My daughter was born in the spring.
So on a warm day not long after, my husband and I found ourselves bundling her up so we could all enjoy the thaw that was taking place in our backyard. Our neighbors must have had the same idea because when we stepped outside we heard them chatting quietly over the fence. We hadn’t yet introduced them to the baby so we greeted them cheerfully and tenderly leaned the bundle toward the top of the fence to show her off. They had had a daughter about eight months prior so we found ourselves in a curious but light-hearted “Neighbor Wilson” situation comparing notes about new parenthood.
It was my first encounter like this, and I felt a bit clumsy trying to gain some insight from their experience without being too overbearing or worse, coming across as judgmental.
As I’ve now learned is a typical direction for these conversations to go, we ended up discussing sleep: “Are you guys getting any sleep? Is she a good sleeper? What’s the longest stretch you’ve had?” Truthfully, we were still in the fog of the very early days and were all still trying to get into a rhythm. But before I had the chance to respond, my husband chimed in and said, “yeah it’s alright, but nighttime is always a little nerve-wracking because you never know how it’s going to go.”
And right on beat the dad chuckled and said, “Yeah, that doesn’t really go away.” We all had a good laugh and shared a moment of parenthood camaraderie, but as I walked away I felt jolted – confused and terrified at the thought that this nervous, sometimes sick-to-my-stomach feeling may actually just be a side-effect of parenthood.
It was the first time someone actually pinpointed one of the distinct differences I felt as a new mother. This constant state of worry - whether for sleep (or the lack of it), for safety, for health, for above-averageness, and even for love – had become a constant thread of internal discussion. It was alarming at how often these thoughts occurred and how “doom and gloom” they can get.
And what’s more, these worries can become compounded by the added decision of whether or not to act. You have always got to be on your game, because if you let your guard down, you may miss something - something that could harm her if you don’t thwart it or may pass her by if not nurtured. It’s on you.
My daughter is now nine months old, and although I may have gotten used to this worry I can’t say it has gotten any easier - a small stone in your shoe that is both hard to ignore but too cumbersome to remove. But last week, I saw something that jolted me almost as much as I was that day last spring.
It was an illustration of a mother (I know because I follow her on Instagram) with a huge beautiful set of golden wings spreading out from behind her kneeling naked self. Above her were the words from Rumi:
YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR OWN STRENGTH.
YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR OWN BEAUTY.
YOU HAVE SEEN YOUR
WHY DO YOU WORRY?
And just like that, I made a decision.
I decided that my worry will no longer just be a side effect, but rather a vehicle for keeping myself in check. Because to a certain extent, your worry is right – it IS on you.
So why not own it?
This means that now I can view my worry as an opportunity rather than an inhibitor. It’s a chance for me to reflect on myself as a person and as a parent – to recognize that one worry could offer up a chance for me to anticipate a potential threat, whereas another could send me searching for a better way to be a teacher to my child. And dammit, I’m smart enough to recognize both.
Okay…We ALL know it’s not as simple as that. It’s not a perfect science and it’s hard, but it’s also a choice. For us women - who bounce just a little bit longer, who tilt our neck just a little further even though it’s less comfortable, who give just a little bit more at the end of a long day – a little change in perspective might just help alleviate some of those intangible difficulties of motherhood, like worry.
So own it. You’ve already got your wings.
Lindsey Ransom doesn't let labels define her but she occupies her time with developing wind farms, baby squishes, baking sweets, sailing boats, riding bikes, and playing in the snow. She sometimes lets her words define her through an assortment of blog posts and Instagram wonderings and will someday write an historical fiction novel.