In the long process of becoming pregnant, I didn’t really give much thought to what motherhood would be like.
Much of my time was spent peeing on sticks, taking my temperature, going to the doctor’s office for vaginal ultrasounds, counting days, suffering disappointment, and holding my legs up in the air in hope that it would help swimmers get to where they needed to be. Lots of people around me were having babies and I figured we would all eventually hang out like we were at a sorority tea with our babies and it would be adorable.
Not so much.
It ended up being more like a re-entry into middle school. Our bodies were all changing and things we never imagined happening occurred before our eyes, except there were no Judy Blume books available to explain all these changes, so we had to talk to someone about them. Nobody really knew what they were doing, except the gifted few who always reminded you they knew exactly what was best. To say we were awkward really doesn’t do it justice. Like the three years of middle school, the first three years of motherhood became primarily about survival.
Quietly questions would be asked. You know the ones. Is it normal to have an earthy smell down there or do I have some sort of infection? All the breast-feeding questions. Discussions of the Sahara Desert post the six-week appointment and how to solve such problems.
My tribe was found via natural selection. If you shuddered at the thought of such topics, you moved on quickly. If you stuck your nose in the air and said things like, “I don’t understand how you can’t shower everyday,” or “Those problems don’t happen to me,” or “I love my baby so much it doesn’t matter that she cries constantly and doesn’t sleep,” I found my way to greener pastures. If you could laugh about the tough parts and cry about the really tough parts, there was a good chance we would find community. Nothing wrong with the other moms, just not the ones for me.
I found myself surrounded by moms who were doing what was best for their kids, but totally okay with my doing what was best for mine even if it was completely different. My best friend quit her corporate job to stay at home. I felt a little envious, but didn’t want it to divide us. Instead, I focused on my admiration for her decision to do what was best for her and the courage to make a change. Other friends decided to stop at one child. Some went on to have four. What banded us together was the refrain, “I’m so glad you’re happy.”
Not everything was happy all the time and these women who patted me on the back to tell me I was doing great were also the women who would look me in the eye and ask me if I needed to change my unhappy situation. Holding people accountable is hard and scary, but my favorite moms are brave. They also were leading by example to exit the unhappiness. Watching others take flying leaps of faith somehow makes it easier for me to do it too.
And then there is the wine and laughter. I consider them to be the Butt Paste and diaper wipes of motherhood. You can rarely use too much and when used properly wipes away the shit and heals the sores. It is also the only thing that cures you from going in to get your toddler from a nap to find that she has removed her poopy diaper and said feces have been spread…everywhere, including all over her now empty sippy cup. I’m not one to drink alone and it is awfully hard to sustain laughter over a shit storm without a friend.
I’m proud to be a part of the band of sisters who are saving the soldier that is down in the war zone of motherhood…unwilling to let one be left behind. The one who stays up extra late to talk a mom through a tough day, knowing she will be bone tired the next day that will start far too early. The one who is just a text away for a cheer, a coach, or just to listen to a rant. The one who doesn’t have to look you in the eye to know you aren’t well.
To each of you who has built me up, told me I wasn’t alone, made me laugh, picked me up, extended a helping hand, threw me a life-preserver, lifted me up, encouraged me to do better, reminded me I was enough, pushed me up, held space for me, wiped my tears, toasted to tomorrow being a new day, and still likes me knowing my truth, I love you. I LOVE YOU!
Happy Mother’s Day! This day wouldn’t be the same without you. I wouldn’t be the same without you.