For me, settling into motherhood was a slow and steady process. I’ve heard stories about some moms experiencing obvious “aha!” moments that define this big change in their lives, but it took me time, practice, and learned confidence to really get comfortable in the role. A number of the milestones occurred after my son was born, but there were some pregnancy moments that helped motherhood feel real, too. It was a combination of both that led me to eventually not feel totally undeserving every time my growing son would lovingly say, “mama.”
Those pregnancy moments are especially on my mind now that I’m getting close to delivering baby number two. So far, this pregnancy has been slightly easier to endure than the first, not because I’m having fewer side effects or because I’m getting more sleep. I can definitely say, in-between waves of nausea and through my exhaustion, that I am not. I can, however, say that I’ve been through pregnancy before and, as a result, have a better sense of what I’m getting myself into. Well, technically what I’m already into and now adding to.
Pregnancy has plenty of challenges on its own, but (among other things) it also allows time for transition and preparation. It's also a reminder to get all of the adult-oriented TV programming saved in our Netflix queues out of our systems before little ones arrive and start asking questions. So, with that in mind, here are a few other examples of pregnancy moments that can make motherhood feel real:
When You Make A Sacrifice For Your Baby For The First Time
For me, it was caffeinated coffee and roller coasters. I gave up coffee the morning after I found out I was expecting, because that’s what I read I was supposed to do. The roller coasters, while not a normal part of my routine, felt slightly more dramatic. The one time in the last four years that I’ve had plans to go to a theme park was a damn week after that positive test. My son isn't old enough to understand yet, but at some point I'll make sure he will. Perhaps if and when he becomes a difficult teenager, I’ll remind him that his mom once sat out from thrill rides for his safety, so he better get home on time.
When You Make A Sacrifice For Your Baby Every Time
Unlike the theme park day, giving up caffeine wasn’t a one-and-done type of sacrifice. Pretty much every morning that I woke up tired (which, yeah, was pretty much every morning), I had to face the reality of limiting my caffeine intake. As an avid coffee drinker, that was a lot of caffeine I didn’t get to enjoy.
When You Have To Keep Working & Functioning
You know those days when you’re fighting a cold or you didn’t get enough sleep or you have any number of not-so-serious ailments that make you feel like hot garbage, but don’t seem quite bad enough to stay home? Yeah, being pregnant is like that. Those days happen as a parent, too, since we don’t exactly get sick days for that job.
Putting one foot in front of the other at work when I was pregnant and really wanted to go back to bed was good practice for putting one foot in front of the other when my kid needs me and I'm sick.
When You Feel Those First Kicks
Feeling baby kicks was an indisputable step on my path to parenthood. No one on the planet knows what it's like to feel my baby kick from the inside out. I’m sure science is working on something that could make it possible for, say, my partner to feel kicks from the inside, too. However, until then I think us moms are allowed to own that kind of experience and chalk it up to the magic of motherhood.
When You Have An Ultrasound
I can’t speak for all moms, but I found the ultrasound experience to be one of the few parts of pregnancy that's consistent with media portrayals. There’s only so many ways to show a pregnant woman lying next to a monitor in a medical office showing an image of her baby, I suppose.
So, when I was the one watching the monitor, with the camera getting pressed onto my lubricated belly, not only did it match my expectations and my idea of what the path to motherhood entailed, but it was also a moment of, “Yep, this is really happening.”
When You Pass By A Mirror
I’m only a few weeks away from my due date and I still sometimes pull a double-take when I walk by a mirror or see my reflection in a store window. It’s like, “Who’s that pregnant lady? She looks so maternal.” Then, I remember that it is, in fact, me.
When You Try To Figure Out What Gear You’ll Need
If I put the same amount of energy into researching all of my big purchases as much as I researched our first car seat, I'd never leave my house again. Browsing car seats and various other types of gear and equipment was an in-your-face reminder that it's about to get very, very real, and this baby is depending on me and my partner to keep it safe. That's the reality of motherhood.
When You Feel The First Twinge Of A Contraction
To my knowledge, I didn't experience any Braxton Hicks contractions during my pregnancy. However, this time around, there've been a few blips on the radar that have me grabbing my stomach and wondering, "Is that what I think it is?" While giving birth is not always an automatic harbinger of motherly feelings, it's like being at the top of a roller coaster, looking at the drop you're about to take and knowing what's coming.
When You Explain Something About Pregnancy & Childbirth To Someone Else...
I don't think I've done that much reading on one topic since college. I wouldn't say I had an encyclopedic knowledge of birth before I experienced it, but I wouldn't say that I didn't, either. Knowing what was in store came in handy on more than one occasion, particularly when I got funny looks from people a generation older than me who were like, "And why can't you eat that sandwich?"
...Then Remember How Much You Still Don't Know
Here's an understatement: motherhood is a huge responsibility. I've come to accept the fact that I'll never know everything there is to know about child development or illnesses or how to best prepare healthy organic meals for my kids or which books aren't going to drive me nuts when I read them eight times in a row (spoiler alert: they all will). Recognizing the scope of motherhood, which happened during pregnancy and continues to happen now that I'm a few years in, always reminds me how real it actually is.