It’s a scene every mother knows all too well.
It’s 4 am. and I’m jolted awake, once again, by the sound of the baby crying. My head spins as I try to orient myself to the room. I stare at the clock bleary-eyed, attempting to remember the last time he ate, and if he’s ready for more.
It’s one of those nights where the crying doesn’t seem to stop and sleep has been scarce. I’m disjointed and groggy, still half asleep when I lift him from his bassinet. My arms are lead as they rock and sway. My mouth is dry as I shush and soothe. I cave and bring him back to bed to eat. Anything for quiet.
For the moment, it is peaceful. But even in the stillness, I am reminded of how utterly hard this all is.
The hard washes over me like a wave. Exhaustion. Fear. Uncertainty. Wave after wave of hard, and I’m getting pummeled. I’m thrashing around underwater, and I can’t find my way out. The hard has taken me, pulled me out to where it’s so deep and so wide that I can no longer see the shore.
And then, he stirs. My stomach tightens and I brace myself for his cry, steadying myself for the next wave.
Silence. I look down and he is sleeping, calm and serene. I breathe him in, inhale his sweet smell, and it’s in this moment that I remember that I know how to swim. I feel myself coming up for air.
Out of nowhere, his eyes snap open, and I watch him take in his surroundings, adjusting to the fresh morning light. We lock eyes and he sees me, really sees me, and my stomach flips as his face breaks into a big, sleepy smile.
And then I’m drowning again, but this time, it’s in the sea of better.
His lopsided grin, bright eyes, sweet smell. The better washes over me like a wave. Gratitude. Joy. Giddy disbelief. Better, Better, Better.
When people ask me how I’m doing as a new mom, this is what I think about. I think of the hard ocean and the better sea, and I think about how I’m learning to navigate those different bodies of water all at the same time.
Is it what you thought?
It’s harder than I anticipated.
Is it how you imagined?
It’s better than I could’ve dreamed.
This is my home now, my new reality.
In my life as a new mom, I live in the land of extremes. And even for someone accustomed to emotional rollercoasters, I’m still puzzled by how this can be. How can something make your life harder and better all at once? How can you hold pure exhaustion and pure joy in the same cupped hands without letting something slip through your fingers? How is it possible – truly possible – for me to feel both?
I look out the window and find the start of a new day. The black sky is slowly being lit up by streaks of pink and orange, purples and blues. A fresh start. Another chance. A new beginning.
My bones are heavy, but my heart is light. My soul is full. Amidst the struggle, I am happy. Here on the battlefield, I am experiencing my first true taste of bliss.
The baby cries out, ready to start the day. I carry him downstairs in my tired arms, smiling to myself, knowing that this is it. This is what they all talk about. This is what it feels like to be a mother.