When you ask me what motherhood is like, I wonder how I can ever convey it.
– I could tell you about the tiredness – the bone-crushing weariness that comes from too many nights of interrupted sleep and scrolling through your phone at 4 am while your baby feeds hungrily beside you. And of long days at the mercy of this sweet new tyrant, whose needs now surpass any of your own.
– I could tell you about the loneliness – a singular loneliness that comes from feeling trapped by the sheer logistics of moving with an infant; how it’s impossible to meet a friend for a coffee, or pop to the shops, or pay an impromptu visit to the cinema, as you once did. And that venturing outside now must be choreographed and planned with military precision.
– I could tell you that you will find yourself arguing with your significant other, or your mother, or anyone else close to you who participates in your care for your child.
– I could tell you that you will understand the fight for equality in whole new ways, and that no matter how good your man is and how hard he tries, the bulk of the emotional labour – and the care for your child, the running of your household while you juggle your job – will fall on you. Take this with a grain of salt – there are full-time and single fathers out there too.
– I could tell you that your body will feel different – whether you still have reserves of fat on your hips, or your breasts have changed in size or volume, or your stomach feels strangely squishy. But when you look at it, remember this body of yours grew and nourished another human being – it deserves kindness too.
– I could tell you about the guilt – perpetual, lingering – from all the different factions of this new tribe you now belong to (and beyond) – because you opted for a C-section, or you’re unable to breastfeed, or you’re the wrong age for your child, or you have to return to work, or there are things you are doing or not doing that will surely leave indelible scars for years to come.
– I could tell you about the loss – of your old life, your old self, of old friends, of time, of opportunities you are no longer able to grasp, because you are no longer – and perhaps never again will be – the priority in your life.
– I will tell you, though, about the joy – the pure, unfiltered, extraordinary joy (the privilege!) of watching a tiny human you helped create advance before your eyes, coo, babble, giggle, play with you, crawl, take their first faltering steps, reach for you with slow, chubby arms.
– And I will tell you about the love – the enormous bottomless pit of love you now feel that terrifies you in its infinity, that will enable you to cross deserts and slay dragons, that has broken your heart into a thousand pieces and stitched it back together in the finest softest yarn, shrouded in gossamer, so your heart, and how you love, and how you see the world, will never feel the same again.
Walt Whitman said:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then, I contradict myself.
I am vast.
I contain multitudes.
This is motherhood.