“There is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” ~ Jill Churchill
No one explained how let down could mean squirting breast milk across a room.
Or how I could feel, a perpetual jetlag sensation from sleep deprivation.
How ridiculous it seemed resting an ice-filled surgical glove to numb the swollen pain from the episiotomy that zigzag my tender bits.
And yet, what relief it would bring.
After letting go of my own worry and guilt, it didn’t make me less of a mom when I accepted more than Tylenol during and after childbirth.
I listened with dazed astonishment to the others who overtly shared how their new babes slept eight hours at a stretch.
My own two had internal alarms to wake every three.
I tried a few times to let them cry it out.
I cried too as I sat on the other side the bedroom door. I held the parenting book looking for strength. Finally, putting it aside and listening to my heart.
There was nothing wrong with them or me needing the closeness we cherished.
“A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.” ~ Victor Hugo.
I was tempted more than once to squirt breast milk in my coffee but nevertheless scuffed softly to the refrigerator for creamer.
I adored my sweet babies and the essences of ode de la babe is hard to explain.
When I close my eyes, I can still feel how they burrowed and rested ever so peacefully — under my chin. Wispy baby fluff for hair and small mewing sounds of contentment.
“Don’t ever tell the mother of a newborn that her baby’s smile is just gas.” ~ Jill Woodhull.
I ate their leftover crusts and nibbled on goldfish crackers too. I transformed finger-food into hors d’oeuvres; a whole new level of redefined gourmet.
Both of my children were earlier talkers and delayed walkers.
I still remember the day when a mom-friend asked about my daughter, “Why does she only say, meow when I talk to her?”
I was about to defend my girl (as any mama bear would), when my 18-month old looked up and replied, “Quack.”
I scooped her up and we giggled with joy.
Our pediatrician insisted we engaged in more gross motor skills (jumping, climbing and swinging). Apparently the park wasn’t enough. Therefore we joined a gymnastic toddler and mommy group.
It was fun meeting the other moms and always an adventure getting to class on time.
I admired the matchy-matchy mom or two in impeccable outfits, matching socks and shoes.
I was clad in sweats. Ponytailed hair. One still in a car seat and the two-year old Velcro-like to my hip. I came prepared with an industrial diaper bag equipped with two sizes of diapers, snacks and sips.
One day in particular, my son was eager to join in the final parachute sing-a-long.
He was shy so I immediately recognized this moment for him—it was huge.
“Mama,” he pleaded for me to hurry up and join all the fun too. I had to untangle from crisscross-applesauce.
In my excitement to see his courage, I forgot to clip and snap all the straps on baby #2. She slipped from her car seat and fell to the floor—maybe, three inches or two?
Still, I felt like I dropped her from the Empire State Building.
Her arms sprawled. Startled from her slumber. Eyes wide from shock. She held back the screech for a few mind numbing seconds and then tears released.
It didn’t take long for my son and me to join in too. I cuddled and held as I wiped snot from tiny tender noses.
I made a mental note, burp clothes have so many purposes.
And then the rest of the moms in the group, stunned and silent, all started crying too.
We hugged and shared. Even fancy-pancy-color-coordinated moms, admitted they planned outfits days in advance — just for toddler gymnastic group.
Others confessed (as if it were completely top secret) and whispered between tears, “Most days I wear jammies and pick cheerios off my clothes.”
Another confided, “I find Sippy cups nestled deep in the toy chest.”
We all let down our guard and shared, while a few toddlers pounced on the deflated parachute.
I cherish these memories. My kids are no longer shy or quiet.
They are teens with an independent streak, filled with opinions and comments. Both determined and stretching their wings from the nest; just like they should.
I have to step back and let them learn as they soar (and fall).
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” ― Ann Landers
No one taught me these things. I had to learn as I went along. The books can be helpful guidelines but listening, stumbling and completely messing up—has been my best teacher.
It is all of these moments, I call motherhood.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Frederic Rivollier at Pixoto