First off, I was mostly surprised to be a mom at all! I was one of those girls who never got clucky looking at babies. I never babysat while growing up and was an only child with no real desire for a younger sibling. My husband, on the other hand, is about as baby crazy as they come. So, after a few years of marriage it was time to bite the bullet.
My bite was pretty tentative and soft, so much so that we ended up on a therapist’s couch to bang out (no pun intended, really) my trepidation. What the therapist said will stick with me always. She said, “This is what you signed up for. Marriages/partnerships are about honoring each other’s desires and meeting the other in the middle. You will never not be scared. Having children is scary. But there will never be a less scary or better time to do this.”
Gulp, sort of great advice for any situation! And that was that. I went home, got off the pill for the first time in a decade and… was pregnant a week later!!!!! Holy crap!
Pregnancy is not my favorite bodily state, but I will say that I’ve managed to find some pretty good ways of making the whole thing fairly painless and marginally glamorous. However, that’s another blog entirely!
What I found upon giving birth for the first time – and am still learning now as the mother of two – is that motherhood is not at all what I expected. Here are few of the happy surprises I’ve encountered thus far:
I thought I knew what love was. I thought I had plumbed the depths of my heart’s capacity… but I hadn’t. I have never loved the way I love my children. From the moment each one was placed into my arms my heart burst with the fiercest love-fire imaginable. And it’s entirely unconditional. It is love in defiance of, and in indifference to, the difficulty that being a parent can entail. It is the love of a parent for a child and is much different than the love for your partner. But more on that at another time. Sometimes I love my kids so hard that I want to eat them and stuff them back into my body, is that weird?
Mom-dom has also forced me to get over my fear of aging, even dying! Being your regular super vain girl, I used to be afraid that aging or even becoming a mom would somehow render me sexless, uncreative and irrelevant. But after giving birth, I was shocked to find myself pining for my golden years. I honestly can’t wait to be a grandparent. I suppose the key to this is that the mystery of who my kids will become and being part of their growth is much more captivating than looking young or seeming cool. Who woulda thunk it? Being a grandparent seems to garner all the love without the responsibility. Looks like a pretty good deal to me. The happiness and closeness that our kids have brought to our parents has been revolutionary.
The night we brought our daughter home from the hospital, she was screaming like a banshee with that quivering baby bird lip tremble of a newborn. My husband and I looked at each other, exhausted, in a major “What have we done?” moment. I walked into the room I had painstakingly prepared for her (a luxury my son would not enjoy, but more on second kids later) and it struck me! Our parents were human beings just like us; they did the best they could with what they had and where they were in history. It simply floored me to realize that. Being a parent is tough – we will make mistakes that will scar our kids, just as we have been “scarred”. But letting go of whatever minor mistakes my parents had made and allowing myself the leeway to make my own inevitable mistakes was a big moment, for me at least. It freed me up to just do my best. It’s all any of us can do!
The little things have shocked me too. Guess who was totally (okay, reasonably) cool with getting lice – twice! – 9 months into her last pregnancy? Me! We turned it into an adventure, mother/daughter de-lousing. Gross, but kind of fun. Having spent my life being perpetually late, I am now almost on time. Parenthood has strangely made me more efficient with my time. It seems when you don’t have as much, you are forced to spend it more wisely and efficiently.
I’ve also learned the value of “me time.” However difficult finding time can be, carving out an hour (or 15 minutes, whatever you can manage) to do something that makes you feel great every day is hugely important. I can’t be a present, fun and focused parent if I don’t feel satisfied in my own life.
I could go on and on, but lastly, being a Mom has made me a better person, I hope. Or at the very least, it has made me more self-reflective. Kids are like a mirror, especially when they hit 3 or 4 and are really communicating like gangbusters. My son is still quite young but my daughter, at 4, already projects back my inconsistencies, my vanity, my insecurities and my faults.
Jamie Lee Curtis said in an interview that kids are like the paparazzi, capturing images of you at your worst and projecting those images back to you. I thought that was an apt metaphor. If you are willing to get honest with yourself, these mirroring moments are better than any therapist. For example, what does my love of fashion and pretty things say to my daughter? It doesn’t mean I have to do away with these things but it does mean that I have to acknowledge and understand my motivation and relay to her the good and the bad of it. It also means that if I say something, I have to do it, no waffling, because she will call me out on it. I have to own my actions and my thoughts. I have to be thoughtful about everything I say and how I convey the world to her. As foreboding and heavy as it sounds, I am grateful for the pressure to never skate through life blindly.
All I’m really saying here is that for all the things you give up as a parent, what you get back is everything and more. I’m excited to write more for you all on all this stuff, being a mom, being a wife, and then all the super fun stuff like fashion, food, theater and film! Hurrah! Let me know anything else that you are itching to talk about.
Image via DecideForYourself