Sweet & Sour

As a new mom, I’m often asked what surprises me most about motherhood. My answer varies depending on how grounded or rested I’m feeling in the moment. I’m surprised I’m here and wearing pants! is a less grounded example, but the response almost always has something to do with time.

I feel so deeply aware of it nowadays; minutes matter so much more now that I have a child. Can I get a shower in before she wakes up? How much longer until my husband gets home from work? Can she wait one more errand before she eats? Life is no longer counted in hours or days but in 60-second increments.

From the moment I found out I was pregnant, I’ve felt steeped in ambivalence. I wanted her to be here but I wanted more time to prepare. I wanted my labor to progress but I was scared of the pain that progression would bring. I want her to walk but I don’t want her to be mobile, and I want her to grow but I don’t want her to be too big for her tiny, adorable outfits. Every feeling seems to be contradicted by an equal and opposite feeling. If someone did warn me about the abundance of ambivalence in motherhood, I definitely wasn’t listening.

Amongst all of the pressures a mom faces, what I feel so deeply is the pressure to soak in all of the minutes with my baby girl. So often I’ll hear people comment on how young and small my daughter is. “Soak it in!” they’ll say; “It goes so fast!” I don’t doubt that. Already, at just under four months, I feel like I may as well shop for wedding dresses rather than diapers. But to embrace all of the minutes that motherhood (or any ‘hood, for that matter) holds is just too much to live up to.

I simply cannot soak in every minute. I can’t always be genuinely present, completely aware of how I should be appreciating every coo and sleepy smile. There are moments when she is screaming, the dog is howling, and I’m covered in spit up and the overflow from a blown-out diaper. I’m soaking in various liquids but absolutely none of the sentimentality of the experience because I can be a mom who is human and ambivalent rather than robotically joyful.

Maybe the best advice to give new parents (and old parents, not-yet-parents, spiritual parents, and everyone in between) is embrace the freedom to be. In every minute, you can feel how you need to feel. You can be miserable or confused, or bubbling over with so much joy that you can’t help but dance around the living room.

You can yearn for a new season in one moment and grieve how quickly it is passing in the very next moment.

When it comes to time, there are very few rules. What I do know, however, is that time passes and sometimes we embrace it, other times we waste it. Feeling pressured for letting minutes slip by without acknowledging how precious they are? That might not be the best use of anyone’s time.

Here’s the thing: every season of life has a flavor of sweet and sour. It makes us feel crazy when someone tells us something is sweet when, to us, it tastes sour. My [unseasoned] motherly advice, dear sisters, is to be. Be upset or disappointed. Be exuberant or carefree. It’s okay to wish some moments would move a little quicker even though your baby is still small enough to crawl up your chest and nuzzle into your neck. It’s okay.

I’m all for optimism and hope, but I’m also for freedom from the pressure to act like all of this is easy and every minute is one to include in the baby book. Soak it in when you can. And when the moment is so difficult that you just can’t? Take heart in remembering that it all goes so fast.

Mallory Redmond embraces anomalies–she is an adventure-loving homebody who keeps a clean house yet always makes a mess whenever eating or brushing her teeth. She loves dry humor, clean sheets, and gathering around the table with friends. Mallory and her husband, Darren, live in Ohio with their beagle, Roger, and [soon!] their first child. You can follow her writing here, where her stories are told with the hope of further uncovering the places of connection in our humanity.