Her poignant words echo my thoughts lately. My almost twelve weeks of motherhood have felt sometimes lovely, but sometimes not. It has not been the most incredible experience of my life yet. It has, however, been one of the most rewarding. As well as the most challenging. I too am aching to do the right thing and have no idea what that means, just as Meaghan says. I am often anxious that I am doing something wrong. That perhaps I haven’t done enough skin-to-skin with my daughter. That maybe I don’t have the right organic lounger. Or that I haven’t found my mom-tribe yet or been to a playgroup or transitioned her to a crib yet or haven’t yet navigated driving beyond South Burlington with her yet, let alone to my mother’s home in Montpelier.
I still get anxious that strangers will ask me a question and I will have to share something that might make them judge me, such as the fact that we needed a nipple shield in the beginning or that I am looking forward to having time to write, work, and think when my daughter starts part-time daycare next week. As I walked home from a new friend’s house pushing a stroller yesterday, I had the strange sensation of understanding that to strangers I looked so much like a ‘mom’. I was both proud of that and a little frightened as to what that meant – as to the enormity of my new role.
And sometimes I want to just be me. To not be a new mom. To not be postpartum (speaking of which, how long does that last?). The other roles that I wear – daughter, sister, wife, friend, writer, nonprofit professional – aren’t so public, so why is motherhood? There may not be an answer and I know that I have to learn to be comfortable with that ambiguity, even in my discomfort. Just as I am learning to breastfeed out in the world, even though it’s still a bit anxiety-provoking for me. Just as I am learning not to track my daughter’s development on apps or websites because she is growing at her own pace and I have to trust that she is just on time as she needs to be. And just as I am learning to accept the challenges and the struggles with handling strollers and carseats and dealing with back pain and my constant desire for more sleep and to have more time to eat a meal because I know it all changes.
There is so much narrative about the fourth trimester and most of it is true in my experience. I would add to the dialogue that the fourth trimester is all about change. Not just for the baby, but for the becoming of a mother. It’s a vast shift, and practically an overnight one at that. As our babies grow and change, so do we. As our babies become more comfortable in their bodies, so do we (oh, the postpartum body!). As our babies learn to express their individuality and explore their voices to get their needs met, so do we.
I have felt more connected to my daughter when I realized that we are growing and changing together. I’m looking forward to missing her when she is at day-care. And while I may not be cherishing every minute of the motherhood journey, I know that I will one day miss the times when she would fall asleep on me or when she was just learning to smile or when the activity mat would provide endless amusement.
As Meaghan O’Connell writes “One day he will grow up and move away from us and we will miss him constantly. I’m still mad when he wakes me up with his screaming each morning. I still need time and space away from him, to think and read and work and feel like a person, even though I know that one day I will long for nothing but to hold him again.”
And until then, I will be living in the messiness of motherhood, trudging onward out of the fourth trimester and finding moments of peace.
By, Molly Ritvo
© Birth Love Family 2018
Molly Ritvo is a Burlington-based writer. She holds a BA from Tufts University and an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She has worked as a communications specialist in the non-profit arena and is writing a novel. She loves to be outside, travel to warm beaches, and most of all spend time with her family. Molly is currently embarking on the new adventure of motherhood.