It must have been about this time of year in 1996 when I had a complete and total panic attack while visiting my midwife. It was prompted by one of those harmless questions... something like, "How are you doing?" and a flood of what-was-I-thinking verbiage came out. My pulse raced. My stomach flip-flopped. My breathing got shallow and all I could think about were all the reasons I might not be well-suited for motherhood.
I don't think kids really like me, I cried. I do okay with toddlers, but babies freak me out. And once they are age 5 or so, they respond to me like I am clueless. I never know what to say to a kid. I'm not going to know what to say to my own kid. And what about when it's a teenager? I could barely figure out being a teenager myself! How am I going to ever be the mother of a teenager?
Must have been those pregnancy hormones.
... and perhaps a few other of life's stresses. My own mother was dying from cancer. My husband was changing careers. And we were living in a city with 4 million other people, a city I had no desire to raise a family in. Planning freak that I was, it seemed that I had made some crucial miscalculations and now I was about to bring a baby into this world, ready or not.
My wonderful midwife was very understanding. I suppose she'd handled maternal breakdowns a time or two before. She patted my hand. She let me cry a bit. And then she gave me some of the best advice I've ever gotten about raising kids.
Just focus on the here and now, she said. You aren't yet cut out to be the mother of a 5-year-old, a teenager, a kid headed out into the big wide world on her own because you aren't the mother of a 5-year old, a teenager, or a kid headed out into the big wide world.
Right now, you're about to become a mother for the first time, and you're going to do fine because you are just going to focus on being a mother - right here, right now. You'll work the future out as you get there.
Not her exact words, but that's the message as I remember it, the message I have come back to time and time again, at least, any time I start to feel anxiety about making mistakes or not being adequately prepared for this amazing job in front of me.
I was thinking about that conversation today, and how quickly it seems that I've gotten to this place I was so worried about that day in the midwife's office before my first child was even born. I am now the mother of three wonderful kids. None of them are babies any more. One of them is very near being a pre-teen. And that baby -- that first one that got me started on this path? It blows me away to see the young lady she's become. She's amazing. They all are. Whatever mistakes I've made -- and I'm sure I've made more than a few -- just being with my children assures me that I'm doing okay.
I still don't always know what to say to just any five-year-old that I meet on the street, but I somehow manage to maintain a pretty good dialogue with my own kids on most days. Many teenagers I meet still baffle me completely, but I understand, at least with my own teen, that not understanding everything is okay, as well.
Sometimes I'm still struck by the fact that I feel so new at this. And I guess, in a sense I am still new. Each day is a new day and I'm never quite sure what the day will bring. I've learned some lessons over and over again. I've learned lessons that are no longer relavant. And I still occasionally have to remind myself that the best days are the days I just focus on the here and now.
Today, I've managed to be the mother of an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 12-year-old and tomorrow I will focus on being the mother of kids who are each a day older. It's a journey, and each day I am making the decision not to live with worry or anxiety that I may not be up to a task that's presented tomorrow; I just have to be the mother that I am today.
One day, my kids are going to be making their way out into the big wide world. It is the days that I am most present that I feel the least bit of anxiety about that fact. I'm doing fine. They're doing fine. And we'll each be fine, in turn, whenever that day arrives.
Another twelve years are going to pass just as quickly. My job, as I see it, is to be present every day, to the best of my ability.