Motherhood Un-Wisdom


My stomach precedes me as I navigate between cramped tables and chairs. I wave to aunts I haven’t seen since the last family wedding and cousins who look impossibly grown up. It couldn’t have been that long ago we were skating in woolen slippers around Oma’s kitchen floor, devouring pans of her impossibly good Rice Krispies squares.

My beautiful younger cousin is expecting her first baby, and we have all gathered to celebrate her and the newest member to join our overflowing ranks. The room is packed with well over fifty women. I am also pregnant—due just two months after her with my second. It took everything in me just to look presentable for this function, so I plan to spend the afternoon satisfying my sugar cravings and allowing my more boisterous, outgoing relations to take charge.

My cousin is beaming, as she should be. Belly on full display, she is a bundle of excitement and nerves. She oohs as she works her way through the mountain of gifts, holding up teensy onesies and colourful stroller attachments for all to see. There is carb-laden food and laughter and a prayer of blessing. It is a celebration of the best kind.

After hours of small talk and obligatory family photos, I make my way back to the table and collapse into an empty folding chair. I adjust my grey maxi dress over my large belly. I cannot wait to go home.

But then there’s a final request. The mama-to-be’s older sister asks if anyone would be willing to share some advice. I glance around the room, wondering if anyone will be brave enough to offer wisdom on becoming a mother for the first time.

Perhaps it’s God, perhaps it’s the promise of a mini lotion from Bath and Body Works for obliging, but I feel my hand involuntarily rise. Dozens of eyes immediately swivel to look at me, no doubt wondering what secrets I’ve uncovered in my measly two years of motherhood.

I’m wondering as well.

I try not to shake, but my nerves are threatening to betray me. So I take a breath and stare straight at her. She is surrounded by fuzzy blankies and cutesy picture frames, eyes bright, face radiant.

And I say what I wish someone had told me two and a half years ago:

“I am only a couple years deep into this whole motherhood thing, but if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that no one knows what they’re doing. Really. We are all just muddling through. Badly, for the most part. You’re going to have this baby, and you are not going to have a clue. There is no manual that downloads the moment your child arrives earthside with the answer key. No one gets a manual. And while this may seem ridiculous now, you will need to hang on to this truth for the next few months. Possibly the next 18 years.

You will see mothers in restaurants, at church, across the table, and they will look normal. They will look like they have showered recently, and slept more than two hours. They will smile at you and seem so at ease. This will be confusing. You will wonder why everyone else is so fine. Especially when you’ve been up for 2, 3 and 5am feeds for the last six weeks.

There will come a hundred moments when you are mindlessly scrolling through social media. Remember that this is a filtered fantasyland full of women in heels posing next to pumpkins with colour-coordinated offspring. It is brimming with eternally giggling babies and flat-ironed hair and pants with actual waistbands. You will scroll these photos while you are in your rattiest pyjamas with spit up on your shirt. Your sink will be overflowing with dirty dishes.

You may start to believe it’s easy for everyone else.

In the middle of the night, your babe will be crying. And you likely will be too. You’re going to be so plum worn out, tears will drip from your cheeks onto your fresh, fussy miracle. You’ll think you are the problem. That everyone else is cruising through this motherhood thing, and you’re barely hanging on.

When these moments come—for the love—remember that we are all messing this thing up. No one is fine. Anyone or anything that tells you otherwise is lying. You will be doing so much better than you think. You’ll be getting yourself and that gorgeous child through the day, every darn day. And while it would be wonderful if the whole picture was represented on social media or even in church, it’s often not. Don’t let your fuzzy, newborn brain trick you into thinking you are ill-equipped. That you are not the absolute best thing your child could have gotten stuck with. That everyone else has it together, and knows how to get their baby to stop screaming and how to get them to poop and how to not lose their whole identity as a woman in the process.

They don’t.

They’re just better at hiding it. And, on that note: Surround yourself with people who don’t hide it. At all. It’ll make motherhood and, well, life in general, much, much easier.

So that’s it. My motherhood wisdom is this: No one knows what they’re doing. Pants with waistbands are the worst. Find honest people to get you through.

Also, you’ll be amazing. You have no idea how amazing you’ll be.”

I cannot get out of the spotlight fast enough, but I make sure to catch my cousin’s eye before I sit down. She grins from across the packed room, and thanks me. She’s genuine, but I know she doesn’t get it yet. How could she? I just hope she holds onto my clumsy words for when she needs them.

In the meantime, I’ll be holding on to them for myself.