Tuesday, May 7, 2013


Yesterday, I asked a friend of mine who recently had a baby how she liked motherhood. Her response was not what I was expecting, though it should have been exactly that. She said she loved her baby, and that he was awesome, but that she didn't feel like "the mommy" yet. And then she asked me if I had felt like the mommy as soon as my son was born, or if it had "clicked" somewhere down the road.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, I was in shock. I didn't think I could get pregnant, so when I found out that I was, it took...a while...before it really sank in. I wasn't able to work while I was pregnant because there was a very real risk that I would miscarry. And so my career, part of what had really defined me for many years, was suddenly on hold. So in a matter of a month, I had gone from a single career-oriented woman, to a married Army wife and soon to be mom with no job and no real sense of self. I was thrilled that I was pregnant, because I had always wanted to have children. But the way it happened was not how I imagined it would be.

And there's the rub. Whether it's how or when we got pregnant, or what kind of mother we ultimately become, it's never how we planned it. I always thought that I would have a baby on my own, and that once the baby was born, I would go back to work and still be myself...just with a kid. But I got pregnant unexpectedly, after an unexpected marriage to a man who left for Iraq only a few months after we were married and I got pregnant. And so when my son was born, with no new husband there the way you imagine he will be when you get married, I was still trying to be the old me. The old me with the same friends, the same interests, the same selfish decision-making...just with a kid. My life had changed drastically in nine short months, and I was still clinging to the way things had been.

And then I had a wreck. A horrible, traumatic, twisted metal and shattered glass kind of wreck. My collar bone snapped and my head slammed into the side windshield giving me a giant hematoma on the side of my head while my car flipped and crashed and ultimately landed in a giant mud pit. And when the car finally stopped moving, it "clicked." I couldn't hear my son. There wasn't any movement. There wasn't any crying. It was just the eerie silence of five a.m. on the interstate in the middle of nowhere. And my heart just...stopped. And it didn't start beating again until I stuck my head through the shattered door window and saw his beady little eyes staring at me in the dark with a look of wonder and confusion. The ambulance showed up and was trying to assess my injuries and put me in a c-spine, but I wouldn't let them do anything for me until they checked Jameson. And when the paramedic came and told me that he was perfectly fine, not so much as a scratch on him, I burst into tears and was suddenly overcome with pain. My shoulder and my head throbbed. But he was ok, and that was all that mattered. And from that moment on, things were different.

Now, I'm not saying that women shouldn't expect to feel like the mommy until they've survived some kind of traumatic event. I could have just as easily experienced the "click" the first time I heard him say "momma," or any number of other random, seemingly mundane things that happen with kids. But for me, that was when I suddenly felt like "the mommy."

I never did go back to work. I had a daughter and now my full-time job is being the mommy to two kids. Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I have no identity anymore outside of being "the mommy." And sometimes I wonder if I would be happier if I went back to work and put the kids in daycare. But for me, with the transient, far from family life that we lead as a military family, that doesn't feel like the right choice for me and my kids. But, I am a remarkably calmer and more relaxed mommy now that I have two. I used to worry about every little thing with Jameson, and whenever he didn't reach a developmental milestone at the time specified by Dr. Knowitall in his book "Dr. Knowitall's Guide to Being a Mother," I inevitably blamed myself. Will he be ok as a formula fed baby because I couldn't breastfeed? (huuuuge guilt trip for me) Why is he constipated? When is he going to walk? Why isn't he talking like he should be? Why is he so afraid of other people? Should I send him to preschool or keep him at home? With Fallon, I have figured out the perfect feeding system to keep her pooping, she'll walk when she's ready, it's normal for her to not like strangers at this age, and yes, she'll probably go to preschool when it's time. She's dirty 80% of the time because she is an avid crawler, and I'm not going to limit her explorations because I want her to stay clean, nor am I going to waste precious time with my kids to turn into some psycho germaphobe compulsive cleaner because I don't want her legs to get dirty when she crawls around. It's dirt. She'll live.

We make plans. We have this vision of what kind of parent we will be. As mothers we are pressured from every direction by books, the media, moms who stay home, moms who work, moms who seem to do it all effortlessly but who in reality probably drink themselves into oblivion after the kids go to bed. But there really is no gold standard here. In the end, we are who we are, and that goes for what kind of mommy we are too. All that really matters is love. If you love your kids and you love your life and, most importantly, you love yourself, then you are the mommy that you're supposed to be. And whether you feel like "the mommy," or you feel like the same person you were before you gave birth, but now you have the extra added bonus of an awesome kid, that's completely and totally ok, too.