You know that BBC show, "Faking It," where they take a house painter/burger flipper/sheep shearer and turn him into an artist/chef/hair stylist? The bumbling volunteer has four weeks to effect the transformation, with the help of skilled subject-matter mentors and the motivation of a national television audience. The process is invariably gruelling, emotions run high, the words "I can't" are muttered and shouted and cried, the mentors give tough love and there's just no going back.
At the end of the four weeks, expert judges are brought in to spot the faker in a field of pros. More often than not, the house painter/burger flipper/sheep shearer succeeds in fooling the judges, if only just. And we, the audience, say to ourselves, Boy, that pole dancer sure does look like a genuine equestrienne! or, Goodness me, that classical cellist makes a really good DJ!. More impressive, however, is the fact that so many of the volunteers find themselves thinking that maybe, just maybe, they are meant to be artists or chefs or hair stylists. That it's for real.
When I was pregnant, each new symptom and predictable body change surprised me: I would think to myself, How funny, that's just like a real pregnancy. And when Olivia arrived, and cried and pooped and squirmed, I thought, Huh. Just like a real baby. (My dad, after first being introduced to Olivia, said that he was so impressed with her; that somehow, knowing how she was made, he had this idea in the back of his mind that there would be something wrong with her. And while it sounds rather horrid and blunt, who am I to judge? Even knowing that there's no basis for such an assumption, isn't that just what I feared and expected, too?)
Motherhood has, from day one, seemed like a high-stakes Faking It episode. The sheer fact that I was allowed to name her--that this name I decided on is now official, printed up neatly on a Social Security card with a number she'll use for the rest of her life--makes me feel like an impostor. I go through these often joyous motions of motherhood--the feeding and changing, smiling and chirping, carrying her in the sling and pushing her in the stroller--but still think, Who, me? whenever someone asks how old my daughter is. My god, the word "daughter" alone is enough to daze me.
I remember feeling something similar when Jeff and I first got married. He introduced me to someone as his wife--his wife?--and it sounded like something silly we'd made up between us. It took me a good six months not to giggle inside at words like "husband" and "spouse".
Of course, six years later, it feels perfectly natural. With the help of my own subject-matter mentors--you, for example--I think one day motherhood will, too.