Becoming a mother

It's been seven months since Emi made me a mama and in case these pictures don't show it enough, I love her so much. Sometime during the first few weeks, someone asked me what the best part of motherhood was and the first thing that came to mind was being able to kiss my own baby's face (and anywhere else!) and nobody saying no because she was mine (and Chris' haha). Truthfully, being a mother has been the best and hardest thing I've ever done, but not for the reasons I expected. The sleepless nights, the constant crying, the loss of self, the loss of some independence and spontaneity, the change in relationships, all of this I expected. I didn't anticipate how having a child would completely change the intensity of every single emotion. I have felt indescribable joy and pain these past months, the kind I'd only ever kind of heard about. Motherhood has expanded my capacity to feel; the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Becoming a mother is such a different journey for everyone but this is mine.

Note: I hesitate to share what I've been feeling lately because so many in the world are in situations and conditions far worse than mine. We have loving families, a phenomenal medical care team, and a strong support network. We live in a comfortable apartment, have enough to eat, and are employed. From the outside, things look great. But the past few months have been harder than anything I've ever experienced before. Amidst my own challenges, I've realized that everyone is struggling with something though. Aging parents, sick family members, financial strains, unemployment...so many different things. I've learned it doesn't matter if someone's struggle seems "easier" than what I'm going through because it seems hard to that person. Just because someone else's challenges may seem "worse" than mine, it doesn't diminish what I'm going through. And that's okay because there is no linear scale with clear definitions of what is hard/easy. 

My transition into motherhood was a pretty smooth one. I took longer to recover than I thought but other than waving my uninterrupted eight hours of sleep good-bye and making a few adjustments, things went well for us. The little girl of our dreams had finally arrived and she was (and still is!) a content baby who rarely cried. I eased into motherhood so easily that sometimes I even felt guilty for not struggling more. I felt fulfilled taking care of her and being home. At this point, there were only diapers, nursing, and comforting to really worry about. But honestly, I felt like a good mom.

Then came February. The seizures, the tests, the hospital stay...my happy little bubble disappeared. Since we didn't know what was causing her seizures, I felt so much guilt thinking that it could've been something I caused. It was so irrational and unnecessary but it was so strong. In fact, all of my emotions were overwhelming. The feelings of helplessness, never ending worry, inadequacy, frustration, and despair that I couldn't do anything to help my child all fueled my fear of what was going to happen to Emi and her future. And then we found out about the genetic disorder. All of my hopes and dreams for Emi's future are now "probably nots" and the simplest of things are now "maybes." It was devastating and honestly, I still cry about it sometimes. But it has given me perspective that I never would've had otherwise.

I will be the first to admit that I used to say "Emi, stop growing so fast and stay little!" but I will not ever say it again. Because once there is a chance of your child not growing up, not walking, not talking, not hitting the milestones a typical child does, every step forward feels like a victory. When well-meaning strangers say to me "Just wait until she walks!" or some other phrase implying I need to enjoy my time before the next stage, I usually just smile and agree. But inside, I think to myself that I want the next stage because that means development and progress. I'm definitely enjoying her right now, don't get me wrong, but I don't think I'll cry sad tears when she's able to sit up and crawl around.

Motherhood is messy. It's an emotional ride where the high moments are when Emi makes eye contact and belly laughs and where lows are anxiously trying to find seizure medicine that works and fearing for her future. It's also beautiful, rewarding, and really unlike anything else. Emi baby, thanks for making me a mama. I love you more than you'll ever know.

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