I was on my 11th day past due, and was scheduled for an induction bright and early the next morning. I was… petrified. Not of the giving birth part, although I certainly wasn’t feeling confident about that either, but for the parenthood part – the part after my doctor was going to hand me a baby and assume I would just instinctively know what to do with it.
And so on induction eve when my husband said to me, “we should do something special. Go out for dinner? Go for a walk?” I looked at him incredulously. How could we possibly go out for dinner when we weren’t fully prepared yet to be parents?! It was as if the next morning we were scheduled to take the biggest exam of our lives, and we needed to spend the night cramming. We could order in food, of course, but we couldn’t take our eyes off the material. We needed to spend this night filling our brains with as much information as humanly possible about babies and how to best take care of them.
“Pssht – dinner?!” I replied. “No, more like we need to figure out how to use this very confusing and long piece of material called a Moby Wrap. My friend said it makes life with a newborn so much easier – so I HAVE to learn how to do this TONIGHT. BEFORE we bring her home!”
He looked at me like I was a crazy person (and, looking back, I can’t blame him… I was). It was as if all that stood between me and being the best parent I could possibly be was this damn Moby Wrap. And – ugh – I could NOT figure out how to use it. I watched YouTube video after YouTube video about all the various ways to wrap this thing around me so it would securely hold the baby… and each time I tried, either the doll that was playing the role of our unborn child fell to the floor (cue my horrified tears), or the wrap just slid off my shoulders (also cue my horrified tears).
Though I’d suspected it all along, that was all the evidence I needed to support my notion that I was unfit to be a mother. After all, I couldn’t even figure out how to use a Moby Wrap!
The wrap (which I NEVER once used with my real baby, by the way) represented all of my greatest fears and anxieties. I was certain that I didn’t have what it takes to be a good mom. Up to this point in my life, my early thirties, I’d spent so much time in therapy trying to convince myself that I could, indeed, take care of myself all by myself; that I could, indeed, BE an actual, contributing adult in society and not just play the part day in and day out.
In truth, I’ve spent a lifetime trying to shut down the loud and obnoxious voice in my gut that always shouts “You can’t do this! You’re incapable! You’re not smart enough or strong enough. You’re just a baby who still needs other people to take care of her – why would YOU think you could be a mother?!”
This voice has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. I was born into a family with four much older siblings (between 10 and 16 years older), and a mom who wanted a baby all to her own more than anything else in this world. To say I was “babied” would be a giant understatement. There was nothing intrinsically wrong with this – I feel so blessed to have the family I have and exceptionally loved. But from a very young age – likely the very beginning of my existence – I firmly believed I needed others to survive; that without my parents or siblings, like a baby bird fallen from a nest, I’d be left for dead.
This belief, and the panicky fear that accompanied it, grew bigger and bigger throughout my life. I was only 6 or 7 when I started worrying about my parents’ imminent death. After all, my dad was so much older than “normal” dads of kids my age, and my mom was basically a chain smoker. I feared I was doomed.
And so, throughout the course of my life, I did things – gave myself challenges, if you will – that would force me to go outside of my comfort zone, gain a little confidence, and learn how to live life on my own. Going to sleepaway camp for my first time when I was 14, switching in high school from the familiar and comfortable environment of the private school I’d been attending since kindergarten to the big, public school in my neighborhood, heading off to spend a summer in Israel during high school, deciding on an out-of-state college (Go, Hoosiers!) instead of staying local and a mere 15 minute drive from my parents, and, finally, in the grand finale (or so I then thought), moving to New York City after college. I even kept a very personal blog during my twenties chronicling my New York journey, which was, to me, synonymous with my journey towards independence and autonomy.
Yet, during all of these “challenges” – even my life in New York – I still couldn’t hush the voice inside of me. I remember nights in my NYC studio apartment waking in a fit of panic over the thought of losing my parents – even then, I was certain I would never survive life without them.
And then, in 2007, the worst possible thing happened. I lost my dad. It was literally the thing I’d been the MOST terrified of my entire life… and it happened. One minute he was here, and the next… gone. But, something miraculous happened… I did not die along with him. Through the seemingly intolerable pain and grief, I grew stronger. It was probably the first time in my entire life where the voice got slightly smaller… because here I was, finally doing the thing that I never believed I could: surviving after the death of my dad. It was harder than any of those other “challenges” I’d thrown myself into, and somehow, I stayed afloat.
When I met my now husband, I was confident beyond all belief that I would be a good wife, and that I was ready for this next step in my life. When we first started talking about trying for a baby, I was elated. I’d always wanted to be a mother – after all, I’d had so much experience taking care of my several hundred (or so it seemed) baby dolls. Plus, I figured it would take us a while to get pregnant. More time to prepare.
But then, it happened. Like, super quickly. And in the instant I realized I was pregnant, the old familiar pangs of panic set in. The voice that I’d managed to stifle for quite some time, resurfaced… but this time, so much louder.
“You can’t be a mother! You’ll never be able to do this by yourself! You still don’t even know how to cook! Or change a diaper. Or take care of a sick baby. You’re going to fail at motherhood.”
Throughout my pregnancy, this voice grew more intense and mean. The worst part is that I could no longer shut it down… I believed it. I’d been wrong about NYC being the grand finale challenge. This was. Only I wasn’t even remotely up to the task.
I spent my pregnancy reading all the books from all the experts, trying to absorb every single piece of conflicting advice so I wouldn’t ruin this child. I became hyper-focused on completely unimportant things like decorating the nursery, and how best to organize diapering supplies, hair clips and sort baby clothes (by season? By style? By size?). Throwing my anxious energy at these types of tasks alleviated some of the panic – because I could DO them, cross them off my list, and feel relieved. But then… the anxiety would rush back stronger mere hours later as I would think about all the other things I still hadn’t done or wasn’t prepared for, thus, solidifying my belief that I was not ready to be a mother.
And so it went.
Which is why the Moby Wrap was such a big darn deal. It was representative of all my insecurities and the angst I’d felt throughout not just the pregnancy, but my entire life. It was all wrapped up (forgive the pun) in the Moby wrap.
Looking back, I wish more than anything I’d gone to dinner with my husband that evening. What a far better and more productive way to spend the last evening of non-parenthood. But, I can’t go back and change things; I didn’t know then what I know now.
And that’s this: We are never, EVER fully prepared for anything. That’s just life. But even in the face of uncertainty and new experiences, WE CAN HANDLE IT. We are all resilient creatures capable of learning, growing and making the best choices we can in the moment.
But the voice inside of me – the one that’s been with me since my first breath – thrives off telling me otherwise. I now realize I can’t squash it – it’s always going to be there. It’s as much a part of me as my organs and cells. But, rather than let it hold me down, I am learning (yep, in my 40’s, still learning) to use it as motivation. When I hear it telling me I can’t do something, I gather all the grit and oomph inside of me, and plow ahead anyway… in the face of my own, searing, screaming doubt.
I’ve proved this voice wrong over and over again. When my dad died, I kept going. When I suffered a life threatening bleed in my brain and thought I might die, I kept going. When the doctor handed me my firstborn baby and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to be a good parent to her, I kept going – I keep going every day, knowing I’m exactly the parent she needs me to be. When I learned I was pregnant with twins, and the voice rose up stronger than ever before, I grew more determined than ever to fight against it.
And now, as I face other hardships and the voice is trying to gain back its power and cut me at the knees, I know that it’s wrong and that I am more powerful than it.
Things may be hard – that’s just life – but, unlike my voice would have me believe, I CAN HANDLE IT. I am capable.
The Moby Wrap will not win.
I’m a big fan of the on-trend saying “we can do hard things”, because it’s true. We honestly can. Each of us can survive, grow from and be better for having faced (and crushed) hard things.
So there. Take that Moby Wrap.