I guess I thought I was better than this. I thought that at some point some magical switch would flick on – maybe sometime in the pregnancy? Or during labor? I thought at some point there’d be a click (maybe even audible) and I would be Mom. I would unleash the patience and empathy and wisdom and creativity locked somewhere deep inside me just waiting for that magic thing to happen.
I remember my first baby growing, feeling her kicks, dreaming of her before I even knew her gender. I remember *feeling* the magic. I read books and decorated her nursery and told her all about the world she would soon see. During her pregnancy I also felt scared and not-enough and unprepared, but I trusted and waited for her arrival to bring with it the New Me, too.
Labor was more than I could have imagined and I survived it. I delivered her into a world I thought was mostly good and when I held her, oh, I held that magic. She was positively radiant. Something did happen when she was born: I met the most beautiful, holy creature ever made and her presence rearranged my very atoms. I felt small before a love that stretched past possible and grateful for every breath I got to take in the same air she shared.
But no click.
It turns even out after 4(!) of these divine encounters, I’m just Krysann. Still. 4 pregnancies and deliveries and not one moment where it came on in. I don’t know. Maybe my magic switch got mixed up with my cussing switch because THAT seems to be working real well.
Every day I wake up with great intentions and every evening I go to bed with some regret – too much screen time, snapping at an innocent, taking four-year-old words way too personally, etcetera ad infinitum forever and ever amen.
But I’m here – click-less – anyway. Maybe Mom isn’t a switch you turn on, but a part of something more like the messy, kind of gross transformation that happens inside a cocoon. Do you know that caterpillars turn into grey mush in there? Yeah, that feels about right. I’m here and I’m changing. Slowly. I’m creeping out of water onto land and at some point I may walk upright after millions of years as a lizard.
The hardest part about it is that I know – I know in my mushy bones – that these magic-bringers deserve so much better. They deserve the most enlightened, patient, effortlessly loving version of their mother and instead they will only ever get me in transition. They will only ever see mush and maybe part of a wing or something. That hurts. It hurts my heart and it hurts them because they will carry some of the baggage I wasn’t able to unload before they got here.
And I can grieve this. But I can’t dwell on it. Because this is kind of shitty, but it’s also The Thing Itself. It’s the only plan we’ve got, the only way out of the cocoon – to show up and do our best and expose our dearest to the mush – and damn it, it’s working! My mother didn’t get a flick of a switch and her mother didn’t, either, but along with their baggage they passed down some Real Good Stuff, too. Colors broke out of grey and I am the next in line to keep the transformation going.
I have yet to hear a click, but I see glimpses of the Mom I am becoming every now and then. I don’t get a one-off transformation, and for the sake of my children and everyone else around me I wish I did. But this slow and painful process allows me to celebrate every milestone and along with the birth of my children, see myself reborn as well – over and over, etcetera ad infinitum forever and ever amen. Every day – every frustrated moment – an opportunity to see some mushy magic. Usually it’s just grey and gross and unimpressive, but every now and then? Woopah!
Maybe your mother sucked and you are having to reimagine what it means to be Mom. Maybe you never even expected a click because you’ve always assumed there’s something wrong with you. Maybe you didn’t want kids at all and the fact that they’re here is some strange mixture of gratitude and resentment. Listen: you count. Whatever legacy you got, you’re not bound to any outcome. Whatever faulty wiring you think you have, you’re as whole as you can believe you are (and then some). Whatever dreams you have to mourn, you’re still the you who dreamed them.
Along the long historic line of Moms there are some real monsters and some real beauties, but all of them are part of the growing. Do you want to know what Cave Moms did with their babies? I don’t know specifics, but I doubt Dr. Sears would approve. But all did their part – for better or worse, in courage or treachery – to slog this thing forward and here we are, friends. Here we are feeling so-not-enough and so-I’ll-equipped and here are our children, trusting us to offer the switch.
I hope to teach them, too, that the magic is in the mush.