Sometimes when I feel like I should write but I don't have anything to talk about, I look back in the archives to see what was going on on this date in previous years. Suddenly I have seven years of history to look back on. How crazy is that?! Our posts from this time of year have really run the gamut.
Last year's posts were recapping our Syracuse vacation, which had its ups and downs. Two years ago and the year before were both dealing with Jacob's behavior issues. Both posts were very similar, and in fact both mentioned many of the same challenges. Even though I was pregnant and exhausted three years ago, I know that two years ago was way worse, as we were just getting into the thick of the worst behavior issues. Those issues were the ones that left me in tears most days and left me feeling helpless and hopeless all day, every day. That was, by far, one of the hardest periods of my life. Even though we still deal with so many challenges with Jacob, that phase was nearly impossible in comparison. The constant meltdowns, the violent mood swings, and the (still-present) constant backtalk were demoralizing. This was all leading up to Kindergarten, our Disney trip, and Jacob's Celiac diagnosis. It was a very disorienting time.
The year before that we'd just wrapped up a few days at my parents' house with my brother, sister-in-law, and niece in town, and another year prior I was recapping our vacation to Pittsburgh. That vacation was a lot of fun, but we were just starting to get into some of Jacob's earliest challenging behavior. He had a very hard time going to sleep in the hotel room, and we still talk about how he darted toward the pitcher's mound when he ran the bases at the Pirates game! The year before that, when Jacob was one, he was just starting to stand up on his own and I was pondering a lot of topics typical for the mom of a baby who was becoming more of a force in the world.
But the post that caught my eye the most was from seven years ago. Jacob was two months old and starting to get belly problems from what was probably the same intolerance and reflux that Carter ended up with (though, presumably, the intolerance was not as bad). I was still grappling with all of the changes brought on by parenthood, and I posted the text of an email forward my mom had sent me a couple years prior. I had saved it for future reference, and finally took a look at it again a couple months into motherhood. At the time I didn't feel like I'd experienced enough to really, fully understand its truth, but reading it again seven years later...well, let's just say it was right. Here it is:
We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of "starting a family.""We're taking a survey," she says half-joking. "Do you think I should have a baby?" "It will change your life," I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral." I know," she says, "No more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations." But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.
I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of "Mom!" will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moment's hesitation.
I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her baby's sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.
I want my daughter to know that every-day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy's desire to go to the men's room rather than the women's at McDonald's will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.
However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother. Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years ... not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.
I want her to know that a caesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor. My daughter's relationship with her husband will change, and not in the way she thinks. I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child. I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.
I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving. I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike. I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time. I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.
My daughter's quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes."You'll never regret it," I finally say.Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter's hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.
So true. All of it. I still have a very long way to go in this mothering thing, but already I can validate pretty much everything here...with the exception of bike riding, darn it, as that one is still eluding us. But replace that with watching your kid score a goal, and we've got a winner. Constant angst, constant second-guessing, constant exhaustion, and the deepest love and happiest joy you could ever imagine. It's unrelenting and will remain that way forever. I had mentioned in another post in one of the years I read through about how I knew my life would be forever changed the moment I saw the first pregnancy test turn positive. Even if that baby wouldn't have been meant to be, it still would have stuck with me forever. It would have been a short-lived joy followed by a profound loss. But luckily that baby thrived and became Jacob. Of course, I still worry about him constantly, fearful of what his difficult personality could mean in the years down the road. He already thinks we're ruining his life and believes he knows better than us, and I worry about how that translates to horrible teenage judgment and rebellion. I feel completely inadequate most of the time, and while I do pray for Jacob, I also pray for myself, that I can be the type of mom that he needs to guide him through these difficult periods of his life. I don't feel like we're a very good match at this point. We probably have a case of what doomed my dad and me for a while--our personalities are just too similar!
Still, I marveled at the changes across seven years of posts. I've continued writing here for so much longer than so many other bloggers (paid ones, too!) have lasted, all in the name of remembering the details of this experience and giving my boys the chance to read their own life story some day. Maybe they won't care, but if it gives them even a little bit of insight into how much I love them, then it'll all be worth it.