I have a confession to make; I am not a kid person. What I mean is - I've never been overcome by mushy feelings when I'm around babies and children. They are nice to see from a distance, but I've never felt the need to gush over them.
When I was single, I always said I didn't want to have children of my own. I'd rather adopt. When I got married, my husband and I discussed adoption as an option. Both of us were quite happy to wait, probably me more than him. There didn't seem to be any rush. We enjoyed the first few years of our marriage and pushed the thought of children to a remote corner of our minds.
Then I had an epileptic episode out of the blue. It knocked me off balance in more ways than one because until then I'd been one of those disgustingly healthy people who get a headache maybe once a year. It was a difficult time for us as a family and I had to learn to trust God even when I didn't understand what He was trying to work in me. After another episode I was put on medication which I was told I had to take for at least three years. And that was when we decided it was as good a time as any to get pregnant! I guess when something is out of reach, that makes you want it more.
When I found out I was expecting we were thrilled. I read all I could, which was a good excuse to buy more books. I'm thankful to God for a very easy pregnancy. I didn't have any complications and the medication I was on, didn't affect the baby. Labour was... um... interesting. Apparently I had contractions, but couldn't feel them! Our daughter was born within an hour of pain being induced. Normal and healthy. It was amazing!
Nothing, not all the books in the world, can prepare you for the moment when you hold that tiny person in your arms. It's a weird mixture of emotions – ecstatic that the wait is finally over and the baby has arrived safe and sound and then also a strange sense of blankness. A switch didn't turn on suddenly for me and overcome me with motherly feelings. I felt elated – like I'd passed a final examination or something, but nothing on the “Whoa, I'm a mother!” front.
Those first few days were exciting. Like I had a live doll to play with. But once the euphoria wore off I entered my own special brand of crazy. The first forty days are supposed to be the worst. I went from being a relatively sane human being to a veritable virago. And through all the mood swings and bouts of crying, this tiny human kept me anchored. Another person's needs were more important than mine. I think that was when it hit me for the first time. My daughter depended on me utterly for everything! That was a scary and awe-inspiring moment.
The past eight months have been an eye-opener. Like marriage, motherhood is an excellent method to meet and greet all your faults, silliness and unrealistic expectations. I've had to deal with peculiar forms of selfishness, masquerading as “my rights.”
I thought I'd be a patient mother, but I find that having to change a dirty diaper for the fifth time in one afternoon can be the straw that broke the camel's back. I never thought I was short-tempered. Then I had a baby. I like to be in control and dealing with a squalling infant who can't tell me what's troubling her, drives me up the wall! Small irritations – like the fact that I can't check my email or text my friends without her chubby little hand grabbing my phone, my hair or my spectacles – frustrate and annoy me. Or how I can't sit down to eat a meal or read a book in quietness without hearing a yell from the crib.
All these experiences have only reflected more and more the unpleasantness in me. And yet, my daughter still loves me. She comes crawling to me when she wants a cuddle. She smiles and gurgles when she sees me. She laughs when I sing to her. She talks to me in her baby language and tells me about her day. And I've come to the lowering realisation that I don't deserve any of it. I've had to go back to God many times and ask for forgiveness and grace.
I'm learning to be a mother. I don't think I'll ever get the hang of it, but I'm beginning to enjoy the process. For starters, I've learnt to slow down and enjoy life at a baby's pace. It's okay if I don't check my email or scroll through my Facebook news feed everyday. The world is not going to come to a crashing halt. But spending a few hours playing with my baby girl, getting her food ready, giving her a bath and watching the pure joy and wonder in her eyes as she sees life unfold in front of her is priceless.
I'm still not a kid person by any means. When I count the members of my family I invariably forget to include my daughter. (Yes, I am that terrible person!) But I console myself with the thought that she won't remember when she gets older-- hopefully!
Becoming a mother has changed me for the better. All those pockets of impatience, selfishness, ingratitude and thoughtlessness that had been allowed to germinate and spread, have had to be ruthlessly weeded out. It's painful at times, but the rewards are glorious. I'm learning to appreciate the present and be truly grateful for the gift of a child. I'm beginning to understand the enormity of the responsibility I've been entrusted. And I'm realising that I cannot even begin to be a good parent without heavenly aid. My walk with God has hit new levels of reality wherein I've stood praying over the crib, practically begging Him to give Abby a good night's sleep so that I'd have a full night's sleep too. (It worked by the way!)
When I was expecting, God gave me a command. Psalm 78:5-7 says: “...He commanded...that they should make them known to their children...the children who would be born...That they may set their hope in God. And not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments.”
I'm holding on to that as my mission statement. My prayer and hope is that I hold fast to the calling.
If you're a mom, what was the most surprising thing you learned during those first few months?