In light of Mother’s Day being just over a week away, I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that, well, I’m a mother at all, since I spent most of my life never really questioning whether I’d have kids – I just figured I wouldn’t. I wasn’t mom material, if you’d asked me - I wasn’t built for it, I wasn’t interested in it, and I certainly couldn’t imagine how it would actually happen. And I spent nearly zero time thinking about it, to be honest. But when I did, I sort of cringed at the entire thing – from pregnancy to childbirth and beyond, the whole notion just seemed completely foreign and definitely meant for other people who hated their vaginas.
However, most of my girlfriends were certain of their pending motherhood. They were certain about marriage and certain about children and I was sort of in awe, actually, because I wasn’t certain about, well, anything. And I was having trouble just figuring out who I even was, what the hell I was doing with my life, and who would possibly want to come along on that ride with me? Not to mention mingling their DNA with mine and having any sort of authority over another human’s life – that just seemed unfair to the poor kid! So, instead, I spent my 20s and part of my 30s taking winding roads, making U-turns, and eventually getting a map and straightening out my compass. And when I did, I found myself on this road alongside Ian, which surprised us both, I think. We’d bump into one another, run the other way, and eventually wander across a few fields to meet back up again.
So, when we finally decided to just share one map, I knew what it meant: Motherhood. Marrying Ian meant that I would venture down the road to becoming a mom. Ian always knew he’d be a dad; he’d dreamed about it, hoped for it, and knew it as part of his core being. And so, I slept easier knowing that being married to him meant that my imaginary kids would have at least one super-stable parent and also me. But I wasn’t too worried, honestly, because I was sort of assuming that my age at the time (37) would be a huge factor in not allowing a kid into the mix…..and promptly found myself with a newborn less than a year later.
Throughout my pregnancy, I went through the fears that I think a lot of women do, even those who always knew motherhood in their souls. “What if I’m terrible at this?” “What if I mess this kid up forever?” “What were we thinking?”
However, when that little girl was born, taking on the role of Rauri’s Mom was the most natural thing I’ve ever done. Wait, scratch that – that’s not true. Loving Rauri and innately wanting to protect and nurture and grow her was the most natural thing in the world. That basic instinct kicked in strong and right from the start. At the same time, I found the mechanics of having a newborn to be simultaneously the best and hardest thing I’d ever done. Having a newborn can be so easy…and so boring. And so hard and exhausting…and totally the best. But also? I was battling some serious hormones, some serious struggles, and some serious need to get back out into the world and talk to grown-ups.
Now don't get me wrong, yes, when her little soft baby hands would wrap themselves around my index finger? I’d melt and sit there, held literally and figuratively captive, for hours, if need be. But when I had to carefully and meticulously cut a poop-filled onesie off of her and somehow still got feces in my fingernails and in her little baby ear? I was ready to go back to the office, like, yesterday.
And as I did, what I started to discover – after loads of someone else’s bodily fluids seemed to take over a substantial part of my life and every landfill nearby – is that, as she and her little sister began to grow and hold up their own heads and sit up on their own and crawl for the outlets and stand to look over the coffee table and wobble towards their favorite toy and say “dadda” one million times a day and use a spoon on their own and make their first friend and learn the alphabet and tell me they love me and wipe their own butt sometimes and run off to their classroom without looking back and have dance parties with us in the kitchen and follow me around the house, asking me the same question eight thousand times until I answer in exasperation and snuggling up to me on the couch out of want and not necessity – is that we’re in this together. Thankfully for me, my girls didn’t know that I was clueless when they came along. They didn’t know that they got the mom who never dreamed of one day holding a little, perfect baby in her arms. They just got me, their mom. And years ago, we came to the unspoken agreement that we’d figure this thing out together – I’d help keep them safe and grow them up strong, and they’d be patient while I figured out that their head was actually in the onesie armhole instead of the neckhole and also how to change a crib in the dark when your kid is covered in her own pee. I’m learning how to be their mom with each skinned knee, each new skill learned, each mistake and each time we all have to count to ten before throwing a tantrum so that we can put up with each other’s shit one more time.
Being a mom wasn’t something I’d planned on for most of my life. And now? It’s part of my life’s work. It’s part of what gets me out of bed in the morning, brings me focus, and helps me embrace chaos. Becoming their mom feels like I’ve unlocked a part of me that I didn’t know was hidden in there and I’ve made it a goal to better know myself so that I can show up better for those little girls.
But before we get too sappy, let’s keep it real. I’m also the mom who literally watched one of them eat dirt the other day, spit it out, and look at me with disgust that I let it happen. And then I said, “Well, now you’ll know better next time!”
Also? I’ve learned that telling them not to eat dirt seems to make it more of a challenge to shove as much dirt into their mouths as quickly as possible, so I'm not wasting my breath. Which is a parenting win for me that I’m not spending energy on some of the things I can’t control and, instead, I’ll just make sure their vaccines are up-to-date. That’s leveling up for this mama!
Sort of like all of those years when my parents would give me advice, try to guide and teach me from their mistakes, and I’d be like, “I’ve got no time for you dumb-dumbs, I’ve got life figured out!” And then I’d eat dirt and look at them with disgust and they’d be like, “Don’t do that next time, then, dumb-dumb!”
Life, full circle. And that’s what this mama journey, as it turns out, is all about.