Back then I still believed that it was all in my hands, all on my shoulders. I still believed this little human in front of me was a blank slate on which I would write the most wonderful future. I still believed that somehow my motherhood existed in a bubble, and would be unaffected by all of life’s circumstances. I still believed that I would do everything perfectly, that it was even possible to do everything perfectly and that certainly I would never make the mistakes that other mothers had made before me!
When I first found out I was going to be a mother I remember going to the local bookstore and buying every book I could find on the subject. I bought books on pregnancy, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and child care. I read them all from cover to cover. I went out and purchased all the necessary accessories for motherhood: baby clothes, educational toys, diapers and the very safest car seat. I purchased adorable little shoes, soft fuzzy blankets and a giant wicker baby basket that would sit beside my bed and house the peaceful sleeping babies of my future. And then I sat back and waited, certain I was prepared for anything.
If you are a new mom reading this you are probably shaking your head, “yes, yes, that’s what you do. She was ready.” If you are a seasoned mom you are shaking your head laughing and thinking “oh if only it had been that easy” because it turns out that motherhood is absolutely nothing like you ever imagined it would be.
I remember discovering those little perfect babies already had personalities and likes and dislikes from the very first moment they come into the world. In fact, I quickly realized those kids, who of course haven’t read the baby books, had no idea how I expected it to be at all!
I remember that perfect peaceful, satisfying feeling of holding a newborn and the wonderful smell of a soft, fuzzy little head tucked under my own chin, sleeping soundly on my chest.
I remember taking the time to grind my own organic baby food only to have this precious baby spit it back out at me and then later find him eagerly sucking canned frosting off his father’s finger, the two of them teamed up against me!
I remember realizing with dismay that what you learn with your first child doesn’t always work with the second and so on.
I remember planning on using only cloth diapers in order to be gentle on both this little baby and the planet. I remember eventually realizing that saving buckets of poopy diapers and then bringing frozen clean diapers in off of a clothes line in Maine in the winter was not really something I wanted to spend my time doing.
I remember looking at first smiles, at that first little baby tooth, at those first steps each one of them took and thinking that guy who walked on the moon had nothing on these kids!
I remember staring at a screaming two year old; beautiful blond curls with a bright pink hair ribbon that matched her dress all swinging back and forth as this red faced little beauty stomped her feet and made her will known to the world and I remember, surprisingly, being so proud of her in that moment!
I remember putting my first baby on a school bus and then following the bus all the way to the school to make sure they really took him safely where he was supposed to go.
I remember making mistakes, no matter how hard I tried. It turns out being a mother doesn’t automatically make you perfect, no matter what those Hallmark cards say. I remember being so grateful for all the imperfect mothers around me who shared their experience and wisdom with me.
I remember birthday parties, and new bikes, and skinned knees,and Christmas mornings and little girls fighting over Barbie dolls!
I remember living through every challenge and every achievement as if they were my own. Every spelling test gave me anxiety. Every mean kid on the playground made me cry also. I remember every accomplishment; every ball hit, every team win, every play performed, every single star earned giving me more joy than when I had actually done those things myself.
I remember when life’s circumstances changed and all those dreams of a TV perfect family life went out the window and I rushed back to the bookstore to find books on parenting children during divorce, desperate not to scar them for life.
I remember one exceptionally sweet Mother’s Days when they were little. I was waiting patiently in my room while they prepared “breakfast in bed” downstairs in the kitchen, only to then hear it all come crashing down on the steps and the dog eagerly lapping up the spoils as one cute little face peeked around the corner of my room and said “um . . . it’s going to be few more minutes Mommy.”
I remember staring at those same beautiful little babies when they each became teenagers and thinking “what the hell are they doing, I didn’t plan this,” completely perplexed as they joined a world neither of us were really ready for.
I remember desperately clutching the passenger side door in my car while trying to stay calm during countless driving lessons.Then, I remember sitting up at night waiting to hear that same car pull safely into the driveway.
I remember watching almost-adult children as they walked across stages gathering diplomas and awards; staring at the backs of those same children as they boarded buses and planes for futures even more exciting than I ever dared to imagine when pouring through those books before they were born.
I remember each of them slowly becoming adults and realizing, one by one, that these were not just my children who I love, but real grown up people who I actually like and respect.
I remember finally realizing that it wasn’t up to me to carry their burdens or write their futures; that they were writing their own futures and doing a pretty decent job at it!
I remember how I thought it would be, that very first Mother’s Day, and how it actually was and how in the end it all turned out okay. In fact, like so much of life, it turned out even better than I could have even begun to imagine all those years ago!