I think that most women imagine meeting their first child as a magical moment. After a smooth labor where you defy all the horror stories you've been told you are handed this beautiful cherubic baby. Who looks like you, who easily snuggles with you, and easily takes the breast relying on century old instincts.
I never thought this. For a long time every time I saw a child it was almsot as if the poor thing had, 'I will change your life,' tattooed on its forehead. After years of unfortunate baby-sitting I wasn't so sure that I wanted that change. I saw mounds of dirty diapers. I saw my waistline expand as I devoured leftover bits of grilled cheese. I heard wails of inconsolable unsatisfied babies. I imagined dark nights without dleep. I saw my career aspirations disapear down the whirl of a toilet bowl.
I am not sure how I came to this conclusion. I knew plenty of mothers who happily quit working as soon that first bump appeared under their blouse. Some turned out to love it, others to not admit that they were screaming inside. I know women who refuse to leave the house or go on a date because they can't leave the baby with a sitter or even their husband. They don't exercise or pursue anything except Martha-esque undertakings. They seem to have willfully strapped them to the crib as an act maternal matyrdom. But I know others who have rolled up their sleeves and dove right in, they have slings and jog strollers, they have faith in their babies and their husbands success without the need for constant maternal supervision. And which mother was I to become? Would I eat humble pie when my baby refused a bottle and could never be away from her? Would I give up running because I coulnd't find the time between diapering and rocking?
When I was a child I would answer the, 'what do you want to be when you grow up?' question always with an adendum of, 'and a mom.' Like,
"I want to be a cowgirl and a mom." Or,
"I want to be an artist and a mom."
I'm not sure why I said this. That desire and conviction started to get shakey. The thought of children terrified me. How would I ever find time to make my art or pursue career goals with the constant presence of a baby on my hip.
I was talking to a friend of mine who had also just had a baby. She has a Ph.d in physchology and works as a therapist. We were talking about breastfeeding and pumping. She said that some days taht's the only thing that gives purpose to her day. That feeding her child was the only real concrete accomplishment for some of her days. THAT was a gigantic paradigm shift for me.
I think I needed to be reminded that Emma is eternal. She's a human being. She's the person who will live on after I die that will remember me. She is my legacy. As I co-create with God in making art I co-created with God in making Emma. Maybe she is the true accomplishment. What if this is the one true eternal thing that I can do? Maybe my sculptures will return to dust. Or my paintings will rot. Or my books will burn. But my baby? Maybe she will live on. Her face will mimic my face. Her son's face will mimic Scott's face. God gave me a person.