According to Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, the definition of maternal is "of, relating to, belonging to, or characteristic of a mother." In other words, it's those natural and warm instincts that are traditionally associated with being a mom. Acting maternal should come easy to all women, right? So, to be a mother is to be maternal. Well, actually, no. Not all mothers feel maternal, even after having more than one baby. To some women, motherhood comes with a severe learning curve — one that takes a lot of time and practice. How do I know? I'm one of them.
I didn't like being needed that much. How unmaternal is that? I thought I was supposed to love being attached to my baby all the time.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I enjoyed coaching the little kids at soccer camp and was also a teacher for a period of time. I adored helping children learn, and their joy made my heart swell. Plus, I had heard numerous stories from my own mother and my friends about how euphoric motherhood is for them. They made it sound like it was as blissful as falling in love for the first time, which, I guess it sort of is. So, I assumed it would be that way for me, too. Only it wasn't.
When I was pregnant, I felt excited like many first-time moms. I registered for all the necessities, got the nursery set up perfectly, and did my research about child-rearing. But when I brought my baby boy home from the hospital and stepped into my house for the first time as a mother, I felt everything but maternal. Nothing about being a mother felt natural to me. The lack of sleep, the horror that was breastfeeding, and the constantly being needed — yeah, I was lost. I felt like I needed a GPS to help me navigate my way through the fog of early motherhood.
Not only did I not know what I was doing, but the pressure of loving motherhood at all hours of the day was too immense for me to handle. I'm a confident enough mother to admit this now, but at the time, I didn't like being needed that much. How unmaternal is that? I thought I was supposed to love being attached to my baby all the time. I felt so inadequate and ashamed that motherhood was not this innate, blissful experience for me like I had heard it was from so many other mothers. I felt like a fraud. But I kept trying. I cuddled and loved him through my constant flow of tears.
Eventually, I started to feel like I was getting the hang of it. I was still unsteady, but I truly began enjoying my firstborn instead of beating myself up over things not coming naturally to me. And while I know I'm not maternal, I also know that I'm still a pretty damn good mother. I love both of my children despite my intense learning curve. So if "maternal" isn't in your DNA, it's OK. Trust me. Mothering will get easier and your children will love you no matter what. Don't let the word get in your way of being the best mother you can be.