Having a baby is intense. The intensity levels, as well as the factors which create the intensity differ for everyone, but overall, having a baby is intense. Eva was born at home, in my bathroom to be precise, so that in itself was a factor that added some intensity to the moment. The pain was intense, the new kind of love that formed between my husband and I through my labor was intense, the joy was intense; the whole experience was joyfully, painfully, amazingly intense.
I paused after typing the above and looked up the word intense, just to be sure that my chosen adjective depicts what I want it to, and the definition (according to google, which I rely on for the definition of several words these days (being a stay-at-home-mom tends to make me feel like my vocabulary is slowly disintegrating)) is as follows: “of extreme force, degree, or strength”. Yes, extreme force and strength no doubt describe the experience and emotions of having a baby. Yet, it also describes the experience of bringing that baby home, or in my case, watching my midwife, doula, and family leave and being left with that baby. The love in my heart for my new little girl was beyond intense, my doubts about being a mother and doing the right thing were intense, navigating through the advice of others was intense, watching my baby get poked for her PKU shots was intense, and attempting to leave the house was INTENSE. I remember my midwife, who is arguably one of the sweetest people in the world, looking at me gently one day and saying, “You know, Malia, it might do you some good to get some fresh air, even if it is just a short walk around the block.” But, I hadn’t been prepared for the intensity. I had friends who had babies before me, I was once a nanny, I babysat, I worked with summer camps, and after-school programs, and in schools, I worked with youth overseas, I didn’t think I was so naive going into being a Mother, but I was. In no way did I think it would be easy, I knew it was going to be hard, difficult, challenging, but I wasn’t prepared for intense. Can you be? Really? I am sure that word is old by now, intense. ‘Okay’, you are thinking, ‘we get it, you think being a mother and having that baby be in your care is intense’. But truly, it is. That is what I wish I had known, and even more so I wish I had known what I am starting to learn after a year of motherhood; that intensity, only grows.
When Eva was a newborn I had a bat with signs of postpartum depression (which passed thanks to encapsulating my placenta, truly), but a main thought that drug me down the valley of uncontrollable tears and feelings of helplessness, was “What if I make the wrong choice for my daughter?”, “What if I am not doing this motherhood thing right?”, “Am I swaddling her correctly?”, “Do I vaccinate or do I not?”, “Is she warm enough?”, “Should I let her put that toy in her mouth?” . We live in a country full of freedoms and choices and opportunity, but those freedoms and choices felt like they were swallowing me whole, and if you get on the internet, the debates around those freedoms of choice are enough to make a mom loose her mind. Trying to make the right choice, one I felt confident in and good about was intense, and the decision making process felt like it might be the end of me. Thankfully, with time, assurance from my husband, and gradual trips outside of the comforts of my home, those choices got easier. I began to embrace motherhood and gain confidence in the way in which I was choosing to raise my daughter. I slowly (although I admit I am not fully there), realized my choices were not ones I needed to defend to the world, but rather ones which needed to sit well within my own soul.
Eva is a year old now and although I still find myself juggling different choices (such as whether or not I want to let her eat a French-fry, or really take a good bite out of a chocolate bar just yet), I am approaching those choices with a sense of peace. I am realizing that I can’t control it all; I can just do my best. That realization has allowed me to let go and relax, and yet at the same time, that realization is intense. I can’t control it all. I can’t control whether or not my baby girl gets hurt, or gets her heart broken. We live in an amazing world of adventure, lessons, and beauty; but our world is also covered in harsh realities that I can’t control, and that Eva will surely face. As a mother, with an extreme love continuing to grow inside my heart for my child, that realty is intense, and so the intensity continues.
The worry won’t leave I don’t think, nor will the questions or the doubts, fully, but neither will the love, the joy, or the adventure, and those too are intense. A mother’s love fills her completely. She feels it constantly and it literally has the power to warm her from the inside out. Then there is the joy, the intense, magical joy that comes with watching a child as she grows. She rolls over, and crawls, and walks, and smiles, and looks at you with the knowing eyes that YOU are her MOM, and the joy that that look brings is beautifully intense. She laughs, and reaches up for you to pick her up, or takes your hand as she explores the world, and she trusts you to take her along her first exploratory steps. What honor and intense privilege. You begin to see the world through new eyes, literally brand new eyes, and you start to see the wonders of being human. How we learn by watching, how intriguing the swaying branches of the trees truly are, and how awesome celebrations and traditions such as stringing lights on a Christmas tree can be. She is new to the world and as her mother you get to experience this world all over again through her bright eyes, that opportunity is an intense and gratifying adventure.
So new momma, as you bring that baby home, or sit in the quite of your own home together for the first time since she was born into it, embrace the intensity. It is scary, and it is powerful, and it will take your breath away for the rest of your life, but it is motherhood.