Earlier this week, I ran across a series of blog posts that answer the prompt "What the baby books don't tell you". Some of them were expected, and a few of them, like this one, were quite the opposite. Reading them got me all reflective and well, Chelsey-ish. What did the baby books neglect to tell me? I should start by saying that those books told me a whole lot. I'm a very by the book sort of mama, in a literal sense. Pregnancy, breastfeeding, natural birth, child development...been there, read that. Here was part of my book stack (and my bun in the oven). It, the stack, has grown since...and so has the bun.
So reflexively, my initial answer to the prompt was simply, nothing. Books never let me down (Kyle likes to joke that they are my only friend). They told me everything that I needed to know, from the poppy seed sized baby chillaxing in my belly, to the Little Red who is sitting next to me now. But the question kept tip-toeing through my brain so I gave in and dug a little deeper into the cob-webby parts of my mind. Low and behold, I pinned down my real answer. Here it is.
What the books didn't tell me was that when I became a mother, I would feel everything exponentially stronger than I did pre-Claire. All of my emotions, happiness, pride, fear, anxiety, were amplified the instant that I became a mother. I was prepared to experience the whirlwind moment of bringing your child into the word, the trials of labor, the tears of joy when you meet your baby but I imagined that it all settled down after a few days, or weeks, and life would return to normal, or at least, a new normal. I assumed that emotions would return to a nice cozy, middle of the road, contained, state. Not the case. My baby would cry, as babies tend to do, and it would send what felt like an electric jolt through my whole body. Luckily, I had read about this, it was that roller coaster of hormones that come along with a new baby. Just a phase that would taper out. Again, not the case. The 14 month old version of that shock inducing infant still can hit certain note that sends me reeling (and pulling over, since 99% of the time it stems from carseat hatred). On the flip side, happiness, love, pride; all feelings that I had no shortage of before Claire, constantly flood my heart and mind in even most routine moments of my day.
So is my answer that becoming a mother makes a woman (me) more emotional? Not exactly a groundbreaking revelation. Plus, I'm pretty sure that one of those books probably mentioned something like that (it's probably in a chapter titled "Duh"). My answer to the question is that the books didn't tell me that becoming a mother would change the way I feel. Rationalizing feelings, pushing aside thoughts, containing emotions...no longer an option. When it comes to my kiddo, I feel everything that comes at me, real, raw, and unfiltered. Does that mean I'm going through life like a total basket-case, crying half the time and hoisting Claire up on my shoulders singing "For she's a jolly good fellow" the other half? Um...no. Actually, my guess is that there is no, or little, outward evidence of such a change. But it's there. It's exhausting but at the same time, it's what fuels my mommy tank. And I have a sneaking suspicion that it's a big part of what makes the mom/dad experience what it is. I suppose that all those books could've given me a heads up, but honestly, there are some things you just can't prep for.