When I was pregnant with my first child and slightly terrified at the thought of raising our own little human, several well-meaning people told me, “Don’t worry, being a mom will come naturally.” Even though I’d never been pregnant before and had absolutely no clue how to be a parent, some magical switch would supposedly go off and–bam–I’d have it. The second that baby popped out I’d be filled with all sorts of natural mommy-ing wisdom.
Well, that’s not exactly how it happened. There are just some aspects of motherhood that don’t come naturally (unless you’re one of those super-moms who I’d love to meet). Here are four:
1. Sleepless Nights
There is nothing more unnatural than waking up every two hours for months on end. I don’t care how many books you read or parenting sites you google, you can’t prepare for how those sleepless nights will turn you into a zombie. You’ll survive—I promise—but it’s just not normal.
2. Physical and Emotional Changes
There’s no doubt about it, having a baby changes your body. Chalk it up to another lesson in learning that you come second now. And, you might want to rethink that trip to the trampoline park, unless you really want to get to know your post-pregnancy bladder. I learned that one the hard way.
The tidal waves of emotion that come with pregnancy and being a mom can throw you for a loop. It reminds me of that scene in The Office where a very pregnant Pam sits in front of her computer watching a sappy dog commercial over and over and bawling her eyes out. I’m telling you, it happens, and it’s weird.
3. Seeing Your Own Faults
My husband, Thad, and I are always trying to pawn off Ellia’s shortcomings on each other, saying things like, “Um, pretty sure she got that one from you, Babe.” Her stubbornness makes me cringe since I know that one’s totally from me. Seeing your faults reproduced in your one-year-old is bizarre and humbling, an unwanted daily reminder of your own imperfections.
4. Feeling Helpless
I’ll never forget holding Ellia one night as she battled the flu, feeling completely and utterly helpless. Her temperature spiked and, while she whimpered and threw up, a sick feeling settled in the pit of my stomach. All I could do was hold her and wait for the medicine to kick in. Seeing your child in pain and knowing there’s nothing you can do to help is one of the worst feelings in the world. There’s nothing natural about it.
By now, you might be wondering why anyone would sign up for being a mom, but as daunting as sleepless nights, body changes, seeing your faults, and feeling helpless might be, none of them outshine the amazing things that do come instinctively to new moms. Here are just a few of my favorites:
There’s no way to express in words the kind of love that completely overwhelms you the moment you see your baby for the first time. It can’t be described. It’s completely and irreversibly real. Then, as your baby grows your love multiplies, too. So might your frustrations, but that’s another story.
We’ve all heard the stories about moms lifting burning cars off their babies, extreme cases of the God-given instinct to protect your child. You’ll be amazed at how the mama bear can take over when some kid hauls off and hits your child in the face. It’ll take every fiber of self-control to resist pinning that kid to the dirt and giving him a piece of your mind. Or, maybe you actually did. I won’t ask.
3. Understanding Their Needs
Before Ellia came, the ability of other moms to interpret their baby’s babble amazed me. Now I realize that it just comes with the territory. After spending hours, days, and months with your baby, you learn to read them. Their body language tells you what they need long before their babbling does. You learn when they want to be fed, when they’re tired, when something’s not right, and when they just need a little attention.
It’s not always easy or fun, but selflessness manifests itself in a whole new way when you become a mom. Your baby comes first in so many ways—before your pillow, the sandwich you’d just love to eat for lunch, and even the shower you really need to take. It’s the way it should be, and you’ll find you wouldn’t want it any other way.
When sleepless nights seem impossible and my stretch marks make angry faces in the mirror, my love for Ellia overwhelms it all, making the challenges of parenting not only doable but absolutely worth it.
No one turns into a supermom the moment they deliver a baby, so don’t worry if you feel underprepared. If you start to doubt your mom skills, just remember this promise from the One who made you a mother: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God who give generously to God without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). And, when someone tries to tell you that it’ll “come naturally,” just smile and nod.
Photo from Story of This Life, used with permission