The day that I brought my first born child home from the hospital wasn't the happy and joyful experience I had dreamed of my entire pregnancy but an experience filled with anxiety, fear and self-doubt. My mind was racing with all of the things that I needed to protect my baby from, all that I was responsible for, and all that could possibly go wrong. I had to protect this little helpless six pound baby and keep him safe from the world. He relied on me to meet all of his physiological, safety and psychological needs, to provide a loving home and a childhood full of wonderful memories, and to make sure he grows into a happy and kind person. I just wanted to be a good mother and I was afraid to fail. The weight and the pressure of this responsibility very was overwhelming to me and made me extremely anxious.
The first night home I just sat and watched my son sleep. I was healing physically and emotionally from an emergency c-section and was very hormonal and overtired. I felt stripped down and emotionally raw. I felt the most intense vulnerability of my life and in that vulnerability and rawness I started crying. I just couldn't stop. I cried for everything that I couldn't protect my son from. I cried for all the things I couldn't control in his life. I cried for the tough moments my son will have to experience in his own journey. I cried for the fear that I might fail him somehow. I cried for every emotional scar I had that I had net yet healed. I cried for every child that wasn't lucky enough to be born into a loving home. I cried for every parent that has ever lost a child. I cried over the feelings of immense love I already had for this tiny little baby boy I had met only a few days ago. It was the profound realization of just how important this child's well being was to my existence now and it absolutely rocked me to my core. I was forever changed.
I got through those first few weeks of overwhelming anxiety and constant self doubt and once my hormones settled I was finally able to start seeing things clearer. It didn't feel so scary anymore. I was finally able to begin to shift the way I was thinking and experiencing things. I was able to start letting go of fear and anxiety. I was able to stop doubting myself as a mother constantly. I was able to start being much more present with my son. I was able to enjoy him without worrying about every bad thing that could possibly happen to him in life. I could just be with him. I was able to start living in the moment.
Five years and another child later I feel a lot more relaxed. Surprisingly, I ended up being a fairly laid back parent and over time began to feel much more confident in myself as a mother. Somewhere along the way I began to realize; "Hey, I've got this!" I saw how strong I could be when I needed to be strong. I saw how tender I could be when I needed to be tender. I saw how fiercely protective I could be. I learned to trust my instincts and understand that the ability to love and protect my child is already within me biologically and also within my heart and soul. I learned to forgive myself when I made mistakes because I understand that parenting is hard and no parent is ever perfect and shame is too heavy a burden to carry. I accept that worrying and self doubt do happen sometimes and I allow it to be a reminder to myself that I'm doing my best. I accept that there are some things beyond my control and find comfort in the fact that I don't have to be responsible for absolutely everything. I can't shield him from life but I can prepare him to face it, teach him how to handle difficult emotions, how to fall and get back up, how to be a positive, kind and happy person. He needs to experience the lows in life to appreciate all of the good. As much I want to, I cannot protect him from everything but I can and will be the safe place for him to go when he needs love and support or just a rest from the world. Motherhood isn't about being a "perfect" mom, it's about loving your child with all of your heart, doing your best every day and making a conscious effort to live in the moment with your child.