Courtesy of Kate Brierley

Honestly, Motherhood Is Surprising No Matter How Much You Prepare

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Remembering where you placed your keys is easy to forget. Grabbing the coffee that you'd set on the roof of your car before driving off is easy to forget. The moment you find out that you're pregnant is, well, nearly impossible to forget. For me, that moment came in the fall of 2013, right after a whirlwind of milestones. My husband and I had gotten married in July, found and closed on our first home in August, honeymooned in September, and moved in October. By the first Saturday in our new home I was feeling the most tired I'd ever felt, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't shake my exhaustion. Was I getting sick? Tired from the move? Could I be... pregnant?

Once the thought was in my mind, it wore me down until I found myself dashing to the nearest drug store for a pregnancy test. My goal was to cast off any notion that it could be a baby causing these symptoms, but before I could even imagine what life would be like if I actually were pregnant, the bright pink plus sign appeared, and reality slowly began setting in.

Courtesy of Kate Brierley

Immediately, I felt completely clueless. My mind kicked into a flurry of thoughts about how I was absolutely not prepared to bring a kid into this world. However, once I let the initial shock wear off, I dove into studying every little detail of motherhood, in hopes that my cluelessness would give way to confidence.

So I spent my days pouring over baby product reviews and firsthand accounts from other new moms. Anytime a new pregnancy symptom popped up, I'd find myself frantically searching online to find out if it was normal. I toured the hospital, and took notes during the intensive "caring for your newborn" course. I exercised and I ate well. I read every book you're supposed to read, and baby-proofed everything you're supposed to baby-proof.

As the nesting continued, there was no question that my home was prepared to welcome this baby. But me? I wasn't so sure. For my entire pregnancy, there was never a moment where I wasn't worrying about my baby. I'd always wanted to be a mom, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was still unsure if I was ready for this whole motherhood thing.

But nine months of tireless preparing later, my son was born, and he could not have cared less about whether I thought I was prepared. When I held Henry in my arms — when he curled his chubby hand around my finger — I knew he didn't care how unfamiliar this felt to me, because he inherently trusted me. His confidence in me took me from "I'm a mom?" to "Hey, I'm a mom!" in two seconds flat. He helped me find my voice, trust my instincts, and to know that it's impossible to get it right all the time. Holding my son for the first time, I adopted my new parenthood mantra: Do your best, and roll with the rest.

Courtesy of Kate Brierley

My mantra was most true in my first days of being a mom, when I learned that despite my planning, I was only really a little bit prepared for motherhood. My first lesson came in the form of my first fully-loaded diaper change, which is something I'd assumed I was prepared for after so much practice in my prenatal classes. One particular class taught me to prepare with huge boxes of ultra-absorbent diapers, and a stack of wipes that can be warmed to the perfect temperature for his tiny tushy. His changing station had been ready for this very moment since before he'd even entered this world, but when the scenario was unfolding in real life, my instincts were kicked into overdrive. Henry was clearly displeased to be outside of my womb, let alone cold and naked in the middle of the night, and suddenly I had two jobs: soothe my son, and simultaneously take care of this whole blowout diaper situation.

With my son crying on his changing table, the first half of my mantra kicked in as I did my best to put my pre-motherhood research to use. I quickly lifted, wiped, powdered, tucked, and diapered my way through the entire ordeal, but seeing that my son was still upset — despite me doing everything I had been taught to do — was my first real-life motherhood moment of "rolling with the rest." I zipped my crying son back into the secure confines of his sleep sack to begin calming him down, and I thought to myself that there's no way they could have prepared me for this exact moment in my "caring for your newborn" class, where the diaper you're changing is clean, dry, and perfectly wrapped around a fully cooperative plastic doll.

But you know what? Henry squirmed and whined during diaper changes right until the point when he was no longer in diapers. There were plenty of other incidents like those where, despite all my preparation, I found myself surprised by new motherhood. For example, when you successfully baby-proof every outlet, cabinet, and door knob in the house, but you forget to secure your makeup case. Or when you lower their crib mattress to the recommended setting, but still catch your kid on the video monitor carrying out an escape plan more detailed than in the movies. Parenting wasn't what I planned, and it's not going how I read it should, but that hasn't made motherhood any less of a rewarding adventure. In fact, by the time I welcomed my second son two years later, I'd realized that when it comes to motherhood, the best thing to remember is that you are exactly what your kid needs.

Courtesy of Kate Brierley

For my fellow new moms, veteran moms, and moms-to-be, I want you to know that the best advice I have for preparing for motherhood is to get used to rolling with the punches (and jabs and uppercuts from tiny fists). Read the books, and by all means, take the classes. But understand that this entire parenting journey is one big improv session. It can feel like studying for a big test, then showing up to a different set of questions than you prepped for. You and your child are in it together. You're new to this mom thing, and they're new to this living on the planet Earth thing. No matter what approach you're taking to parenting, or where you are in your journey, keep going. You're doing just fine.

This post is sponsored by Babies“R”Us ®.