“Welcome to the World of Mothers,” said no one, ever.
But yet I was a newcomer in the World of Mothers, and the other Mothers knew it. With tales of breastfeeding woes and terrible births, of reassuring smiles and messages in the dead of night to tell me I was doing OK, the World of Mothers welcomed me with open arms.
I had not always been so nice to Mothers, before I was in their World. As a teenager, I remember one of those Mothers, pushchair in hand, looking harassed as I perceived all Mothers did, shouting at my friends and I for using a lift in a shopping centre, instead of taking the escalators, like us non-Mothers were supposed to.
And just this weekend, as I folded my pushchair on the bus to allow a wheelchair to board, and received an earful from some opinionated fellow passenger about why us Mothers should ALWAYS fold our pushchairs and were we too busy in the baby change when the omnibus etiquette memo was being given out, or words to that effect; as she pronounced judgement from her comfortable seat at the front of the bus, right in front of my pushchair, I remembered how I too used to judge Mothers for the size of their pushchairs (although not, heaven forbid, to their faces).
I did not understand, you see, the World of Mothers. Mothers were smug, remarked a colleague of mine one day. They thought the world owed them something, for their great achievement at having successfully procreated. I nodded in agreement, knowing that would never be me. I would never be the Smug Mother, with her pronouncements on why the world was just too harsh a place for her beloved progeny, the schools too rough, the food too laden with chemicals, other people simply not filled with sufficient admiration for what she had created.
And as time went on, they just seemed more smug, these Mothers, with their husbands and their children and their houses and their fading attentions to fashion, make up, literature, BBC4 documentaries and other things that really mattered. For they had something that I wanted, something that no amount of vintage dresses and trips to Topshop could ever match. And I had BBC4, and wine, and a lot of dresses.
I would never take it for granted, I told myself. I would never complain, as they did, about feral children and snot-covered garments. Anyway, I would never lose my sense of self, my identity, my fashion sense, and my child would certainly never be feral. Motherhood was lost on these Mothers, these women for whom motherhood seemed to come as easily as their fairytale weddings did.
But then I too became a Mother, and I realised that it was no more easy for them than it was for me, and I was welcomed into the World of Mothers; in maternity wards where women walked like nightgown-clad zombies pushing glass cots containing the tiniest infants; in NCT groups where we crossed our fingers for easy births whilst looking mournfully at our swollen toes; at baby groups where we dangled tiny mirrors in front of our infants and wondered when they would finally roll over; and at work where Mothers old and young and everything in between told me it would all be OK.
And although I worried too much, although I felt as though I was being judged by everybody, everywhere, and still am, and no longer care; although I wondered if I wasn’t cut out to be one of these Mothers, I finally reached a place where I no longer felt like the new one, the fresh off the boat one, frazzled and bewildered, looking at a tiny creature and wondering what this was, and could I do it, and how would I manage. Because I am managing. Just like all those other Mothers were before me.