Whenever big milestones roll around, I always find myself getting introspective. Withdrawing inside myself, quietly observing, listening for clues to how I feel or what I think about things, and trying to understand what my truest and most basic hopes and dreams for the future are.
I’ve just recently turned 36, my second birthday as a mother, and I’ve found myself looking back at the last year with curiosity. How did I do? How are we all doing now? How is my baby getting along this side of the womb? Am I grateful enough, am I happy?
Sure, there have been some pretty testing moments, some very trying times to be sure. But I’m reminded always that bad moments don’t make a bad life. So really, how am I?
Maternal health is so important to me. Even before I had a baby, the idea of postpartum mental health weighed heavily on me. And I found, in the early months, that I circled a lot around the concepts of support in those early days, expectations, disappointments and growth.
I have learned, as a first time mother, that that period was as much about learning about my newborn as it was about learning of this new person I had become almost overnight – a new mother. While trying to put into practice the kind of mother I wished to be for my son I found myself wondering about my own childhood, my own needs from my mother during said childhood but also now as an adult. We rarely say the words ” I love you” when we tell the ones we love that we love them, nor do we utter “I need your love, help and support” when in desperate need of reassurance at our weakest moments. Instead we automatically expect the other person to just know what we need, what we needed, and we silently become disappointed and blame them for our pain.
It occurred to me as I sat down one day jotting down my aspirations and dreams for the future of my family that some of the things that informed the “type of mother” I wanted to be were based on what I felt I needed, and lacked, as a child. Sure, I had a good enough childhood, but I never truly felt understood or loved in just the right way I needed. I realised, with some good dose of humility, that I may very well fail my child as well. How do I know what he will need? Will I always figure out the best way to be there for him, or will I expand energy doing what I feel is best only to find that is the very last thing he needed? What do I need to do to improve my chances of building a happy childhood for my son and a happy family home?
I realise, as the pandemic drags on and we are blessed with the opportunity to have my mother stay with us for longer than planned due to border closures, that there is quite a lot of courage required to heal from our disappointments. That to do better and be better I’m very much going to have to do a lot of hard work and live with a lot more consciousness and maturity, without placing blame on the past generation.
They did the best they could – I never did like that phrase. It always felt like a cheap sell-out, an excuse for failure. But coming to terms with the flaws of my own humanity has humbled me to say, in all earnest, perhaps they really did the best they could.
And so my journey to being a mother continues, armed with a handful of what I hope is sage wisdom in the pages of a handful of books. I hope I can look back on this period and feel that I have succeeded in parenting lightly and with due regard for my son’s sense of agency over his own self and sense of being, holding space for his independence and own personality to shine through. I realise now that what I truly desire is to be the mother my child needs, not the mother I needed. I have the humility to know I very well will get it wrong, but promise myself to be courageous enough to create the space to learn promptly from those mistake and take immediate action. My sincerest hope is that I will cultivating the loving home environment conducive of these lessons to be shared openly and with the confidence that they will be acted upon.
I will hold the space in this journey to heal myself of my disappointments, to love myself enough to learn how best to figure out what I need, and always have the courage to go ahead and ask for it. I will learn to treasure myself. In recognising the miracle of the newly birthed mother, I hope to nurture my child the best way he needs.
I hope you will join me in this journey of being less critical of ourselves as mothers, and of those that have mothered us, and realise that in all earnest, we really are doing the best we can.
* All photos sourced from Unsplash