Becoming "Mom"

I turned twenty just two weeks before delivering my firstborn, thereby excusing me from that stigmatic "teen mom" label (not by much, but enough that it counts).  Sam and I had finished up our sophomore year of college the May before.  We spent the summer working, applying for better jobs, taking classes, and buying a new home.  It seems like we squeezed about ten years into those few months.  On September 5, 2003 at 10:55am, I became a mom.

The thing about becoming a mom is that it happens in an instant.  And, for me, the instant was so fast that reality didn't have a chance to set in.

Disclaimer:  Before I go any further, I should clarify that I believe life starts at conception, and therefore motherhood begins in that different, particular instant, but I truly didn't feel or understand the magnitude of my new role until I held that tiny baby in my arms.

I remember just after I finished my final push and saw Ben for the first time, after the Stork Squad checked him out and gave him the a-okay after seeing meconium in my water, when they placed him on my chest and I held him for the first time.  It was like an out-of-body experience.  I might as well have been watching myself on tv.  There I was holding that tiny little boy.  I had to tell myself, "He is mine."

Not surprisingly, he came out hungry (and he still is to this day, even 10 minutes after a meal).  We worked through nursing, and he was a champ from the start.  That is when it really occurred to me.  Even though I had carried and nourished him for the past nine months, I was responsible for the complete care of this little man, this person.  He was coming home with us.  To Sam's and my house.  If I wanted to run to the grocery store, he had to come with me.  If I wanted to go for a walk, I needed to pull out the stroller.  If I wanted to take a shower, (I would soon find out) that I would need to wait for the opportune time perhaps during a nap or moment of contentment (which would be few and far between).  I hadn't just birthed a son.  We had a brand new, perpetual sidekick.

I learned that becoming a mom was the ultimate lesson in selflessness.  I no longer had the luxury of making choices based on what I alone thought or felt.  I weighed everything based on not only myself, but my child and my family.   I became an unintentional advocate.

"I am the Lorax Mom.  I speak for the trees my child." ~The Lorax Mom

Things I didn't know I would ever care about became important to me, like what to feed a child who refuses whole milk at age one, carseat safety, whether to send my kid to private or public school, the speed at which other drivers whiz through our residential neighborhood.  I began to be intensely moved by news articles about needy children and stories about neglectful parents.  Reading things like that always made me sad before, but after having a child of my own, they angered and motivated me.  I didn't (and still don't) understand how a parent could ever be that emotionally disconnected from an extension of their very own life. 

Becoming a mom didn't detract from my motivation, it fueled it.  It made me want to do things better.  I not only had to continue on my own path, but I had to set an example for my kids because, like it or not, we are our childrens' inspiration.  They learn by watching, just as we did when we were little.  Whether we didn't like what our parent's did or we thought they were great, it's in our power to emulate the characteristics we want to model for our children.  

Being a mom is a twenty-four hour job.  The local hospital offered a number of classes prior to becoming a mom that may have given an inkling of what parenthood was going to be like, but there's really nothing more valuable or meaningful than the on-the-job training.  It's sink or swim.  I made mistakes and learned from them.  I still makes lots of mistakes, and I will continue to learn from them.  The education I get from my failures isn't at the expense of my kids, it's for their benefit.  Some day they'll realize this, and hopefully appreciate it.

I have learned, since becoming a mom, that the hardest mom tasks aren't the ones you'd expect to be hard.  Changing diapers, getting the kids in bed a reasonable hour, juggling laundry, dishes, carpools.  Those are a piece of cake.  The hard part is sticking to your guns.  It is so much easier to cave when a child is looking at you with those droopy sad eyes asking for just one more piece of candy.  It's a lot easier to ignore a bad behavior than to correct one.  It is so much easier to condemn another parent for his or her parenting choices before you're a parent yourself.  As a general rule in parenting, I believe that if it's easier, it's probably not the best.

I am on child number three now, and it feels like I've been a mom for about a century.  At the same time, it feels like just yesterday that the nurse placed a hefty 8 pound 14 ounce Ben on my chest.  That's the paradox of time through the eyes of a mom, I've learned.  I owe so much to my kids.  Without them, I wouldn't be where I am in this life.  Things don't always play out the way we plan them, and thank God for that.  

So this is my Mother's Day post.  A day late (and perhaps a dollar short), but that's how I roll these days.  I hope you spent the day exactly how you wanted to spend it!  As for me, my kids and I woke up to a home-cooked breakfast, cool temperatures, and a day at Grammie's house.  We even rounded out the night with a surprise dessert at the Mexican restaurant on the way home.  For Mother's Day, I got a free fried ice cream.  Like I needed that.

And for fun - here's a picture of my amazing mother-in-law and her five grands on Mother's Day Eve.  I hope some day I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by so many grand kids that are equally as precious and be that happy about it.

Happy Belated Mother's Day!


Debbie said...

Awww! I love that picture!!
It's just such a shame that your mother-in-law doesn't love her grandchildren...

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