"Parenting is a kaleidoscope; the picture shifts with each turn of your wrist, with each change of light. What you see depends on how long you linger on a given moment."
The above statements are excellent starting point for my post today. The more I reflect on them, the more convicted I am of its truth in my own parenting journey.
Before I became a mother, the picture that I focused on filled me with self-doubt, fear and anxiety. Even though it has always been a dream of mine to become a mother, I struggled with a deep ambivalence about it for a long time. That's why I thought I might freak out if I found myself to be pregnant. To my surprise, I didn't.
What I had zoomed in was what what I needed to give up and deny myself of when I become a mum. I've heard that parenthood is all about death. Death of the person I used to be, the carefree spirit who had no one else depending on her. It's also the death of leisure time and spontaneity. In short, parenthood means making pretty major sacrifices. Worst of all, it's a commitment that lasts till death do us part. Wow, that's a tall order and I wasn't sure if I was up to it.
Another contributing factor to my fear is the fact that I have always been rather awkward around young children. The background for this is that I am the youngest in both my immediate and extended family. Growing up, I didn't have the chance to interact with other children and I have always been a serious child. I have no idea how to interact with young kids.
On the other hand, I love babies because they are so fascinating and adorable. I can spend a long time watching them and because they don't really need me to interact with them actively, we can hang out silently. Until they cry of course and that's the time to return the babies to their parents.
Yet, there is a voice that tells me in my heart that I am called to married and family life since I was in my early twenties. It took me a while to find my husband and subsequently our journey towards parenthood was filled with challenges after challenges that inevitably I wondered if this vocation would become a reality.
In spite of my uncertainty and ambivalence, I started preparing for motherhood long before I was pregnant. When I turned 30, I started reading parenting and child development books. I even blogged about them even though I was hardly qualified.
Whatever I lacked in natural ability, I hope I could make it up by equipping myself with knowledge. I also searched for a suitable OBGYN who is familiar with Moyamoya Disease and went for various vaccinations and ate healthily in order to prepare my body. I wanted to be ready when the baby decided to pop in. At the same time, I surrounded myself with my friends' children and practised interacting with them.
On hindsight, even though I wasn't absolutely sure if motherhood was for me, it didn't deter me from doing what was necessary to prepare myself for that eventuality. I realised much later that I really did want to be a mother and when our efforts failed so many times, my heart broke.
What a journey this has been and here I am celebrating my very first Mother's Day this weekend. I feel truly honoured that God decided to entrust us with the massive responsibility of raising Olivia. I am also very grateful that He knows best and gave us our daughter when we are ready. The wait for her was definitely worth it.
Motherhood has positively transformed and enlarged my heart. I didn't even know I was capable of loving someone with such a visceral feeling that it continues to astonish me. I also discover that I am willing to transcend previous boundaries and move out of my comfort zone because my daughter needs me to. Whatever fear I had previously about feeling resentful of the burden of my responsibility was unfounded. The truth is when you love, the burden stops being one; rather it becomes a privilege that you cherish.
I finally understood what people meant when they say parenthood is a crucible that not only changes you but also shows you what you're truly capable of handling. It is a phoenix process for sure.
This is not to say that motherhood has been a bed of roses for me. Hardly and I do not expect it to be. It requires deep commitment and the willingness to keep going regardless of the circumstance.
My lifestyle has changed significantly and it's much less exciting than it used to be. One day blends into the next and everyday is much of the same as I chug along. Still, I know this is what I have signed up for when i wanted to become a mother.
What I couldn't see before becoming a mum is the unqualified love and absolute trust that my daughter has in me. Her love is unconditional and she doesn't care if I was experienced or not in caring her. All she cares about is that I respond to her. It touches me when I am able to comfort and put her at ease. That I have the power to do so still blows my mind.
The great thing about parenting that I have discovered is that every now and then, I get a random burst of joy that leaves me breathless. For instance, when I look at my daughter sleeping peacefully. Or when she holds my hand and looks at me with such love and trust. No words are adequate to describe those moments and they make every sacrifice and death worthwhile.
Now that I am a mother, I wish to tell my younger self that the ambivalence that she had was important. As Harriet Lerner says in her book, The Mother Dance, to be a mother is to have profoundly ambivalent feelings. The decision to have children should not be taken haphazardly. Yet, this decision ultimately involves a great leap of faith as there are so many unknown variables that one cannot control.
Parenthood is tedious yet unpredictable, demanding yet ever changing. It is a never-ending journey down the river of love and worry. The most important thing that I have learned is that I need to embrace every part of the experience, the good and the bad in equal measure keeping in mind that this too shall pass.
Happy Mother's Day to all mothers as well as those who are in motherly role. Thank you for your important contribution and sacrifice.
- Letter to Olivia: The birth story
- Letter to Olivia: First three months
- Let's talk about the "B" word
- The Power of Gratitude
- What I have learned from my pregnancy
- What I have learned about happiness