I’m A Mom, Right?

I ask because sometimes I feel like I’m still in an epidural haze, only without the fun high feeling. I read an anonymous quote about giving birth recently, which said something to the effect of, “Every mother leaves her body during childbirth and travels to the stars to collect her baby’s soul to return to the world together.” Holy hell if that’s not a version of what I experienced with the birth of my son. I was present during labor, but I was also on some other plane of consciousness thanks to my best friend the epi, and I came back to the present moment just in time to feel my skin stretch so hard I thought my {REDACTED} would rip off. It all snapped right back together, thank God, and then some alien beings in scrubs handed me a very squished-up, smudged-with-something-whiteish baby, and I was in love. It was wild.

Me and babe, 2015

Motherhood has changed quite a bit from those first dazed moments. I’m now mom to a sweet and lively toddler, and while some days are still a bit fuzzy, they usually carry the bright and cheery sense of presence demanded by my son’s delightful and constant pursuit of J O Y. Still, one mainstay holds over from the newborn stage, and that is this: every now and then I snap to the present moment and I ask myself “what the hell am I doing?”

I thought it the second they handed me that babe, and I think it once every day or so. Just yesterday I realized that my kiddo is 3 and a half years old and has an entire mouth full of teeth, and that he has had all of those puppies for a full year and a half, yet he’s never been to the dentist for a cleaning. What the hell am I doing?

The word imposter comes to mind. Who am I to claim to be this mom person? When I talk to other young moms (haha I just referred to myself as young) in the neighborhood, or mom-types I see at the play ground or trampoline park or grocery store, etc., they all seem so much more mom than me. They do the errandy things, like the dentist. They get their kid signed up for soccer, they make it a point to do community Easter egg hunts and potlucks, and most importantly, they seem S O L I D in their decision making. Meanwhile, I’m over here handing my non-dentist going tyke his second popsicle of the day. What the hell am I doing?

I like to tell myself a story any time I start to feel like this. I’ll tell it now.

There was once a brand new mom named Shawna who gave birth to the most handsome and squishiest boy in all the land. She and her husband, John, were head-over-heels in love with their little guy, but unfortunately, the baby showed no signs of giving any shits about them and so absolutely would not sleep. As new parents are wont to do, Mom and Dad tried everything the internet suggested to get that baby to rest: they shushed, they bounced, they patted… they bribed with promises of jewels and money…. but baby would not sleep. Shawna felt powerless and, let’s face it, victimized. Family, acquaintances, and strangers had all accosted her with un-asked-for parenting advice, yet not one had thought to mention this shit.

About eight weeks in to baby’s life, John had to go out of town for a 4-day work trip, which Shawna had been dreading. She and John had long-ago worked out a shift system for dealing with the baby’s nighttime wakefulness: Mom would take the first four hours, then Dad would take the next four hours, and Mom would get up for the day with baby at about 6 am so Dad could catch a little more rest before he had to head to work. But with Dad out of town for a work trip, Shawna would have to find the strength to handle the whole day and the whole night by herself. What the hell am I doing?

Night number one went like this: bounce baby to sleep (45 minutes). Attempt to lay baby down without waking; wake baby. Bounce baby back to sleep (15 minutes). Lay baby down successfully. Lay self down in bed, confirm it is only 7pm. Grab phone and scroll through Pinterest trying to feel human; pin adorable toddler outfits and home decor, wonder if the baby will ever sleep through the night. At 8:15, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Decide it’s time to turn in for the night, settle in to bed. At 9:30, baby wakes. Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 11 pm, baby wakes. Marvel at the fact that baby slept for a full hour and thirty minutes! Feed baby, which soothes him back to sleep. Settle back in to bed. At 12:18 am, baby wakes. Curse the night, feed baby. Continue this pattern until 6 am, when baby wakes for the day and Mom zombies herself into an upright, semi-conscious state.

As she poured herself about a gallon of coffee, Shawna suddenly snapped into a state of hyper-awareness with the following thought: I have no idea what the hell I am doing, but oh my God, I am doing it! She had survived the night, the baby had survived the night, and everything was O-freaking-K. In that sweet moment of triumph, fatigued to the bone and dirty with dried milk and baby vomit, Shawna felt a sudden, monumental connection to all of the mothers who had ever been and all those who would ever be. Motherhood is a contingency; it’s both universal and inexplicably personal. Countless women had stood in Shawna’s spot before, feeling her same triumph, while millions of others had escaped that particular trial only to experience something completely different but equally difficult. Such was motherhood. And every single one of those women, including Shawna, could call themselves Mom.

Community Easter egg hunts or not, yes I am a mom. The other women I see who seem to have it more together than I do – they’re just experiencing a different version of the journey. They are mothers in the best way they can muster to be. I am my own version. And even on the hazy days, everything is OK.

Suck on that, imposter syndrome, I have a pediatric dental office to contact.

Said toddler with said teeth.

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