortable pressure I put on myself comes from a place of love, a deep desire to be the best mom to Harlow/wife to Mike/dog owner/individual that I can be. God matched me with Mike and blessed us with Harlow for a reason, and somewhere in there is an implication that I'm a part of the equation because they need me as much as I need them. For better, for worse, my faults and my favors.