Monday, June 21, 2010

The Mom Switch

I just don't feel any different.  On a basic level, I mean.  I feel like the same old Jenny, but now with a baby. Of course, I generally still feel like the same person I was when I graduated college.  A lot more stable, yes, but basically the same.  I thought that being pregnant would make me a completely different person.  When that didn't happen, I thought something would "switch on" when my daughter was born and I would be a completely different person then.  So now I am still waiting.  When do you start feeling like a mom?  Or a grownup for that matter?

I thought when I got engaged I would feel like a grownup.  Nope.  Married?  Nope.  How about buying a house?  Nope.  Actually, this process made me feel even more childlike and inept than planning a wedding.  Okay, SURELY when I found out I was pregnant, I would feel like I was an adult?  Wrong again.  So why did I expect actually giving birth to be any different?  I mean 14 year olds do it every day and they certainly aren't grownups. 

I remember the first thing I felt when I held her was not some overpowering emotion.  It was exhaustion.  I was just exhausted.  It took weeks - if not months - for me to get over the feeling that I was doing a 24-hour-a-day babysitting gig for some mysterious set of parents who would eventually (please God, SOON) come and take away their tiny, extremely demanding baby.  I thought I would just automatically be different.  Lucy is 9 months old now.  I am still waiting for the Mom Switch to turn on.  I am a MOTHER, after all.  I created life.  Shouldn't that change a person? 

Even the whole process by which my baby came into the word is shrouded in that fuzzy post-birth-hormonal-cocktailed haze.  It could easily not have happened at all.  If not for the constantly changing, sweet, funny, beautiful little girl that is sleeping in the next room, I might think I had dreamed the whole thing.  If anyone actually remembered childbirth for the way it really is for many women, we would have died out as a species long ago.  And I had a pretty easy time of it (if you don't count how long it took).  Yes, giving birth is a right of passage...but it is rarely honored as such in our culture and people don't generally have a celebration for the birth of the mother that happens at the same time as the birth of the baby.

All that aside, I know I have changed.  When I see kids in danger on TV or in the movies, it hits home in a real, visceral way.  She is in my thoughts most of the time.  My husband and I can refer to "she" or "her" out of the blue, in no context at all, and we both know who we are talking about.  My heart has expanded an infinite amount.  It has expanded so much that I wonder how it could possibly expand any further to include any more children.  I yearn for her when we are apart.  I worry about her safety, her development, her health.  I imagine her future with a smile on my face.

I guess the Mom Switch is much more subtle than I thought it was.  I expected to have a complete personality overhaul or something.  An ex-boyfriend of mine once said, "I want to be a fly on the wall when the doctors take you away after having a baby.  I want to know what they do to a woman to make them into moms."  Implying, of course, that he would recognize me after I had turned into one myself.  I suppose I took that more to heart than I ever should have.  I suppose I am still me.  Just "Mama" me.  I sometimes wonder if my mom ever looks at us and thinks "Wow, I can't believe I have KIDS!" or if the wonder of it all wears off after 30 years or so. 

So maybe the Mom Switch is really just a reshuffling of priorities as opposed to the total system reset I was waiting for.  I think of Lucy first and myself and my husband second.  That covers it, in a nutshell.  I think it might also be the switch that grows your heart to 1000 times its original size.  But I suppose even the Mom Switch can't make a perennial kid feel like a grown up.

I have to admit, though, having a real dining room set made me feel a little grown up.

No comments:

Post a Comment