I don't how it is for everyone else, but I definitely had that feeling, when they sent us home from the hospital, that maybe it wasn't a good idea to send the baby home with me. I mean, I liked her well enough, but I wasn't a mom. I was just a person who had a baby.
And while that identity has been slowly solidifying ever since, I really think I became a mom--or at least gained some confidence as one--in a single moment when she was about three weeks old. This is how it went down.
Sam had been on a work-related trip for three days. Well, one full day and two half days, but it felt like three years. She of course screamed most of the night the first night he was gone, and I only got her to calm down and sleep by taking her out to my car at one a.m. and driving around until she zonked out. I spent the next day--literally, all of it--going to Target, getting her a motorized swing, getting the swing back home and assembling it one-handed while I held her, realizing it needed batteries, wearing her in a moby wrap down to the convenience store in the rain to get the dumb batteries, all to earn a few hours of peace while she slept and swung. (It was worth it.)
And on the third day, the day Sam was coming home, I got her ready to go well ahead of time, strapped her into her car seat, and put on her warm hat. I was relieved we had both survived We headed out for the airport, and she started screaming. Oh, she was wailing. And as I drove, I tried to decide whether she was just going to wail all the way the airport, or if there was something I could do.
I thought, as we neared the freeway entrance, that it was possible her little hat was covering her eyes. Her cry sounded a little like the way she'd cried previously when her hat was in her eyes, and I wondered if it would be foolish to pull over and check. I sort of laughed at myself in my head--as if I could tell what her cries sounded like already, and as if it would really be worth it to pull over and put on my hazard lights and get out of the car. It seemed a bit extreme. I wondered about my future self, a seasoned mom with more than one kid, and I wondered if that future self would look back at this silly new-mom self, and think, "Oh, honey."
Listening to her cry, I realized I didn't give a darn what that future seasoned mom self thought, and I pulled over. Maybe I'd be wrong, and maybe we'd drive the whole way there with her crying, but maybe there would be something I could do. Sure enough, when I crawled in the backseat, there she was, hat covering her eyes. And as soon as I pulled it up and gave her back her pacifier, she settled down. She slept the whole way to the airport.
In the silence of that car, I felt like hooting and hollering. It was maybe one of the biggest highs of my life. I was a mom! There was this little person who was upset and I fixed it! I had an impulse--a motherly impulse--and lo and behold, it was correct. The city of Boston was spread out in front of me as I drove, the buildings looking like jeweled boxes, and I remembered being a little girl and feeling excited at the sight of a city, and I had an idea of driving into Boston with Henrietta when she got a little older, and I wondered if it would look as magical for her as it had for me. Either way, the city was magical that night, seeing it as a mom, seeing it through the someday-eyes of my baby. It was the first time I felt like maybe the hospital was right to send her home with me, of all people. With little old me.