The Process of Becoming...

When did you actually feel like you were a mother? In my experience, becoming a mother is not something that happens just because you have given birth- or adopted- No, becoming a mother is something that happens to you over time, through trials, pain, happiness and barf- albeit having a baby, however you do it, is a pretty sizable gateway to the title of Mama. When I first had Jeffrey, I felt like someone had handed me this little alien who needed everything from me, including all of my sleep, knawing on tender parts of my anatomy until they were raw and my ability to shower, eat or have clean clothing. It was also unreal that the hospital actually sent him home with us- didn't they know we knew nothing?? How could they send him home with us? No, becoming a Mama is definitely a process, aided by birth, but not completed by it.
  • The first time I really felt like a Mama was in the grocery store, when Jeffrey was about three weeks old. It was late at night, and he was at home with the DH, while I ran out to get a few things. Standing in line at the checkout, there was an older woman behind me, and she gently tapped me on the shoulder, and inquired how old my baby was. Confused, I asked her how she knew I had a baby, since I was alone. She kindly put her hand on my arm, and very sweetly said, "My dear, you have spit-up all down the back of your sweater".
  • Ever catch yourself swaying to and fro, when you are only holding your purse? Uh-huh.
  • When someone offers to watch your child(ren) so you can do something for yourself, you don't think "Pedicure" or "Clothes shopping", you think "Shower? Alone? Hallelujah!" or "Shopping? Grocery store, alone!".
  • A fantastic night with your husband consists of uninterrupted sleep.
  • When women friends who don't have kids yet start to tell you what they will do when they have kids, you cannot choke back your manic laughter and hysterical tears.
  • You can take your breast out in public, feed your baby, and no one knows or cares what you are doing. And you are not self-conscious at all about having your little alien slurping on your once-sexual but now a happy-meal body part.
  • The gross-out and gag reflex completely leaves your body and mind. Nothing, no, nothing, not barf in your ear, not sneezes that create snot-bubbles the size of a dinner plate, not poo on the walls or in a little rose-bud mouth can really phase you. Oh, somewhere in the back of your mind, you know to a regular person this is gross, but you are a Mama, and thus are unfazed. You might even laugh at the pale faces of the uninitiated...
  • When was the last time you ate your meal while it was still hot?
  • Suddenly, your mother is not such nut-case after all, and many of the wacky things she may have done kind of make sense to you. And, you realize that she loves you the same way you love your tender little baby- with everything you've got in your life.

While I am sure there are as many things to add to this list as there are mothers, these are a few of the little-fires-burning-brightly that made me a Mama.


Anonymous Susan M said...

I love your writing, Tracy.

I became a mom at such a young age--19--It's hard for me to remember *not* being a mom! And I don't really remember the early years too well. I know it took awhile for me to think of myself as other things, though--like diabetic.

1/11/2006 02:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Geoff J said...

It was also unreal that the hospital actually sent him home with us- didn't they know we knew nothing?? How could they send him home with us?

Ha! That is exactly what Kristen thought when they sent us home with our first baby.

1/11/2006 03:22:00 PM  
Blogger Bek said...

Try adopting...you don't even have the pregnancy warm up (but you do get to have what we call a "paper pregnancy"). I have done both. When my daughter was born, it took about 8 weeks before I would stop catching myself and think "where is your mother?".

When we adopted our son, they literally just handed him to us. My husband and I were hinking "don't they even want to check our ID?" We had 6 days from the time we found out we were matched to the day he was born.....but I felt the mommy connection with him faster. Of course, I had been a mommy for 5 years already...

As for swaying whem you are only holding your purse...I caught myself doing that the other day with a gallon of milk in my kitchen.....

1/11/2006 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

At Jacob's 5 day appointment, I had left my hospital ID card in the car (actually, it fell out of the way overly stuffed diaper bag in transit from car, where I struggled for 10 minutes to get the car seat out before calling DH in tears to walk me through it, and the doctor's office). Since they wouldn't see me without the ID, I left Jacob with my mom (who had blessedly accompianed me to the appointment) and scooted down to the office where they give you new ones. For the first time in about 6 months, nobody was looking at me. I didn't have a huge belly, nor was I toting a newborn, and nobody was giving me knowing looks or asking me about the baby. I was totally, completely, utterly alone. I found it liberating and sneaky at first, like I was doing something naughty. But after about 5 minutes, I found myself getting agitated that I wasn't with my baby. Even though I knew he was fine (my mother was in WAY better shape at that point to take care of him than I was!), I felt an urgent need to get back to him. That was probably the first time I realized, "Hey, this must be what being a mom is like. I will feel this need to be with my child for the rest of my life. Wow."

Tracy, I am congratulating myself again on asking you to blog over here. You are a tremendous writer, and a fantastic addition to the blog. Yeah for us!

1/11/2006 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger Bridget C said...

One day shortly after my twins were born, a home RN was visiting. She said, "Now, I don't want you to think any of these questions I am asking you are meant to put you on the spot - Just think of it as a couple of mothers just talking together."

I knew one of the moms she was talking about was herself, but I could not for the life of me figure out who the other mom was. Oh. Me. Me? Me!

I think from that moment on I realized I am now the mom in the house. From time to time I still have these defining, crystal clear moments when it dawns on me that 1. Yes, I am the mom and 2. No, things will not get done if I don't do them. Pretty heavy stuff.

1/12/2006 01:03:00 AM  
Blogger Allison said...

I the same way taking our first baby home from the hospital, like I was making off with somebody's baby and would be apprehended soon enough.

I remember my baby daughter giving me this aggrieved look when my husband and I struggled to get an undershirt over her head the second day (yes, it took two of us). The look was kind of patient-but-resigned. We used to joke that she was always thinking, "Mom and Dad, you don't know beans."

1/12/2006 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger Rachelle said...

This blog is great! The first time I felt like a mom was when I had snot on one shoulder, spit up on the other, and drool spots on the rest. It didn't faze me in the slightest.

1/12/2006 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Ana said...

I really had instant bonding with my oldest when I met him at 4 days old in the home of his foster family (he was in short term care prior to adoptive placement for various and complicated reasons). I fed him and held him all day that day. A few days after that, the foster family invited me to stay overnight. I sang to him in the middle of the night, and he gave me a sweet little gassy smile. At that point I had an inkling.

But then he was almost one, after all the drama and stress of the adoption was behind us, there came a day when he was sick -- feverish and cranky. I was lying on my couch with its new slipcover snuggling his restless, miserable little self and he barfed all over me. And my first thought was not" how nasty" or "I've got to get cleaned up," it was "Oh, I hope that will make him feel better."

Then, I knew.

For my second, it's much harder to identify those "moments." I know I felt he was a stranger at first. I think it was partially because I had more to compare it with -- I had almost two years with son #1 by that time and I could feel a difference. I think it's also partially because I got to know his birthmom more and was much more keenly aware that this child was not *only* mine. And I think it was just a more difficult time in life -- anybody who's had 2 kids 21 months apart knows what I mean. Our bonding was much more gradual but it has of course become equally strong.

1/12/2006 03:37:00 PM  
Anonymous JKS said...

I remember when my son as a toddler threw up for the first time. He threw up all over me and my hair.
I remember not caring about it because the real trauma was knowing he was SO scared because he didn't know what was happening to him. He was on my lap, and I could feel his fear and, obviously, how miserable and sick he felt. My only thoughts we for helping him not be scared, a little vomit on me was no big deal.

Also, I laugh because one mother's day during early potty using, my son managed to pee all over me and my dress at church (he had poor aim). So I went to the primary room and laughingly complained about it because it was funny. One of the presidency (no kids, nursing student) tried to help and said, "If it makes you feel any better, urine is sterile." It was a little odd, but then I realized that she, in her pre-mom state, thought that I thought it was disgusting and was upset. She just had no clue.
It is just SO much different when its your kid. I really would have hated being peed on by someone else's kid. But mine? If love didn't alter things, we couldn't be parents.

1/12/2006 07:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

I loved jks's note--I had a similar experience.
When #1 was born, she was in NICU for a week. I had been sick in the pregnancy and so was in the hospital the whole time she was in NICU. Every three hours they had to draw baby's blood to monitor her condition. I would walk down to the NICU from my room every three hours to be there for the torture of the heel prick(I'd had a C/S, so it was good for me to be up and about.) As an aside, even after all this time, my daughter still has all these little scars on her heel!
On about the 4th night, I was telling my nurse who had been with me all day to make sure I was awake at 3 am for the next blood draw. She said, "You know, you've been through a lot, this is your one chance to rest, she'll be okay if you miss this one blood draw. Just get a good night's sleep, and I'll make sure the next nurse gets you up for the 6 am draw."
That was my moment. I will never forget that feeling. She and I were on opposite sides of an ocean. She was giving advice I myself would have seen as empathic and reasonable a mere 4 days earlier. But something in me had changed. I remember saying to her, "You don't understand! I am her mother!!" and promptly burst into tears.
Probably she got married and has her own babies to feel ferociously, irrationally concerned about, and has moved to the other side of the ocean.

1/12/2006 09:32:00 PM  
Blogger Domestic Trebleclef said...

Hi everyone,
I've read this blog a few times and find it enjoyable and easy to relate to. I'm an inactive Mormon, that has nothing against the church. I just don't make it a priority in my life.
I also became a mother at the young age of 19. I still had my own demon of Anorexia to deal with at the time. It took me 2 years to bond with my son. However, the only way I could feed my child was to starve myself. I know this sounds odd to anyone who has not dealt with this disease, so let me try to explain.
My need to feel like I had control over my own destiny drove me to anorexia. I loved my son, though I could barely understand it. So my new 'control' was that I could control what he was eating and still not feed myself. It was like a power trip. Fortunately I grew up and had some counselling, so things are much better.
But this is never gone, and I always think as my disease as my first child.

1/13/2006 07:20:00 PM  

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