I've been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a mom and how you actually become one. I know I officially became a mom the moment Topher was born, but that moment was so surreal and I was so insanely drunk with pain and relief that I couldn't possibly have consciously become a mom at that time. Then I held him and all I could think was Well, who are you? Was it really you in there that whole time? I don't recognize you. Somehow I thought I would recognize you. Even now I find myself looking at him and I feel like I'm staring at someone else's baby, a stranger almost. Maybe it's those bright blue eyes that startle me every single time they look right at me, making me feel like I'm drowning in a stormy Caribbean sea. Or maybe it's the way Topher is so much his own little person, not an extension of either of us but just a completely unique individual. Or maybe I just don't feel like any of this comes naturally to me.
I know people who are mothers even before they have children. I know people who thought they would make terrible mothers, but ended up being incredible. I was neither one of these. In fact, I was incredibly naive. I suppose I had one too many daydreams about having a fat, happy baby who would sleep well and who would make this experience easy for me. Then I came home and tried to change Topher's diaper and he screamed so hard that he stopped breathing and his face turned purple. And he was so, so tiny. So small that we were afraid to change his clothes (which also made him scream) or give him a bath (which really made him scream). And as for sleeping, he didn't. Not much anyway, and only if someone was physically holding him. And when I wanted to lay down, it had to be flat on my back with the baby draped over me like a bumpy little heating pad. In fact, with the sheet draped over him, sometimes I felt like I was still pregnant.
For a while, I thought that my ability to feed him made me more of a mother, or a better mother, which is why it took me so long to finally give up breastfeeding even though I was very miserable and growing more and more depressed. And I was scared that if I switched him to formula, he would be less mine somehow. But on one particularly awful evening of feeding, I finally gave in and gave him a bottle and he loved it. And for the first time, I was watching him eat and it wasn't stressing me out. I still felt horribly guilty, but that faded as my depression started to lift. So if feeding him doesn't make me his mom, what does?
I guess I haven't figured that out completely. I have a feeling it has to do with the fact that I can never stop kissing him. And the fact that I look at him and I'm amazed that this little stranger is actually, truly my baby. And the fact that I find every tiny little thing he does incredible and indicative of his emerging brilliance. And the fact that when he smiles, I feel like the heavens have opened up on me.
TJ might think that he's not a natural dad, either, but he's wrong. When he talks to Topher and carries him around teaching him things, I think I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life. And when Topher is sleeping on his chest I look at them and think I'm the luckiest girl in the world. I get to be a family with these two boys--one I know backwards and one I'm just meeting--for always.
I don't know if anyone reads this blog, but if they do, I hope they know that I'm grateful for this opportunity to become Topher's mom, even when I'm a little too quick to hand him over to TJ as soon as he walks in the door from work. I think it's really the tiniest things that make me a mom. Like the way I'm the only one who can give Topher a bath. Or the way I'll look in Topher's palm and find a strand of my hair that he pulled out of my head earlier and he's been hanging onto for hours. Or the way I'll ask for a kiss and he'll drool all over me. I guess he's not such a stranger after all. And I guess if loving him this much makes me a mom, I've always been that.