From the time I was a little girl, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up- get married and be a mom, just like mine! Actually, first I wanted to be a truck driver. And then a mom. You know, just a regular mom who drove her baby with her in the car seat in her semi as she crossed the country, chatting it up on the CB and seeing the sights. In retrospect that seems pretty unrealistic, but those commercials they aired during my Gilligan's Island reruns after school really persuaded me that trucking was for everyone- even me and my baby. And my future husband, who would of course ALSO be a truck driver. I had it all figured out.
So, after dreaming of it my whole life, unsuccessfully trying to convince my baby sister that I was actually her mom, being the #1 babysitter for dozens of families, teaching Sunday school, working at the Y, getting a certificate in education and settling into my career as a teacher, Paul and I were married. (He's not a trucker, but he'll do :) For a few blissful years we enjoyed two incomes, a busy social calendar and few responsibilities outside of mowing the lawn and occasionally cleaning the bathroom. After we had all that perfected parenthood seemed like the next logical step! We were over the moon when we found out we were expecting our first child. I was finally going to be a mom. It all seemed so right.
When Philip Theodore was born, however, I was TOTALLY not prepared. When I held him in my arms for the first time, the emotion hit me like one of those semis I had dreamed of driving long ago. To say I was floored and unnerved by it would be an understatement! I had expected more of the blissful, generically loving feeling I had been experiencing throughout my pregnancy. I had visions of gazing at my child's face and feeling love surround me like a warm blanket. Instead I had my first introduction to what the Mack truck of "mother love" really feels like. Romantic love seemed like nothing. . .I mean, I really, really, love Paul. I would probably do anything for him- cut my hair or give him my liver or drink poison Romeo and Juliet style or really just about anything he needed. But the love I felt for little Phil was something completely different- it was more fiercely protective, more overwhelmingly deep, more moving than anything I had ever experienced. In fact, I had no idea that Paul was even in the room. Paul? Paul who?? I knew in that instant that I would throw myself in front of a bus or kill someone with my bare hands to protect this child. I mean, ME?? I can't even kill a spider! That's how raw this emotion was. I didn't even know how to process it. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I could barely look at his sweet angel face without bursting into tears because- hadn't he grown just in the past hour? Oh, no, he's just growing so FAST!!! In retrospect, it's pretty darn embarrassing! Whoever said becoming a mother means letting your heart beat outside of your body really hit the nail on the head. It was all wrapped up in that cute, soft little package. My heart. His body. And not just his body. . .but that of any other child in the universe. I lost any ability watch the evening news, because in any tragedy all I can think of is the mothers. . .the ones who can't find their children, the ones who had to watch their children die, the ones who had to leave this earth too soon and won't see their children grow. Nope, I am tearing up just thinking about it, I had better leave that alone for now.
Now that we have three children, our friends often ask. . .which do you think was harder- 1 to 2? 2 to 3? Paul and I don't miss a beat when we say 0 to 1. No contest. As if the overwhelming love wasn't hard enough to deal with in the hospital, it was much more intense back in our own home. Everything seemed different- our house looked different and all of the sudden not clean enough or organized enough or good enough for our new baby. I still couldn't eat. Even having a cat for a pet seemed like too much work, and we were so overwhelmed we had to send poor Bootsy to my parents house for a few weeks. Being awake at all hours had seemed so fun when we were the ones choosing to be awake back in our party days, but now it just seemed cruel and devastating. I remember at one point Paul and I looking at each other in desperation and him saying to me, "HOW do people EVER want to do this more than once??" The transition to parenting for us was more difficult that anyone would have imagined. I am sure having an extra fussy baby didn't help, but, then again, maybe it's difficult for everyone.
My mom made it look so deceptively easy- nice meals on the table, perfectly done hair and makeup, pretty outfits. She always wore matching nightgowns and robes, made beautiful dresses for my sister and I for every holiday, and still had enough time to work on my homework with me, take care of her own mom, work part-time AND even sneak in an afternoon nap. Plus, she never, EVER, ever ever lost her temper with me. (The only time I ever remember her seeming that angry was when she was teaching me to drive, but most reasonable people get stressed when I am behind the wheel.) Coming from that background, I had way too high of expectations for myself! At some point on my mothering journey, my mom 'fessed up and said that the real secret is that NOONE REALLY TELLS YOU HOW HARD IT IS.
I guess they wouldn't.
I mean, who would?
Because, yeah, it's hard. But it's good. It's way too good not to put up with the hard. Actually, too good to even put into words and explain it to someone else. It's stepping-on-a-lego-in-your-bare-feet painful and sweet-little-boy-fresh-from-the-bath-on-your-lap-reading-goodnight-moon sweet. It's peeling-stickers-off-the-floor tedious and I-wuv-you-mahmee glorious. It's messy and fun and hard and effortless and silly and exhausting and uplifting and humbling and amazing all at once.
And maybe I am not as good at it as I thought I would be. And that's OK, too. Because if my PERFECT MOM said it wasn't easy, then I must not be a complete failure at it. Who knows, maybe if I just smile and pick myself up when I fail, someday my kids will look back and think that THEY had the perfect mom, too? And really, what more does God ask of us than to keep trying our best, keep loving with that perfect mother-love He gave us, and keep moving forward?
Micah 6:8 “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)
And P.S. Obviously we decided more than one was going to be just fine. And the holding your baby for the first time the second time and third time around feels much more like a warm blanket than a Mack truck, so that was good, too. :)