Not every mother feels like a mommy the day she gives birth. For the first six months of my son’s life I felt more like a 24/7 babysitter than anything else. My life revolved around bottles, meals, diapers, and the basic activities of daily living. As long as I was doing a task that I felt any competent adult could handle, I felt like a caregiver. When I failed at accomplishing one of those tasks, particularly napping, I was convinced that I, a stay-at-home mom, should put my son into daycare. “He should have a professional take care of him,” I’d say to my husband. “I must be doing something wrong.”
Every day I’d set up a schedule that allowed for growing amounts of playtime and social activities. I’d do minimal research each month so I could focus on building the skills he’d be developing to reach appropriate milestones. When the doctor said he was gaining too much weight, I spent New Year’s Eve studying growth charts and doing my own calculations in order to figure out why he was a few pounds beyond his peers. All of this sounds obsessive, I know. But, just because I didn’t feel like a “mommy” didn’t mean I wasn’t going to be the best mother ever, because that’s why my kid deserves.
Little did I know that all of my hard work was paying off in an unexpected way. One day as my son did his usual shouts and screams from his high chair, I replied to him, “Honey, you don’t need to scream. If you want or need something just say ‘Mom!’” Knowing that learning is repetition, I repeated that sentence to him a few times. About three days later as I was making his breakfast I heard one shout.
Then I heard another.
This was followed by an incredibly frustrated, “MAAAAAAAAHHHHHHMMMMM!!!”
My jaw dropped in shock. I turned and looked at my now wide-eyed, slightly stunned son and calmly replied, “Yes, love? What do you need?”
He blinked a few times and shouted again, “MOM!”
I brought his cereal to his seat and he smiled big, as if to say, “You’re the one person in the world who gets me!”
Now, I’m his new favorite word. Food, diaper, attention, play, comfort, cuddles, nap, and bed: His name for everything is, “Mom.” And when it isn’t me delivering any one of those things, he shouts my name and beams upon my arrival.
Not every woman is a “baby person,” mothers included. The exhausting slog through the mud of taking care of a newborn feels nothing like the special, flowery well-wishes of joy and happiness you receive from family, friends and even strangers when you’re pregnant. Caring for a new baby is back-breaking, emotionally draining and, at times, totally confusing hard work. But, nothing worth having is ever easy to get. I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I just didn’t know that I needed to hear that title from my child’s lips in order to make it my own.