Parenting – Who Knew?

Cute sleeping newborn baby child holding mother hand

(Recent writing contest submission I want to share…Kathy, this is for you, xoxo)

I am standing among a group of women, all mothers, and am feeling dazed and a bit out of it. I have recently joined their club as my son, and first born, is 3 months old. As a new mother, I am in the haze of sleeplessness. These mothers are not. They are comfortable in their own skin and seem completely in control of their lives.

‘They probably get plenty of sleep’, I am thinking. ‘They probably have lots of help at home,’ I continue to mulishly ponder. I am feeling out of place, out of sorts and truthfully, just a little jealous that they seem to have everything together.

My life has spun out of control. In the last three months, I feel as if I haven’t gotten a minute of sleep, a moment of peace, or an ounce of calm since the instant my son was born.

My dear friend, Kathy, turns to me and says, “The last time you know anything for sure is the day before your first child is born.”

What? Where did that come from? I am still in the throes of utter exhaustion and can barely see straight. She continues her conversation with another friend and my mind, swimming in its foggy mist, attempts to decipher her words.

“The last time you know anything for sure is the day before your first child is born.”

‘Wait a minute,’ I tell myself. Certainly she cannot mean that my indecisiveness, my feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt are going to continue forever. Surely this cannot be right. Surely there must be some mistake. Surely she must be wrong. I am just tired. I just need sleep. I am not myself right now.

Once I get some sleep, I’ll be back. I will return to the person I was before. I liked that person. I really miss that person. I miss being the person who ran a multi-million dollar consulting practice for a very large technology firm. I miss being the one who planned a beautiful wedding in just a few hours and bought a house with my husband in about ten minutes. I miss making quick decisions and being absolutely sure that they are the right ones. I miss feeling completely in control of everything. I miss being sure of myself. Certainly I’ll be back. Certainly I will be that person again. Certainly…

In that split second I realize it. BAM! Kathy is exactly right.

“The last time you know anything for sure is the day before your first child is born.”


My mind goes into high gear and a tape starts running through my head glimpsing moments over the last few months. A few scenes stand out.

In the hospital when my husband and I are trying to change our son into his going home outfit and after 20 minutes, I say, “Oh for crying out loud, close the door. This is embarrassing. We have four degrees between us and cannot even change a 10-lb human into one tiny outfit.”

That same night as we are changing him and we watch in horror as he pees and it goes straight into his mouth. We scrabble around like lunatics and think about calling the doctor and I am wailing, “We haven’t even had him by ourselves for 12 hours and we have already broken him!”

The feeling of panic I have as my husband returns to work after that first week.

The times we practically have summit meetings over whether to cover our son with a blanket.

The many books I have been reading desperately seeking advice from gurus on the best parenting techniques.

‘Oh no,’ I think. Kathy is right. My days of certain decision, complete and utter confidence, and absolute self-assuredness are over.

I drop into the nearest chair and try to catch my breath. What now? How can I operate like this? How will I exist? Who will I become?

I cannot be indecisive and uncertain. I cannot be lacking confidence and self-assuredness. I don’t know how to operate that way.

No, no, no… this can’t be happening.

Then, I remember a scene when I am very pregnant and I hear myself saying to a mother of three young adults, “I manage 50+ people everyday, I can certainly handle one small human.”

Oh no. I didn’t really say that. I cringe in remembrance. I couldn’t have been that cocky and that naïve all at the same time.

I search my memory and that moment appears. It is exactly as I had just remembered it. Oh no. I cringe again.

‘Wait a minute,’ I think as I sheepishly look around the room.   These women here all seem to have everything together and appear in control of their lives. They are talking and laughing and are comfortable in their own skin. If what Kathy says is true and it seems to be, perhaps it is doable to live with indecision, uncertainty and doubt.

Perhaps undergoing a change would not be so bad. Perhaps a little indecisiveness would be welcome. Perhaps a bit of uncertainty will be good for me. Perhaps some self-doubt will allow me to be a better parent.

Maybe, just maybe, I can welcome these feelings and learn to operate with them instead of fighting them.

It has been 13 years since that night and I am always grateful for the epiphany of that moment. Knowing that “The last time you know anything for sure is the day before your first child is born,” is just so freeing.

The realization that parenting involves indecisiveness, uncertainty and self-doubt allows me to be comfortable with exploring options, seeking opinions and adopting advice from others. I feel that our lives are enriched by these characteristics and I am so appreciative to have known about this when our first child was so young.

The indecisiveness leads to deliberation and taking things more slowly, while researching and discussing different options. It has helped us in choosing the best schools for the children. It has helped us in knowing that we should stay right where we are and not move to another state when my husband gets a job and has to travel 3 hours away. He has since changed his job and we are so thankful that we didn’t rush a move!

The uncertainty leads me to rely on my intuition and to seek advice from others. It has helped me in knowing that my son needed special attention, to get the right support, and to work through all of his issues so they no longer exist. It has helped me seek several opinions when dealing with my husband’s illness, get him the help he needed, and heal him completely.

The self-doubt allows me to be more flexible and to go with the flow. It has helped when my daughter gets the flu and has to be hospitalized for several days. I find myself pulling her in a little wagon for hours on end. It helps when the same exact situation happens again a few months later. It helps now that we are entering the teenage years. It helps knowing that this is just a phase and we will get to the other side.

It permits me to know that the twists and turns of parenting are typical and becoming attached to any one of them is fruitless. Once you get used to one thing, something else changes.

It lets me go with the good, the bad and the ugly flow of family life.

It has stretched me beyond my endurance too many times to count.

It allows me to discover myself in new and different ways.

Having the realization that night 13 years ago is scary and freeing at the same time. It brings me to my knees and knocks me flat. It makes me look hard at my expectations of parenting. It makes me go deep within myself to see who I am willing to become.

Over the years, I have discovered so many things. I have discovered that I can operate very well with indecisiveness and uncertainty. I am very nimble, flexible and adept at self-doubt. When I think back to that early time, I remember the moment with fondness and am so grateful to have been part of that very wise group of women.

Now when I am among a group of mothers, I listen to them and let their words flow around me. If they are mothers who have children who are older than mine, I listen more closely and tuck their insights into my back pocket to take out when I need them. I am humbled by other mothers all of the time.

I am indecisive. I am uncertain. I have self-doubt.

Simply put, I am a parent.