There was a moment following the birth of my first child when I came to a powerfully heartbreaking realization: The light switch on "how to be a mom" would never flip. Worse yet, there IS NO light switch.
The assumption I carried my whole life that birthing a baby would predicate a universal understanding on how to raise a child was, in fact, bogus.
When it came to raising this tiny, precious, fragile human being, I was more than just unarmed. I was miserably clueless.
If mommy intuition really is a thing, then I got fantastically gypped. Everything I ever understood about mommyhood was that wisdom and truth would automatically rise to the surface.
Crying baby? Clearly he's hungry. Wailing baby? Ah, he must be tired. Each new puzzle piece would methodically fit in a lifetime of budding knowledge and an intimate perspective that bloomed from within, just as my body automatically understood how to grow this baby inside my womb.
And yet, here I was. Bewildered and terrified.
I think I spent the first six months of my son's birth in a constant state of fear. Is he breathing? Is he eating? Is he choking?
I felt like fraud, trying to convey confidence and self-satisfaction in this role as a new mother many of us dream of since childhood. But nothing was further from the truth. I was drowning in self-doubt, terror, and regret.
And people around me made it worse.
"Enjoy these precious moments," they would coo in the checkout line at the grocery, "The time flies so fast."
The words would sting my open wound. Enjoy? I was literary living second to second just watching the clock tick. I wanted this moment to be over. I wanted to fast forward to a time where my baby was self-sufficient, healthy and strong. Where I could look at him wistfully and know he was going to be OK. Things will be easier when he can hold up his head... start to crawl... start to eat solids... On and on, the fear followed me like a shadow, never satisfied with the present moment.
And it morphed easily to guilt. I don't deserve this. I don't deserve him. My sweet, beautiful baby who I don't know how to properly care for. Anyone could do this better. Someone should do this instead of me.
While so many moms heartbreakingly said goodbye to maternity leave, I welcomed it. The daycare teachers were far more qualified to care for my baby than me. I was flying by the seat of my pants and everyone knew it. It was like a face tattoo and it oozed with despair and self-pity. I can't do this.
Looking back, I want to shake that fragment of a mother and infuse some strength in her. You are worthy! You are deserving! You can do this! This is your baby and you are capable. There is no one more qualified for raising this little human than you. You will be scared. You will be tested. You will cry, and scream, and feel more emotion in a day than you've felt your whole life. But you are good. You are beautiful. You are a child of God.
Mommy intuition never knocked on my door. But wisdom did. Grace, too. Every day I grew wiser. Every day I learned more. Every day I would experience, feel, and grow.
These days, I can go hours without fear. Days, sometimes! It gets remarkably easier, and I'm beyond grateful.
I don't miss those first days.
Do I reminisce about old baby pictures? Sure, but I don't look back. I was scared and fragmented then. I fought back tears daily. I questioned my sanity. I harbored fantasies about escape, vanishing, and death.
Only now can I live for the day. Finally I cherish the moment, and it's pure and beautiful and perfect. This is how I envisioned motherhood and this is what I hoped for in these early dark days.
It did not come easy.
It did not come intuitively.
But it's here, it's real, and I'm glad.