After a long week of work and parenting, I sneaked upstairs tonight with a glass of wine and slipped into the tub for a quick ten minutes alone before starting the bedtime routines. I made a mental note to thank my husband for this brief break, since any alone time these days is rare and precious.
I carefully poured the baby bubble bath into the steaming water, pushed aside the boats and bath toys… and I didn’t think twice. Then it occurred to me that four years ago, I would have laughed (and probably cried) at the strangeness of this situation. It would have felt awkward and hilarious to be washing up with tear free baby shampoo and setting my wine on the edge of the bath next to my son’s tiny squirt toys. But now, four years and another baby later, I realized that the reason this no longer feels so odd is simply because motherhood has finally become my new normal.
Some will argue that a woman becomes a mother when she conceives, but accepting the title doesn’t mean that the role comes naturally. I remember how weird it felt to carry the infant car seat around with me everywhere I went in those first few months (which wasn’t many places, except for drive thru coffee shops and the occasional trip to Target). I felt so anxious, so aware of the people around me who I was convinced could tell that I had no idea what I was doing.
I even felt like a stranger in my own house. My bedroom at night looked as though a baby bomb had gone off – diapers and wipes strewn around the changing table, the bassinet pushed closely to my side of the bed to make for easy nighttime breast feeding sessions. My night stand was stocked with anything that I could possibly need to survive the night with a newborn, like diaper cream, extra pajamas, receiving blankets, nose suction, a thermometer, infant Tylenol, and a multitude of other items that I surely did not need.
The first time we took my son to the pediatrician, the final page of the paperwork required a parent signature. My mind went blank. Parent signature? Omigod. That’s me. And next to my signature was the “relationship to patient” line where I wrote “Mother” for the first time. Surely I was not old enough (albeit I was 26) or mature enough to be solely responsible for another human being…. Right?!
After eight weeks at home, I reluctantly returned to my full time job. My son’s diaper bag was the size of a small suitcase, packed with enough stuff for him to survive at least three weeks. And then I packed my lunch, my work bag, my pump, and a cooler for breast milk. Did it seriously take this much preparation and planning for one day out of house?! I was fairly certain that I wasn’t capable of this chaos – and I eventually did resign from my position before returning to work 18 months later.
Now, ten months after my second child was born, motherhood in general has become, well, normal. I’m used to the fact that my dining room will always be used as a playroom for the boys. I’ve accepted that I will probably never sleep soundly through an entire night ever again. It doesn’t feel weird to me that my grocery list is dominated by baby products and kid friendly meals rather than steaks, scallops and other delicious food I’m sure I ate prior to having children. It doesn’t bother me that it takes at least two hours to get myself and the kids out of the door each morning before work. I don’t think twice when I crawl into the backseat on road trips and make animal noises for an hour to soothe my fussy baby. These things would have all felt absurd, hilarious, and overwhelming a few years back. And now, four years after I accepted this role in motherhood, I can finally say that I really feel like a mom.
So for all of the new mothers out there who feel as though they aren’t as natural and prepared as they had expected to be: hang tight. After a couple of years, a few tears, and probably another baby – motherhood will finally become your new normal. And you most likely won’t ever want to change a thing (except maybe the sleep deprivation– a few uninterrupted hours would definitely be nice).