“Even though NASA tries to simulate launch, and we practice in simulators, it’s not the same — it’s not even close to the same.”
I began motherhood as a beginner — a raw neophyte not at all ready for the tiny bundle who sprang into the world in a grand jeté three weeks early. So much yet to do…so much still to prepare.
Yes, I’d been practicing my Lamaze breathing in preparation for the launch, but how did one simulate nurture — those years following the birth? I was definitely not ready. The nursery wasn’t exactly bare though, mind you. Friends had given us a baby shower, so an avalanche of footed onesies and crocheted blankies eagerly awaited a tiny being to cover. Yet there were all those finishing touches I had planned, those welcoming decorations I’d wanted to have in place.
And then there were the mental preparations, the readying of my mind for motherhood, that segue from woman to mother. But wait, becoming a mother didn’t mean I’d no longer be a woman. Sigh. What, exactly, did it mean? These were the types of deep thoughts I had needed to ponder, organizing them in the files of my scattered brain so I could appear competent to my offspring, not to mention the world. No, I simply wasn’t ready. Only later did I truly understand the wisdom in that childhood Hide n’ Seek chant: “Ready or not, here I come!”
Now, through the long lens of retrospect, I see what I was naively searching for then — control. As I’ve since learned, that’s one thing motherhood doesn’t allow — control over either one’s own life or the new life just entrusted at birth. Oddly, that turns out to be a wise safety mechanism for both.
On the first day that my husband returned to work, after we had brought our newborn home from the hospital, panic arose within me. Looking over at my daughter’s sleeping form, I felt a frantic longing for the presence of my own mother three states away to mother me, to stand at my side telling me what to do.
I cried mightily, hormones careening wildly around my body desperately seeking equilibrium. Then I realized I’d have to step up to the plate and pick up the bat. There wasn’t another soul in sight. For she was stirring now, this helpless little individual, opening her eyes.
We looked at one another. Her small face and mine drew close together. Then she seemed to smile, even though research clearly states that first smiles, real social smiles, do not occur before two or three months. Still, a slight tilt of the lips combined with a twinkle in her eye (call it a glint of the sun if you must) surely resembled a smile to me.
At that moment, I knew I had already begun as a mother, she had begun as a daughter, and we would figure out the road ahead together. Over the next few years, her two sisters arrived to help us. The Tankard Ladies launched me as a mother. Then my firstborn handed me a new role as a grandmother. And that one needed absolutely no simulation. I launched right into it the minute that warm little bundle reached my waiting arms.
Who knew life could become even richer?
Copyright 2012 by Elaine F. Tankard