A Kind of Culture Shock

Never having been a mother before, it is somewhat odd that there is so much familiarity in the unfamiliar. Part of this is simply that mothers instinct has kicked in. Not being a maternal person, I never truly believed this would happen. Miraculously, it did.

Another part, I think, is being used to venturing into the unfamiliar. I can not help but compare my first week as a mom with my various first times in a new country. That feeling of being lost, disoriented and completely unprepared while at the same time feeling exhilarated, adventurous, and full of anticipation.

Take Korea- My first journal entry reads something along the lines of, “What the bleepity, bleep am I doing here?! Have I made a horrible mistake? Can I do this? Do I want to do this? Holy bleepity bleep!” In the same entry, I answer what I knew all along. “Yes, I can do this. Yes, I do want to be here.” As the end of my pregnancy approached, the same fears came to me. Can I do this? Am I going to be a good mother? Am I ready? At the end of the day, the answer was yes. Absolutely yes.

Guatemala- We lost our guidebook in the first minutes of being in the country. We were left in a dodgy hostel with no clue how to get out of the intimidating Guatemala city. Bal figured we’d be okay since I spoke some Spanish but after a long, sleepless plane ride and arriving in an overwhelming airport in the middle of the night, my mind went blank and I could neither understand a word of the language, nor produce any words of my own.
I never lost any of my baby guidebooks but do you think I could find any time to even look through them. Even when I did, I would consult the index of what I needed to look up, and the answers were never given. Words like fussy, green poo, explanations of my baby’s different cries, whistle mouth or blistered nipples did not show up in the index. These guidebooks were no help to me at all! Bal wasn’t much help either. He was looking at me like I should know what to do. I probably gave him the same look. Neither of us had a clue. We didn’t yet speak her language.

Scotland- The plane ride to Glasgow felt incredibly long. Upon arrival, we were disoriented and exhausted but were immediately thrust into what must have been playoff season for their Football (Soccer) season. The airport was packed with hoards of people in different coloured jersey’s, team colours and face paints. There were scarves and flags and posters and mascots in tow. Eventually, we made it through the masses of chanting, cheering and singing sections and found the car rental desk. Upon getting our smaller than expected car, we set off to our first town. On the way we oriented ourselves to the opposite side of the road and roundabouts where we had no idea who had the right to round.
Much like entering parenthood. You think you know what you’re going to get when you arrive, but it is so much more complex, interesting and well, just so much more. Everything around is similar, but nothing will ever be the same.

Bolivia- Entering La Paz, the capital city, is something I will never forget. Sitting at an elevation of 4100m, the highest city in the world, your breath is, literally, taken away as you enter. Arriving by bus, we rounded a corner and were suddenly looking down at this fascinating, unknown city. Once we arrived at our stop, I was in awe of the historical buildings, colourful clothing, and traditional markets that abounded. I wandered the streets, slowly, but in depth and was captivated.
Some of these same feelings hold true upon Kaya’s arrival into the world. Awe, wonderment, fascination and an overall feeling that it is all too indescribable until you are actually there yourself.

As it has been with every new country I have visited, I enter motherhood nervous, excited, exhausted, disoriented, lost, curious and with great anticipation of what lies ahead!


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