I am of the latter category. Yes, I had a cabbage patch doll or two growing up, but I was normally more interested in playing with Legos than tending to a fake baby. I had two younger sisters, one of whom was my playmate, the other of whom thoroughly annoyed me with her babyhood through her first decade of life. I was hired as a sitter on occasion, likely due to my older sister’s reputation as a “mother hen,” bringing crafts and all kinds of fun to the event. But even though I was still so close to childhood, I had no idea how to entertain these children a half-generation younger than me, and did not excel at it. I vaguely remember not changing a poopy diaper for the duration of a stay and eating a whole box of Nutrigrain bars that the mom had set out for her toddler while he napped. I cringe as I remember. I was not asked back.
Fast forward about 15 years, married, finishing grad school. Lots of friends having kids, but I wasn’t the friend to ask to hold the newborn or get down on the floor to play. I probably talked over cries while I visited. More likely, I made one or two of them cry with an overbearing “Helllll-Ow!.” I do not-a speak-a your language kid. “Do I want kids?” “Yes, a bunch,” was my answer, “but I will still want to work.”
Now I have my own much-desired baby. He is the joy of my life. He has made me into a mother and made me love him. Not the easy way. Not by the-being-cute-sleepy-newborn-meeting-milestones-cuddly-meltiness way, but the other way. The screaming-so-hard-the-first-six-months-of-life-I-thought-he-was-possessed way. The stiff-as-a-board-back-arching-won’t-be-soothed-something-is-wrong-with- this-kid-way. The around-the-clock-hourly-nursing-no-sleep-for-ten-months-way. The no-crib-no-bassinet-no-rock-and-play-no-swing-hold-me-upright-for-every -sleep way. The physically-taxing-delivery-body-never-the-same way. The so-unbelievably-difficult-daycare-wouldn’t-take-him-made-me- question-my-ability-to-be-his-mother way.
My dad used to say love is a verb, not a noun, and this baby made me LOVE him, whether I wanted to or not. He demanded love in action. Every. Second. Of. The. Day. And sure, “All babies are high needs,” but some are more high needs. And some mothers are born, and it may come naturally for them, and I know and love these women. Some mothers are self-made with the arrival of their bundle of joy. But for others, motherhood is forged. Forged like steel in the fire by that tiny babe in their arms.
Through a year of sleepless nights, inconsolable colic, undiagnosed medical problems and the emotional turmoil that goes with it, my own physical pain, confusion and at times distress, my baby made me love him. Then he made me love him MORE. And in the process he made me a mother. I wasn’t born a mother, I did not achieve motherhood over the course of the past year, but, boy, was it thrust upon me in the most challenging-scary-amazing-fulfilling-how-did-I-exist-without-you way. And I am so grateful that it happened that way.
Was motherhood your calling all along, or was it your answer to the cries as they came? I want to hear your story in the comments!