Fourteen years ago today, I wasn’t a mother. I was only days away from motherhood that day and yet I had no idea. It wasn’t that I didn’t know the difference between a full term baby and too many burritos. It was that I wasn’t pregnant. I wanted to be. Badly. I had wanted to be for almost 4 years. But God had other very good plans for me and I had to be set on the path to motherhood by another vehicle. Someone else’s stomach.
Someone else’s sacrificial love.
Someone else’s miracle handed to me—placed in my arms—in Gainesville, FL. A girl with a pure complexion and a dimple and hazel eyes that caught the light from the hospital window gave me the best Mother’s Day gift I have ever received.
So fourteen years ago today, I didn’t know that my life was about change. And I didn’t know HOW it would change. I had my pictures in my head. They were awesome pictures. I looked about 105 pounds and 5’ 10”, wearing clothes from Ann Taylor and flitting like a gazelle. Always in my head, I would be leaning over my future imaginary child blowing bubbles with them and smiling. I was usually wearing an apron and holding a basting brush. As if. Occasionally I’d tap the child’s nose or rub a curly little head. In these fantasies, I never yelled at anyone. I never melted down. The child never melted down. No one ever vomited or marked their territory in a line 14-deep at Costco. I was never exhausted from 6 weeks of consecutive night terrors (not mine…a kid’s) and my fantasy child ate green vegetables. I never struggled to establish and enforce rules and I certainly never went back on them. Nobody in my head pictures ever disobeyed. I mean, why would they? I was the perfect mother. In my head.
It was a lovely space. But nobody rents that apartment, because it isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. It’s too bad I didn’t know that 14 years ago. I could have saved myself, my husband, and my four babies a whole lot of trouble.
After one adoption, 3 pregnancies, and a whole lot of shattered fantasies later, I think I now understand it. I understand the whole motherhood thing. Each day I understand it a little more, but it is never what I expect.
I never expected that I would walk into a consignment store with two girls to buy ONLY CLOTHES and have the youngest talk me into the dumbest $7 toy ever. If you had told me that I would be such a lily-livered pushover ninny, I would have told you to get your own fantasy. Crazy person. You got me all wrong.
We were shopping for church clothes…today, mind you…this is not a throwback Thursday story. The youngest, getting bored by the scene because I wasn’t finding enough in her size, walked over to the toys and found a wooden toolbench thing with a hammer and screws and other ridiculous accessories. It was perfect for a 3 year old boy. Not for her. No, I said. No way. Put that up. We are NOT getting that. I am absolutely not getting that. It’s a baby toy. We didn’t come here for toys. I will not change my mind about this. No.
I bought it for her.
Her sales job was magic.
I have trouble with infomercials too. It’s a whole thing. If you keep at me, I crumple like a piece of paper. Fourteen years ago, I didn’t know that. I was a tower of strength then.
I certainly never expected to have two girls raid my Tupperware cabinet on the same Saturday (also today) to take pets for themselves: one, a slug from the front sidewalk and the other, a baby lizard rescued from the swimming pool. And I could not have predicted that the Slug Pet Owner would borrow my phone and look up the proper way to care for a slug. She came to me in the driveway while I was participating in very important motherhood-related tasks and said, “I need to microwave some soil.”
What did you say?
You heard me, mom. I need to microwave some soil. (This conversation was never in my daydreams.)
Why? (I opted out of sarcasm this one time just to get an unadulterated briefing of the facts here.)
Because that’s how you take care of a pet slug. You have to sterilize the soil.
No, you don’t. That’s crazy. He came from the sidewalk. It wasn’t microwaved. He doesn’t need sterile soil.
Your phone said he did. I have to do this.
No. No soil in my microwave. It’s a rule. They say this in the manual. No soil.
Please, mom. The website said I have to. He has to have microwaved soil to live.
I mean, what do you even say? It was like talking to Charles Manson. You can’t argue with that. So not only did soil go in my microwave less than 3 minutes later, I also lost a perfect clean Tupperware container to the soil.
It is now a very homey slug habitat.
And there is a baby lizard living in another one of my food storage containers out on top of the barbecue grill. His name is Lizzy. I don’t even know how she got him out of the middle of the pool without jumping in. I had already lost control of the entire out-of-doors situation. As of 5 p.m., Lizzy was missing his tail.
It’s probably in my laundry pile.
This wasn’t the motherhood I pictured.
It’s grosser. And weirder. And so much better.
To my mother who taught me first how burp and hold and change and love a baby, I am grateful.
To my mother-in-law who raised my husband to be the leader and lover of our family, I am also grateful.
To the pure-hearted birthmother who trusted me to raise the first love of her life when she was not in a place to raise him herself, how can I say thank you? She will never truly know the fierce love and gratitude I feel. It’s in every breath I take.
To the God and Father who first gave me Andrew and then gave me three more, I will try to give them back to Him…as I try with all I have to teach them to love Him for all He is and all He has given us.
To anyone who isn’t yet a mother, but yearns to be with angst and pain and emotions that cannot be quenched, don’t give up. Sometimes it’s a bumpy, twisty, ugly-cry road, but at the end of it, there’s a Tupperware container with a slug in it.
And a baby lizard.
And a missing tail.
Blue Ribbons of Motherhood.
Don’t ever give up.
Happy Mother’s Day.