Monday, September 24, 2007

Reflections on this thing called motherhood

Yesterday, we hosted what I like to call “Hell on a moonbounce,” AKA a birthday party for the boy’s fourth birthday. This party did not fall on the actual day of his birth, that would be tomorrow, because when you have birthday parties on the weekend? People attend. So yesterday afternoon, some 20 or more children, ranging in ages between 3 and 7, descended upon this inflatable party zone and whooped it up for a couple of hours. I’m utterly exhausted still.

Sitting here, on the eve of my child's 4th birthday, I cannot help but not feel totally comfortable with this new role (aka, Mommy to a Preschooler). I have NEVER been what I like to call a “Mommy”-type. I’ve never been crafty, never particularly enjoyed children, never liked being cutesy. As I was shopping on Saturday for the items to complete this completely adorable Halloween project involving mini-pumpkins that I saw in Parents magazine, i went a little crazy over thecutesthalloweendoormatyouveeverseenomg!, and I realized that the worm had turned, so to speak. Not only am I decorating for a holiday other than Christmas, but I actually WANT to do these things! I WANT to make stuff with my son! I want to be the house on the street that has a themed door hanging that rotates around each major holiday season. Not only that, but I want to bake and cook and do all of the other stuff that my mom did for me when I was a child.

Next thing you know, I’ll be buying a sewing machine. Actually, I’ve seriously considered this several times over the past few months. I swear y’all, I think I may need therapy!

Four years and nine some-odd months ago, I was a completely different person. Back then, I was all pro-choice this, feminist BS that, blah, blah, blah. Then, I found out I was pregnant. In the space of half a heartbeat, I realized that I could never, EVER be pro-abortion (err, pro-choice). And while this realization was ever-heartening, I was very much in denial about my current status. I pretty much ignored the fact that I was pregnant as much as I could in my mind. I just couldn’t reconcile the old me with the new. I still feel guilty for not having those instant feelings of joy, for not immediately running out and buying What to Expect When You’re Expecting, for feeling embarrassed when I went out to buy maternity clothes for the first time… I still feel as though I let my baby down in a lot of ways before he was even born.

Then he was here. And I went from pregnant to mother and I was thoroughly unprepared. I didn’t even have a nursery put together because we were planning on moving. Don’t get me wrong, I felt the unrelenting, enduring, almost physical rush of emotions and love that bursts through your heart at the same moment your child takes his first breath, but I felt so lost. And I felt so alone, even when I was surrounded by friends, family, and my husband. That first night in the hospital, when I was supposed to be sleeping, I shuffled down to the nursery to watch my baby through the window. There he was. He was being held by one of the nurses. She saw me and gestured for me to come in and hold him. I just stood there, shook my head, and tears started streaming down my face. I turned and went back to my room and bawled for most of the night. I was scared shitless, in other words.

I spent the first year of my son’s life in a haze of no sleep and no clue what I was doing. I had a notion in my head of what being a perfect mother was, and I never felt as though I measured up. I couldn’t understand or comprehend how my friends with children could function the way that they did. They colored and played dolls and trains. They made cookies and dinner and their houses were clean. I could barely muster up the energy to shower, much less keep the house neat and cook dinner. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home for the first year and a half, but even though I did, I couldn’t do the seemingly simplest of tasks (his baby book, for example). All I wanted to do was sleep if I ever got the luxury. Forget being productive. I did do a little real estate work and I had lunch dates and mommy’s night outs, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Then I went back to work, mainly so that we both could be around people our own age during the day, and all of the guilt that I felt at not being “enough” and not knowing what I was doing was transitioned into guilt because I wasn’t at home. I have this thing about never letting myself win in a situation. I always have to find a reason to feel badly about something.

Fast forward to today. My baby will turn 4 tomorrow. I have reconciled a lot of my guilt and let it go. Chalk it up to the fact that I must be doing something right… My baby is so smart, well-spoken, mostly-polite, not a bully, loving, empathetic, and just all-around wonderful. I know I got lucky. There are still times that I wish I could go back in time and get a re-do on the past four years so that I could be more of the craftsy-mom who can do it all. Then I remember the no sleeping thing. Nah, I’ll just thank my lucky stars that I was blessed with this incredibly amazing creature who is growing up way too fast for me (Seriously? Can I please slow this down a tiny bit? I enjoy him so much these days!). Besides, he wouldn’t have remembered making mini-pumpkin spiders with me when he was a month old anyway.

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