One question that's been on my mind a lot lately is this: how long am I considered a "new mother"?
If I had to guess, I'd say you're considered a new mother until your kid turns one, max. But even now, with a barely-five-month-old, I feel like I'm expected to be an old veteran. I mean, my kid breastfeeds like a champ and sleeps through the night. I've lost the baby weight and successfully transitioned back to working from home. Why am I complaining about feeling lost? I basically have the holy grail of babies!
I frequently hear comments like these:
"You look great!"
"You're such a natural with him!"
"You've taken to motherhood so well!"
"You're a great mom!"
And not one of those statements is ever meant unkindly. In fact, quite the opposite. The statement-maker wants me to feel good, to reassure me. I appreciate that so much. It is encouraging to hear that you're doing a good job, and I don't want to dismiss their encouragement.
But whatever people are seeing on the outside doesn't match how I feel on the inside most days. And that makes me feel like the biggest mommy fraud on the planet. Sure, I've lost the weight around my middle, but what around the weight that's settled in my heart? No amount of yoga and healthy, whole foods is going to fix that.
The constant second-guessing myself. Wondering if I'm doing the right thing. Is he eating enough? Sleeping enough? Is he happy? Does he feel safe, supported, loved? The anxiety of being solely responsible for the health and well-being of this tiny, vulnerable, beautiful little person is crippling some days.
Here's what I think: I don't think that ever goes away.
True, eventually, my little squish will learn to sit up, to talk, to use the bathroom and probably fix my iPhone (why isn't it vibrating??!). But I'm still a new mom at each new stage.
I've only got the one, but whether it's your second or third or even fourth kid, I don't think it's ever the same. My brother and I are proof enough of that. I'm the firstborn and was apparently a very chatty baby. I had a seriously full vocabulary by the time I turned one and could speak in sentences. My brother, on the other hand, was a man of few words, but at nine months old he climbed out of his crib and crawled downstairs. My poor, poor mama. How do you prepare for that?
So really, all moms are new moms. Mothers are always navigating unfamiliar waters and searching for ways to love, nurture, and teach the beautiful little soul(s) with which they are entrusted.
Maybe being a mom means always feeling a little bit like a fraud. My brother and I recently welcomed children within seven months of each other, so my mom has had to learn to encourage and love on her "babies" as they embark on their own parenthood journeys. Once when she was visiting, she told me, "Seeing you and Wes as parents, you guys are doing such a great job, it really makes me feel better about the job I did as a mother."
So whether your baby is five months, or almost 35 years, know that motherhood is always new, always evolving, always adapting.
And always beautiful.