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Turns Out I Love Being a Mother After All

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In 2005 my life was very different than it is now. A job in advertising afforded me a very indulgent lifestyle and I spent every cent on purses, high heels, and enjoying myself. Having a child was the last thing on my radar.

In fact, from a pretty young age I thought that I didn't want kids. My image of family life was a messy, hectic and overwhelming one and I swore to never find myself in such a situation.

Instead, I planned to live somewhere like Paris, stay very thin and try to cultivate a permanent and irresistible air of mystery.

Life never goes the way we plan it. Today, I have a 10 month old, a husband and a house in Toronto. I've quit advertising, and its lifestyle, and don't have any plans for full time work. For me, falling in love made that mysterious Paris woman seem too aloof. Suddenly having a baby felt not only right, but so much more exciting than anything else I'd envisioned before.

When my son Isaac was born, he was breech. This threw a bit of a wrench into my plan for a doula-guided hypnobirth. That was to be the first of many events where he had pushed me right out of the driver's seat and into the trunk. I was no longer in control.

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My sweet, chubby, sparkly-eyed little boy captivated me from the first moment he looked at me with his hypnotic little gaze. He is adorable, charming and usually the life of the party. He is also wilful and what the books call "a persistent personality." This basically means that he won't do what you want unless he wants to and common parenting tactics are mostly futile.

Read more essays from The Purple Fig on the challenges of motherhood

None of this would be that big of a deal if he and I were always on the same page; however, we've had some different ideas. I'd take him in the stroller, he'd scream in protest. The car, which for most babies is relaxing, was a torture chamber for him. Naps were met with complete resistance, despite his obvious exhaustion.

Rather than fight him on everything at once, I took a triage approach and made naps the priority. The car and stroller were parked -- literally and figuratively. Staying home all the time was isolating, but I was exhausted most of the time anyway because Isaac wasn't sleeping through the night at all. Any chance of sleeping during the day was minimal -- Isaac's napping was very, very hard won and if he did nap it was too short for me to fall asleep and get any kind of rest. Despite his resistance, he really did need the naps so I spent almost all of my waking time trying to help him to fall asleep. Sitting outside the baby's room day after day, 'shushing' him to sleep with no success, I often felt so helpless; I feared I would fall apart.

The problem was, I realized, I didn't have the option of falling apart. I was a mother and I had to keep it together. As I saw it, I had no choice, I had to carry on -- even if carrying on looked exactly like my life looked at that very moment, in that hallway, for the foreseeable future. Who the hell else was going to help this tired baby learn to sleep? Not the two sleep consultants that had been and gone. Not the 'all knowing authors' of the dozen sleep books I'd read. Nope, it was just me and my persistent little baby working it out.

And we have worked it out. Issac sleeps through the night and he also naps twice a day at predictable times. If I didn't know how persistent I was, I'd say it was a miracle.

Sitting in that hallway, on that day and many others, I wished so badly to be free from what I was beginning to call "the naps wars." I wanted to make decisions about how my day would unfold. I felt so guilty for thinking such thoughts and I certainly didn't want to share them with anyone.

As time goes on, I'm discovering that I can miss my freedom so much it takes my breath away, but I can still love my son madly in the same moment. This realization was huge for me. I didn't have to succumb wholly to one side or the other. I could feel, and possibly even speak of negative feelings without questioning if that made me a bad mom or a bad person. By allowing the negative to temper the positive and vice versa, I started to feel my experience as a mother more authentically, without as much guilt or so many caveats.

Today people marvel at what a 'good boy' my son is. It's great to hear, but it also makes me happy to know he doesn't have to be good for me to love being his mom. I know that those darker thoughts and feelings have nothing to do with being a 'good mom' or with loving my child.

Motherhood has been an amazing journey and a very challenging one. I've made it over some hills and I plan to make it over many more. In heels no less.

By Lisa Cunningham
Originally published on The Purple Fig

The Purple Fig is a community where women share personal and relatable stories; no ego, no shame. We're about life, love and all of the stuff that makes us yearn, squirm, and giggle. These stories make up the authentic and intriguing journey of a woman.

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