On one hand, I don't know how I feel about my daughter Sarah stumbling upon this blog one day and reading these words.
But on the other hand, I feel compelled to share my story with her, and for other women who think that they're not cut out to be a mother. If my daughter grows up to be anything like me, she might even identify with my words herself.
So here goes.
When it came to babies, I could hold an infant for a few minutes and babysit on occasion, but I was always more than ready to hand the kids back over and get back to my adventurous lifestyle.
I never had that longing for kids.
I never looked at a pregnant woman and wished I was in her shoes.
In fact, seeing baby bottle parts strewn all over a kitchen counter and a plethora of kids' toys littering friends' living room floors sent me into a kind of panic. I don't want that, I would say to myself. The irritation I felt from screaming kids and crying babies seemed to reinforce my conviction that maybe I wasn't meant to be a mother, and I began to loathe the question from well meaning family and friends: "so when are you going to have your own?"
So when my husband Randy and I stopped NOT trying to have kids, I was still very unsure. But my husband was really ready to be a dad, so I agreed (more or less) that perhaps it was time. And I'll be honest, when I saw that plus symbol on the pregnancy test, the only emotion I felt was shock (a stupid reaction, all things considered).
As the weeks stretched into months and my body began changing, my emotions began a war inside me.
When I would feel the baby flutter in my belly, excitement and gratitude would well up inside me. But when it came time to register at Babies R Us, I practically ran out of the store in a complete panic-- leaving the attendant looking confused and my husband disappointed.
What the heck is a level two, slow flow nipple?? Wait, do we need to have a monitor with a sensor pad to prevent SIDS? How do you install a car seat? Sleep schedules--what's that?? Do I have to own a Boppy pillow to breastfeed? Wait, HOW do you breastfeed??
Pamphlets on Vaccines, formaldehyde in mattresses, and the the dangers of feeding honey to infants flooded my mailbox (and inbox). Friends and family kept offering to throw baby showers, and I began to feel sure that my lack of excitement about ANYTHING pregnancy or baby related was about to be noticed by everyone and I would be publicly shamed. After all, don't I know how many women would give anything to be in my shoes (which stopped fitting at the 35 week mark anyway)? Aren't children the most precious gift that anyone can receive? WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME??
As I reached the nine month mark, I kept waiting to go into "nesting" mode. You know--where pregnant women get superhuman bursts of energy to fulfill their desire of making their house into a model home?
But it never happened.
My panic seemed to spiral as the app on the phone counted down the days until the baby's arrival. We didn't find out the sex of the baby (which in hindsight probably made prenatal bonding more difficult).
Just before the baby was born, I finally confessed my fears to my dear friend Lindsay, who has always been a great listener. After hearing me out, she asked what I thought was a random question:
"Were you excited about planning your wedding?"
I paused. Lindsay had sang in my wedding. I wonder if she could sense during the festivities that I wasn't really into opening the presents and decorating the chapel.
She must have seen the answer on my face, and her following words were like balm to my soul:
"Just because you weren't excited about planning your wedding doesn't mean that you didn't want to get married."
Those words seemed to click something back into place for me. Just because I didn't care about bridesmaid dresses, party favors, and flower arrangements didn't mean I didn't love Randy. I mean, I bought my wedding dress alone. Who does that??
Lindsay is the longest friendship I have ever had and she knows me pretty well. She knows that I hate bows and ribbons and words like "adorable!" and "precious!" rarely escape my mouth. So she threw me an anti-baby shower. It was outside. And AWESOME! No dresses were allowed. There was even a campfire (that I had to assist with after the two husbands who were helping set up had trouble starting it).
That baby shower made me realize that maybe motherhood didn't have to be what I always dreaded.
And now, 7 months after Sarah's arrival, I cannot really explain what all my fears were about.
Is being a parent hard?
Are there days (and nights) that seem like they will never end?
Are there times when I feel like I am failing at being a mother?
But I love it. I love being Sarah's mom. I went to a movie tonight by myself and left early just so I could get home in time to finish giving Sarah a bath before bed (and because the new rendition of "Annie" was terribly disappointing).
Those bottle parts strewn all over the kitchen counter that used to make me cringe?
Well those are Sarah's bottles.
The toys all over the living room floor?
Those are Sarah's toys.
It's weird, but it really is true when people say "it's different when they're your own."
The dirty diapers aren't so disgusting anymore. When she's sick and waking up every hour at night, I want to be the one to get up with her.
An entire day of fussiness can be forgotten by just one of her smiles.
The most stressful day at work can be left at the door when I hear her babbling.
Listening to her laugh makes me experience a new emotion I've never felt before. Joy. Which I think means "to make the heart happy."
I've never felt that before.
I've spent years delaying getting pregnant, because I wanted "to live." I wanted to travel and go to school.
And I did. This website is full of details on my journeys to far off lands. I got my undergrad and Master's degree in writing (and now my only wish is to quit my job and stay home with this precious baby). I spent forever completing my "pre-baby bucket list" because I thought life was over once parenthood began.
I was wrong. I was SO wrong. And I admit I used to roll my eyes at girls who started their families young. Thinking how they were ruining their lives and giving up opportunities. That I was the one who was really living.
Well now I see the light. Children are the greatest joy. Nothing else can compare with the fulfillment that comes from seeing that toothless grin when I walk in the door.