Way back in the day before I had children, I thought I knew a lot about the little creatures.
I had always enjoyed being the "mama" while playing house with my friends, imaginary and not. I always took care of the little kids and gravitated to babies like bees on honey.
Naturally, by the time I was eleven, I was a full-fledged babysitter. As a parent, it's hard for me to imagine that I was babysitting other people's kids (newborns, even!) in the 6th grade, but I was, often.
My babysitting career paved the way to what I considered to be my first "real" job (working at the fair, picking berries and doing jobs for family members don't count as real jobs) in high school at the Y.M.C.A., where I worked with kids of all ages.
During my first two summers home from college, I was a nanny.
So, I thought I had this whole "kid" thing figured out and my "A" in Elementary Education only bolstered my confidence when it came to knowing about and understanding children. The constant remarks by people that I would "make a great mom" only fed this illusion I had.
And then I had my first child.
I remember bringing McRae home from the hospital, trying to ween myself from the painkillers that the doctor was insisting I need after my c-section, and agonizing over their affect on my nursing baby. I examined every single thing I put in my mouth, for fear that somehow I'd poison this tiny creature that I was supposed to be taking care of.
When we brought McRae home, it was March. I turned the heat up to 80 because I was afraid that my baby would get too cold after living inside my body for 10 months. How in the world do babies keep warm? We lived in a self-inflicted sauna for more than a month, until I eased up a bit about it. Luckily, he survived.
I wrote detailed notes at every single diaper change, as well as each feeding (making sure to say which breast he drank from or how many ounces of a bottle he had).
I read countless books about babies and the care for them, keeping myself awake at all hours trying to remember the information I'd spilled into my head.
I idolized the women I knew who had already been down this path, taking each precious nugget of wisdom they offered like it was gold, filing it into my "mommy info" file in my brain. Although I was one of the first of my group of friends to become a mother, I asked them question after question about everything from which type of diaper to use to when they thought I should introduce rice cereal.
I was a mess.
I thought I'd be perfect. I thought I'd know what to do. I thought I'd have all the answers.
Fact is, when I look back on the very early days of motherhood, I can't believe how insecure and alone I felt, despite all of my "experience."
I expected that I would know everything and, as it turned out, the only thing I knew for sure was that I loved my baby and would do anything in the world for him.
That feeling was undeniable.
My first steps into the role of "mommy" seem like they happened so long ago. My oldest will be attending middle school next year and my youngest only has one more year of preschool left before starting kindergarten.
I've definitely logged some years in.
But now, I can honestly say that it is easier, this whole "motherhood" thing. And this community here, the voices of the newly-crowned mothers as well as the well-seasoned ones who may even be grandmothers, are a part of that.
I cannot imagine how helpful this online community (and online shopping, but I digress) would have been for me eleven years ago. How comforting it would have been to write about my worries and concerns or even just the insanity that comes after so many, many nights without sleep, and to have people say that "it'll be okay" and "you'll get through this." To be able to pour your heart out when you don't know how to move your baby from a bassinet to a crib or how to soothe him without a pacifier. Or just how to get through each new day without crying.
That's not to say that my family and friends weren't helpful, they were and I cannot imagine getting through life without them, but this community, the blogosphere, and the women, men, and parents, who look after it, are such a gift.
And I still don't know what I'm doing, and that's okay, because I know that whether it's midnight, six in the morning, or a holiday, I can read about other people, parents and not, who don't know what they're doing either.
And somehow, that makes it all better.