I don’t know the last time I got more than four hours of uninterrupted sleep. I don’t know the last time I sat down to a meal from beginning to end without getting up and down. I don’t know the last time I took a long, hot shower and treated myself to the works: exfoliation, shaving, hair treatment, face mask. I don’t know the last time I got to sit down and write an essay without having to stop.
Being a new mom means you have a lot of I-don’t-know moments. Almost everything about motherhood is an I-don’t-know moment. I don’t know if I’m raising my daughter correctly. I don’t know if I’m getting her to sleep right. I don’t know if the learning toys I’m buying her will put her on the Harvard path.
I just don’t know.
But I also don’t know the last time I felt this needed.
I don’t know the last time I felt my life had this much purpose. I don’t know how I could live without this tiny person who relies on me for everything. I honestly don’t know.
Right now, more than ever, I’m having a lot of I-don’t-know moments due to the pandemic. It’s not easy, especially with a toddler. My days are filled with I-don’t-know moments, especially in these uncertain times. I don’t know if I’m doing everything I could be for Lucia. I have less control than usual and that bothers me.
In general, we’re all having an I-don’t-know moment. I don’t know when this will end. I don’t know that we’ll all be safe. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I just don’t know.
Being a mom to my 18-month-old Lucia is the most wonderful job in the world but also the most challenging. There are no days off. No promotions. No salary. It’s non-stop. It’s exhausting, exciting, insane, adventurous, and absolutely lovely—the mother of all roller coasters.
You’re always asking yourself if you’re doing it right, always living in a state of doubt.
It’s a never-ending experiment—all trial by error—as if you’re trying to learn an equation. But this is not math. There is no two plus two equals four here. No definitive yes.
Motherhood is a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of job. What works for me and my daughter may not work for another mother and daughter, and vice versa. Nobody really knows anything for sure. It’s an uncertainty that brings fear. Fear that I’m getting it wrong. Fear that my approach could hurt rather than help my daughter.
But I need to convince myself to be OK with the unknown. I have to believe in the choices I am making for my daughter and hope and pray they will give her what she needs. I need to find peace with myself and my instincts to believe I am doing the best I can and that my best is good enough.
That’s my goal for the upcoming year—to be OK with what I don’t know.
I love Lucia so much it hurts. Everything I do now, I do to benefit her. To make her happy and healthy and to prepare her for the future. Will I make mistakes? You bet. But ideally, they’ll be small.
I chalk these I-don’t-know moments up to mom guilt. Am I doing enough for Lucia? Am I feeding her the right food? Is she getting enough playtime? Is she sleeping enough? Is she getting enough fresh air? Is she happy? Is she healthy? Is she growing? I don’t know for sure, and that leaves me feeling guilty.
Among new mothers, I’m hardly alone in this respect.
All I can know is this. When Lucia is hungry and opens her mouth as I bring the spoon close to her, I feed her. When she is crying and rests her head on my shoulder, I comfort her in ways only I can, rubbing her nose exactly the way she likes it. When she’s sleepy, I crouch down beside her crib and give her a bottle until she drifts off. In those moments, I know. I know nothing else matters, and that I’m doing everything she needs me to do for her.
I’m following my basic biological instincts, letting my intuition–and everything I learned from my own mother and grandmother—guide me.
What I don’t know amounts to a lot. But what I do know may add up to more than I realize. And that may be just enough.