How’s it going? It’s going fine, thanks.
It’s an interesting thing, what we choose to share when asked how we are doing. It depends so completely on the specific moment of being asked and all of the moving parts contained in that single moment—the context, the amount of un-interrupted time we have ahead of us, how close we are to the person asking, how able we are to not over-explain ourselves—as to how in-depth of an answer we choose to dispense. Not to mention the fact that the feelings accessorizing any given occasion are often better off transient, like bodily functions or hitchhikers.
And the mere act of examining them may freeze them unnecessarily in mid-air.
Why am I even discussing this?
Lately I’ve had the sense that since I don’t spend a ton of time waxing about the difficulties of motherhood, it may be misperceived that I’m not experiencing any challenges. This is simply not the case. I suppose I just choose to talk about the harder, more unsettling topics in very specific, more contained environments.
But the hardships certainly do exist and are a mandatory part of life, parenting or not.
The fact is, I have daily moments of questioning, where I have no idea if I've made the right choice as a parent, especially on the bigger decisions (vaccinations, etc.) or if the immediate outcome is slightly unpleasant. I also often struggle with the inability to control the many floating baby-oriented variables of my day. But I struggled with the same control issues long before motherhood, the variables were just different and more me-centered. I sometimes feel anxiety around how to spend hour after hour after hour with this little being and if I am filling time properly by stimulating her enough, bringing her enough joy, providing her with plenty of rich situations and feeding all of her senses. But I can say for damn sure that I was plagued with much more anxiety before Opal came along.
I have heard many people refer to Opal as a perfect baby, insinuating in some way that we must have it so easy. Lucky you, they say. And this makes me wonder if there is a need for me to talk about our challenges more than we do.
Yes, we were definitely blessed with one incredibly magnificent child, but we are still brand new parents with an infant baby, figuring the whole thing out like the rest of the world, one day, one upset, one success at a time.
Being a mama is by and large the most magical thing that has ever happened upon me. It may be cliché, but I have no issue with declaring that I am a changed and ever-changing woman. My vantage point no longer has me as the nucleus of my own world, and this is a welcome shift in perspective. Something I celebrate on nearly a daily basis.
But this sort of celebration and relief is not to be confused with declaring motherhood to be easy or effortless or a walk in the proverbial springtime park. The joy that I’m talking about doesn’t hinge on having things go my way—it is a joy that pre-parenthood never had the language to know.
An example: For the first few months, we spent hours every day helping Opal to fall asleep for her naps and bedtime. Really, hours. It was just what we did, what she needed us to do, and the choicelessness of it was a consolation. But there were many times when she would fight sleep, fight us fall asleep and then wake up immediately upon being put down and require Jesse and I to both perform an impressive circuit of Vaudevillian stunts to induce slumber. All of that was exhausting and sometimes frustrating to be sure, especially if I felt there was something else I needed to be doing with my time.
But if you would have asked me how I was doing then, my report may have left out the specific details of ugh*. Not because of any deceptive motivations or attempt at sugar-coating, but because out of those long long hours of effort, what my mind retained most was the finished product, lying next to a gorgeous, lightly snoring angel. One glimpse of that sweet little face as I drifted to sleep somehow hit the rest with a big amnesiatic eraser, leaving all that preceded as soft as pencil smudgings in my memory.
And so it goes.
That is but one of a hundred examples where a brief era of discomfort comes and then goes, moving aside for the bigger, more bold-faced, memory-worthy moments. And those grand, magical moments with a child far outweigh the grand, magical moments that accumulated before she came along.
And those magical moments are what I am likely to wind up reporting on.