I could see the words coming from my doctor’s mouth, but I didn’t actually hear them. He was excitedly congratulating me on my pregnancy and telling me how special it all was—such a blessing. I nodded, crinkled my gown in my clammy hands, and managed a small smile.
My doctor thought I was in shock from the sheer joy of his confirmation of my wonderings as of the last few weeks. I was very much in shock, but it was because I suddenly heard a new voice speaking to me at that moment. That new voice was telling me about the lifelong job I would have now to know, understand, protect, cherish, and guide this complete stranger. I heard the rundown of everything I was going to be tasked with, and it felt heavy on my chest immediately.
My heart suddenly beat to a different rhythm—it beat for someone else as well.
I felt like my body now was a vessel in a suit of armor, guarding something precious and delicate.
“Is the baby OK? Healthy? Safe? Growing?” I started spouting off a lengthy string of concerned questions, none of which were about me. All of a sudden I, as a singular person, was not the focus of importance.
It stayed that way the entire time I was pregnant. Always asking, wondering, dreaming, praying, checking in. All these assessments about the healthiness and happiness of a person I’d never met.
When the day came and I saw him for the first time, it all made sense. I knew him instantly, and we belonged to each other. All the months of waiting in preparation for that moment—I was building up that mother’s intuition.
I was strengthening the voice inside me that would speak for him.
I was building up those gut feelings that could tip me off, would remind me of the time when he lived in my body and I could control everything. That feeling could wake me from a dead sleep, stop me in my tracks even if I was moving a million miles a minute. That small whispering could (and would) turn into a literal scream at me, drowning out any other sound.
As he’s grown, I must have asked him if he’s OK billions of times. Told him to watch out, be safe, make good choices. I’ve cuddled away nightmares, ran to catch him on playgrounds, buckled his helmet, covered him with blankets, prayed myself to tears, sat on the sidelines for soccer games, and even spent long, uncomfortable, emotionally draining nights with him during emergency room visits.
All I ever wanted to know was that he was happy, safe, secure, and loved.
I’ve felt those twinges of something isn’t right when he’s at school or detected early-onset illness just because he wasn’t himself. I know when his mood is off—happy or sad—or when he’s tired or disappointed. I know when he’s feeling the weight of the world he knows so far on his shoulders and I need to help lighten the load.
It’s my job to know.
When people say “mother knows best,” it doesn’t mean we know everything—it means we know them.
We know them and will always know them on a level that is incomprehensible. There isn’t any way we can humanly understand the intricate way we’re connected here on Earth. It’s a locked safe in our soul with all the minute details of this person, and we have keys to unlock most of the compartments. We just know.
Sometimes he pushes back and asks me why I can’t just relax. I tell him, “I haven’t been able to relax since I knew you were a possibility. It’s my job to care.” There are times he definitely wouldn’t nominate me for mom of the month and the rolled eyes or slammed doors crush me, but when he comes and gives me a hug to thank me for helping him or keeping him from making a big mistake, I give myself a gold star.
I know best. Not always what is right, trendy, cool, or going along with what other parents are doing. I am doing what I feel like I should for the human I’m responsible for based on everything I know about him. I’ve been collecting the data on him every second of every day, and I feel confident in my decisions . . . most of the time. I take what I know of my life and what I know about him and that mom equation pops out an answer.
I’m not always sure, but I still know it’s best.
I know there will come a day when he takes over as manager of him, and I will no longer be the one in charge. When that day comes, I will tell him I’m always here and all that love and worry will still be with me (maybe even more so). I will tell him he can always come to me for anything, no matter how big or small. “Mother knows best” will become more of a consulting motto, and he’ll need to come to me to check this new version of himself against the person I’ve always known. I will be here to give advice, hugs, suggestions, or some tough love if needed. Even though he’ll become someone different, I can be his North Star of the compass that is his innate makeup.
If this all sounds foreign or just plain crazy to you, just wait. Maybe you’ll be like me and it will hit you in the doctor’s office, or not until you feel that first fluttering kick, or you hold your baby for the first time. Maybe it’s when the adoption agency calls and says those magic words. Maybe it’s when that foster baby comes to you in the middle of the night, and you just hold them until they drift off to sleep on your shoulder. Maybe it’s when your stepchild calls you “Mom” for the first time. Whenever it happens, it’ll hit you like a ton of bricks.
If it never happens to you for whatever reason, I hope this at least helps you understand where your own mom was coming from when she said she knew best. Maybe this will help you give her a break. She’s been on duty 24/7 since before you were born, you know.