A mother is made, not born

My daughter was born on May 2nd 2019. The same day her mother was born, too.

Some of you might have been born to be mothers. Or some of you might expect from your partners, daughters or friends to jump into this role from day one.

I wasn’t. Or at least I felt totally unprepared during the first few months.

Well, during the first month I was most probably under the influence of all the hormones and I felt the most confident I have ever been. In terms of care it was basically a lot of sleeping, eating and diaper changing. Unfortunately, this didn’t last long.

Our little girl is growing up by the minute and this brings new challenges for us as parents daily.

First it was the colic. My daughter was suffering so much that I felt a constant guilt that I was causing her pain because of the food that I was eating. I have tried to cut down on food that I suspected was causing her more pain and I have even considered quitting breastfeeding. Luckily, as everyone was telling us, the colic disappeared when she turned three months but my guilt did not end there.

Then my daughter started to spend more time awake and I realized the great responsibility that had fallen on my shoulders: all of a sudden I needed to figure out how she should spend her time and what will be good for her physical and mental development. Together with this, I started asking myself the question how much attention I should give her so she feels she has a loving and caring mother without making her too dependent on me..

On top of that everyone who visited us and took care of Elena for a while turned to me with questions like: How should I dress her? How much does she drink? When does she need to go to bed? Why is she crying? Should I pick her up? At those moments the only answer popping up in my mind was:

How the hell should I know?!

You think I’ve got it all figured out already?!

That was the moment when I started reaching out to other more experienced mothers and reading all kinds of books and websites on how to better understand what was going on in each development phase and how I could support our baby in the best possible way.

However, instead of gaining the much needed confidence, the advice I got from other mothers and the “prescription books” made me feel even more insecure — the greatest “benefit” from these new insights was that it was even more clear what we were not doing right/according to the book.

In my intention to be a “good student” I tried imposing what I had learned on our little angel. I was so convinced that if it is written in the books, then it must be best for her. Well, guess how this turned out?

Our daughter is not the type of girl you could bring up by the book. The more I was trying to follow the instructions of each “proven” method, the more she was turning into a defense mode.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Falling asleep has been a challenge for our daughter since day one. She gets angry when put to bed and let on her own. She prefers to be rocked, cuddled and entertained up until she closes her eyes and even then she would open them to check out what she is missing out. Yeah, she is a curious little girl 😉

According to all the “sleep tips & tricks” books you need to put the baby in bed when you see the first signs of tiredness, such as yawning, eye rubbing, getting quiet, staring at one point. You should then leave the room and let the baby fall asleep on its own.

But the more often I have tried putting her to bed “on time”, the more time and energy it was taking us both to have her fall asleep. The result: a lot of crying and frustration for both me and her.

Besides all these struggles there is another one that still adds to my insecurity. I have been raised in Bulgaria by “Bulgarian standards” and I am raising my child in The Netherlands. This causes situations in which whatever I do does not fit within the well established ways of raising a child according to each culture. For me this means that I not only need to figure out which parenting style suits me best but also be prepared to argument my choices when questioned.

What’s in it for you?

As you can see I cannot say my first months into motherhood have been a piece of cake. Of course, there have been countless great moments. It is not that I am complaining here. What I am trying to say is that you rarely hear women admitting that becoming a mother is a process and it might take time.

Each day you get to know your child and yourself a little better. And slowly but surely you start realizing that nobody knows your child better than you do. Your inner voice gets louder and louder and you gain the self confidence that you might not be the best mother according to the books or others, but you are the best mother YOU can be.

You might agree with me or not. Either way is ok.

With this article I hope I can reach out to all current and future mothers who can relate to my story and encourage you that you are not alone.

Besides the time and the experience I have gained during the last six months, what has helped me boost my confidence was the TED talk of Alexandra Sacks: A new way to think about the transition to motherhood

Alexandra found a word that describes the transition to motherhood: “Matrescence” and she urges us to share our stories with the world, so that other women get more realistic expectations of motherhood.

It’s not that I am there yet but I feel far more confident in my role as a mother and I hope you do, too.

Feel free to share your story with the people around you and spread the word.

I am leaving you with the following quote:

“I like to think of motherhood as a great big adventure. 

You set off on a journey, you don’t really know how to navigate things, and you don’t exactly know where you’re going or how you’re going to get there.” 

Cynthia Rowley

More on this topic?

For more words of encouragement for mothers and moms-to-be, click here.

If you are pregnant or new mom, you can find more related articles in the category “Motherhood”.

Article Photo by Alex Pasarelu on Unsplash

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