In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought I’d try to answer a question that I’ve been asked since becoming a parent. I think it’s partly an issue with the question – it’s so open-ended, but also it was something that I needed to really think about. So what is this big question?
How is motherhood treating you?
Sometimes I think people mean to ask me about “Motherhood” with a capitol M. It feels like a big word with big shoes that I need to fill. There’s no easy answer. The first time I encountered Motherhood was at the Motherhood Maternity store, while searching for some clothes to adapt to my changing body. While I didn’t necessarily feel like a mother then, the little guy kicking at me from the inside seemed to think otherwise.
On the one hand, why is the emphasis being put on being a mother versus a father – or why not just use the general term of parenthood? And is Justin getting asked the question the same way that I am? I wondered if Justin felt that fatherhood was so different, or was it simply that our personalities are different? Konrad does get more ‘wacky’ with Justin than he does with me. Their time together is a lot more physically active – more bouncing, walking, singing loudly, while my time with Konrad is a little bit quieter. We spend more time reading or exploring toys or things in the environment. Our energy levels are simply different – but that aspect doesn’t seem to be tied to being a mother versus a father.
And yet at seven plus months I can already see how Konrad differentiates between us. He knows that Justin will lift him high into the air and laughs readily with him. I struggle to get him into that giggly mood, but yet he only tries to eat my face and never Justin’s. Like a little zombie, he only slobbers all over my face. Konrad & Mom – Farmer’s MarketMaybe he’s confused where the milk comes from. These ‘Konrad kisses’ are reserved for me, but maybe it’s part of the nursing relationship. Yet if I didn’t have this nursing relationship, would he still look for me to comfort him in the way that he does? Or is our bond simply an extension of the pregnancy? I complain to Justin that sometimes it feels like Konrad can simply sense when I move to get out of bed before he wakes up (and thus wakes up too). In the same way, are these Konrad kisses and telepathic moments an extension of the pregnancy, when our every moves were linked? Maybe we are still just tied to each other in some unknown way.
So how is parenthood treating me? Well, it’s like the other passions in life. If you asked me how running is going (which people seldom do, perhaps because I’m not as cute post-run like Konrad is), I’d tell you that it’s tough right now. The soreness at times seems to take over and my mind is a bit consumed with routes, workouts, gear, and other bits of the sport. I’d also tell you that I’m slowly feeling more of myself with it and that what was once very hard is now getting easier. As anyone who is an avid runner (or avid anything) will tell you – the sport consumes you. You wonder about your nutrition, the shoes on your feet, the clothes on your back, upcoming events, and count the precious hours of sleep until the sunrise comes so you can go out for your next run.
Having a baby is like that. Every day you’re out there doing your thing to make sure that this little person grows up to be their best. And it was hard at first. So hard. All of the cliches about the fourth trimester are true. Our apartment was a mess, we lived off of takeout, and anytime someone took the baby we passed out immediately. And while each of us was performing a different role to make sure that Konrad was succeeding, we were doing so as a partnership. So while I was making sure that the baby was fed, Justin would appear in the bedroom during one of those 2am feedings with a brownie and some ice cream. He’d walk back out after I was done eating the sweet treat of the night and return with a fresh glass of water for me. And slowly things got better. Sure, it felt like things got worse for a while, but those nights didn’t last long.
Parenthood has mostly been about learning about the relationships I have fostered both with Konrad and with Justin – and in a larger sense, it has fostered a greater awareness for all of my relationships. It touches each aspect of my life – and has improved my life immensely. And in the most cliched way, it has shown me that I can love someone extraordinarily — this little Who who entered our lives in the dark of the night not so many months ago.
While my relationship to Konrad will always be defined by the fact that I chose to do certain things that are more ‘motherly’, I believe that both of us as parents have experienced a certain growth and effect on our lives that is similar. And despite the obvious differences to my relationship with Konrad versus Justin’s relationship with Konrad, I know that both of us have experienced a certain growth and effect on our lives (aside from the obvious) that is simply a part of being a parent. For myself, I am constantly learning new levels of patience and relearning the wonder of the world around us. After all, it’s not often that you get to watch someone experience food for the first time.