Growing up I was never a confident girl. I was always one to question myself about what I did – was it good enough; did I make the right decision; and most of all, could I handle it? This continued well into my adulthood, even to the point that I would be suspicious when someone commented that I did something well. I would often make a joke in reply just so that I could beat them to the punch line that I was sure was coming.
Given this mindset, I was naturally apprehensive (that’s code for terrified) about all things involved with having children. Could I physically handle delivering a baby? I require a full medical team just when I stub my toe. What am I going to do when she cries? I knew that crying right along with her was probably the wrong answer, but I didn’t know what the right one was. I felt like other women were natural mothers, and I just didn’t have the talent to be a mom. Like Olympic gymnastics and bikini modelling, raising children was going to be one more thing that I just had no business doing. People assured me that everyone feels that way, but that it all turns out fine in the end. I took comfort in that, and tried to push down the feeling that they were all a bunch of filthy liars.
And then my daughter was born. The delivery was difficult, feeding her was so much harder than I imagined, and even changing her the next morning felt impossible. We struggled. I felt defeated, and sure that my feelings of self-doubt were right all along. I really couldn’t do this well.
But then I slowly started to figure it out. The routines felt natural. My confidence grew, and I found myself believing people when they told me I was a good mother. I knew there wasn’t a hint of sarcasm in what they were saying.
And then we had twins.
It was a fast delivery with no time for an epidural. Believe me – I asked. When the nurse said there wasn’t time, I said “I can’t do this!” and she said “You can, and you will.” And I did. My confidence grew some more.
Two years later one of the twins was diagnosed with autism, and I wanted to curl into a ball and have someone fix it all. The early days of her diagnosis were scary and overwhelming, but she needed me to be strong and confident in order to get the best care for her. There wasn’t room for being scared. So I pretended to know what I was doing. Soon, I found that it wasn’t an act anymore, and now six years later I find myself giving advice to other moms.
People tell me that I am strong, and I believe them because I know that I am.
That is the thing that has surprised me the most about motherhood – I never expected to learn how strong I am, or that I would have the confidence to believe in that strength. I used to feel like confidence came from looking good and having an impressive sounding job. What I’ve learned though is that my confidence has come from the hardest, and most impressive, job I have ever had – Mom. And that’s given me the strength to do things I never imagined myself doing.