Perfection and Motherhood




“There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one” 
(Jill Churchill)

These words of wisdom are so true and useful, and I have been thinking a lot about this statement lately.  It has taken me 5 years to understand that perfection is really impossible when it comes to being a mother and just about anything else.  I think that it is easy to get wrapped up in the idea of doing everything perfectly when one becomes a mother if for no other reason than we just want to be awesome at it.  That said, if you are accomplished and together prior to the birth of your child,  I am sure you will experience the opposite shortly thereafter.  I have not met one woman, so far, that has not been completely undone by the process of birth and the transition that follows.  I don't mean this in a negative way at all.  I see this transformation as a positive. Having two children myself, I see such immense change as absolutely appropriate, necessary and ultimately inevitable. It's all just part of the glorious process of coming into your own, though it may not feel glorious at all some of the time.  

I know that before Liam was born I was certain that I would have an easy, natural birth, breast feeding would happen naturally and effortlessly, and I would be back to teaching in a couple-weeks time.  I am a yogi after all.  I thought to myself at that time: I am smart, capable and have my own little yoga studio. Of course I will leap into motherhood easily.  Ha!  None of that happened for me.  


In fact, Liam was born with a congenital heart defect called a coarctation that we were not aware of before he was born.  My labor was long and difficult and ended with a Cesarean birth, and I did not even get to hold my first born for 3 1/2 hours, which felt like an eternity.  I vividly remember crying my eyes out and feeling such heaviness in my heart at having failed to have a natural birth and having failed to protect my son from such an intense entry into the world.  Following a difficult birth came the news that Liam needed to be transported to a children's hospital and so the next phase of challenges began.  Liam had surgery.  He did great.  I fell apart.  Then came the recovery.  I worked hard to get my milk to come in so that I could breast feed him.  Breast feeding was difficult and took 7 weeks to establish. I felt like a failure and felt discouraged much of the time.  I did not give up, though. However, I did cry a lot. Hormones. Trauma.  Hospital.  All hard.  I went home with my son, happy he was alive and healing and thrilled to be taking him home to our quiet space. No more monitors,  bright lights, or interruptions. I was grateful,  and I was a mess. I felt far from perfect.  In fact, I felt dis empowered for a long time there after. 

Lila was much the same in that her debut was also dramatic and unexpected.  It was a long birth, 30 hours.  Things were going well despite the fact that Lila was taking her time coming out.  And just when it appeared I was going to have the birth I'd envisioned and hoped for, it changed instantly.  It went from normal to emergency within in seconds.  A ruptured uterus and a c-section later, Lila was here.  It was several hours before I was able to see her for the first time, and it was three days before I was able to hold her in my arms.  Again, a disappointing and unexpected turn in the birth of our daughter but it all ended up well.  I will say that having had the experience I had with Liam's birth helped me let go into what was happening the second time around.  Of course, having Lila in NICU and us both in the hospital for 11 days following her birth was hard, but it wasn't as difficult as the first time.  Going home was sweet and we were so ready. At least this go around I didn't leave my birth experience feeling dis empowered or feeling like a failure.  Sure I left wishing it had gone differently and less intensely but it didn't and that is that.  There is no going back. There are only moments in the middle to enjoy and moving forward from there.  I still experienced moments of falling apart and change following Lila's arrival, but I believe this is simply the way of things with the birth of a child for a lot of women.  It is true that having a child changes you inside and out and all the way through, no matter how many children you have. 

I think what makes the transition into motherhood difficult for so many is that there are a million books out there about what to expect when you are pregnant, what to expect with birth, if that is even possible, and lots of books about babies.  There are very few books out there about what to expect with motherhood or how to deal with the massive changes that women undergo. No one can prepare you or can even adequately explain the pain of sleep deprivation, wildly intense hormone fluctuations and how experiencing both at the same time makes you a different person. And no one really talks about the  anger and resentment that might come up for us mamas at having to do and give up so much so fast.  


I look back over these last 5 1/2 years, and I realize how much I didn't know, and still don't know,  and how I was not prepared for any of this.  I really had no idea what it meant to care for a baby and small child and how much time and energy would be needed to love and care for Liam and Lila.  I guess parenting is just one of those things that you can never really be fully prepared for.  It is a learn as you go experience.  That said, it is helpful to have other's share the insights and lessons they've learned along the way as some of that information may be useful.


As I have recently come to this place of understanding and clarity with regards to my own difficult transition into motherhood, I can finally appreciate the value of the hardships I've gone through. What can I say? It's hard to see the big picture when you're in the middle of it, right?  Now that I've had time to process things and have had time to put it all together, I am ready to share some of what I have been learning with others. What I have learned is this: 


Becoming a mother is all about surrendering who you are for what you are meant to be and ultimately already are. I have learned that life is not full of neat, perfect lines to follow. There are paths all over the place and they are windy and twisty and will take you to places that will disappoint, surprise and delight you along the way.  I am sure this is what makes life and the raising of children interesting and frustrating and so full of dimension and wonder. And as far as life with a newborn and children are concerned, I have learned that less is more.  Meaning, it doesn't matter if you make your bed, do the dishes, keep up with the laundry, or get yourself dressed and ready in those first 4-6 months following the birth of your child, though doing some of these things may make you feel a little better.  All that matters is that you love and care for your baby and yourself in equal measure and that you let others help during that time. It doesn't matter if breast feeding happened or didn't happen and if it was easy or hard.  All that matters is that you do the best you can and let go of the rest. Trust that you will figure things out as you go along. 


In the wise words of my husband, "We are always going to be new parents."  He's right. I have never had a rambunctious, loving, funny five-year-old son or a bright-eyed, loving, inquisitive 10-month-old daughter before!  Isn't that Grand?! Through Liam and Lila's eyes I get to see the world full of beauty and wonder all over again. I get to try my hand at anything and everything from art to hunting for bugs.  My two little L's are teaching me so much all the time! From them I learning how to be truly open and vulnerable, how to love better and be better, and how to trust my inner wisdom fully and without question. I have two amazing little teachers on my hands.  I am eternally grateful for their presence and love in my life. 


As I bring this long entry to a close, I ask this:


In the spirit of honesty and with a genuine desire to help each other out and show each other some love and support, please be willing to reveal your heart.  Share your trouble with others and know that you are not alone and in fact are in good company.  And to all the Mamas out there who are struggling, myself included,  to get it all right and to have your life look like what it did before your sweet little being(s) arrived, let it go.  Perfection is overrated.  Good is Great!  So allow yourself to color outside the lines of life and make a beautiful mess with what you've got. 


May we all trust that we will find our own way to where we need to be,  and in the process may we rediscover the beauty of who we each are.


Please feel free to comment and or share your heart on this blog about what you have learned from living your own life. Thank you.


Love and Blessings,
Marcia






Comments

  1. Marcia, what a wonderful post! You are right, there is very little out there about the internal struggles of motherhood. One book that is about that though is called If Only I Were a Better Mother. Thanks for bringing up this very important topic!

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