Thursday, September 2, 2010

I never knew being a mommy meant....

Before I had children when I envisioned mommyhood I, like most I am sure, only imagined the good. The sweet baby sleeping on your chest, the cute chubby toddler running around squealing, the little boy bringing you flowers for the first time, smashed cake at first birthdays, cute Halloween costumes, the list goes on and on. Don't get me wrong, I knew there would be tough times too, sleepless nights, sick kids, temper tantrums etc. There were just so many things about motherhood I never knew and couldn't imagine in my wildest dreams, good and bad. I saw it as they present it on TV with only the moments of fun and excitement and none of the day to day monotony in between. There were so many things about this new role of Mommy I had taken on that no one shared with me. So let me share just a few of them with you, it would take a novel to share them all but these are a few of the main ones I have encountered.

No one told me that when women brag about their baby's "sleeping through the night" the translation really meant that junior slept 5-6 hours with out waking. When I heard "sleeping through the night" I thought that meant that my baby would be sleeping 8-9 hours by 2-3 months. Imagine my surprise when my first baby was colicky and barely slept more than 2 hrs at a time until he was almost a year old. My first did not "sleep through the night" until he was 22 months. I am a mommy of 4 now and I haven't slept more than 6 hours in a row for over 4 and a half years. I also didn't realize "sleeping in" would take on a whole new meaning as well. It used to mean sleeping until noon and was reserved for Saturdays. Now it means anything past 8 am and its a very rare occurrence indeed. When it happens you feel like you have won the lottery.

No one told me that after you have kids you develop "levels" of cleanliness. Before I had kids I did not consider my house clean unless it was spotless and pristine, looking like a picture in a magazine. Now that sort of clean is a "special clean" or the very top level of my cleanliness chart, reserved only for very special guests which usually translates to strangers we have never meant before.
The next level of clean is the "family and friends level" This is the type of clean that usually involves your house still somewhat cluttered, or "lived in" as my grandma always put it. There will likely be some toys on the floor, clean laundry on your bed waiting to be folded, dishes in the sink from breakfast or lunch. There probably will be at least one door shut and off limits so no one can see inside because that's where you threw everything real fast when you saw them pull in the driveway.
Then there is the third level of clean or what I like to call "its just us and we have no where to go today" clean. This level would appear dirty to those without children, but is still acceptable to you once you have kids. In this level there are probably dishes in the sink from the previous day, dirty laundry piles waiting to be washed, a mine field of toys to walk across and you are a little scared to walk into your kids room.
When you are a mom things are not dirty until you can no longer see the floor. You have to climb over the laundry pile to get to the washing machine. There are curious things in the sink that look like they could be a science experiment and you think one of your kids may be lost in their room. Only then do you concede to the fact that there is cleaning in your future.

When you do finally break down and clean take pictures. Once you are done a tornado, or in my case 3 little tornado's, will mysteriously come through your house and set everything back to the way it was before you started. You will find yourself questioning your sanity because you will remember cleaning but it will look like you never touched it. That's why moms learn to live with these levels of clean, because if you didn't you might drive yourself crazy trying to keep up that picture perfect first level.

No one told me that moms are gifted with iron stomachs and dulled senses of smell in certain areas. They have to be to deal with some of the messes they have to deal with. Just watch a dad try to change a poopy diaper and you will see what I mean. Men can't even open the diaper without involuntary gagging. Sometimes dads have to leave the room because they are so overwhelmed by the smell. This is one of the many "super powers" a mom is given. It is this gift that allows a mom to get through the first night of real vomit. I am not talking baby spit up here. I am talking about the first time your child wakes up in the middle of the night and calls for you. You know what has happened before you even enter the room because of the smell. This was a major concern of mine about mommyhood, I always had a weak stomach and didn't think I would be able to handle messes like this without getting sick myself. I am not saying its fun, its still gross but somehow you are given the strength to get the job done. This is the strength you need when your 2 yr old decides that her poopy makes a great finger paint or playdough. If this has not occurred in your home yet, just wait.

No one told me that complete strangers would suddenly feel it is ok to share their opinions and offer you unwanted advice. I can still remember the first time this happened to me. Teddy was a tiny baby, only a few months old. It was a hot day outside, in the 90s, and he had nothing but a onsie on. We had to run into the store for something real quick. I, of course, was carrying Teddy because he hated his carseat. He was never the picture perfect baby you see on TV or out in public contently sitting in or even sleeping in his car seat. He screamed his head off from the second his tush hit the seat until the second you took him out. The idea of driving around to try and settle him down or put him to sleep was laughable, car drives were torture for us. So here we are, walking around the store and a little old lady just ahead of us smiles as we approach. As every new mom knows, babies have this magical lure about them, people will walk across an entire store to come up and smile or talk to them. We get closer to her and as we pass she stops and smiles at Teddy. She reached out and softly touched his head and without even looking up, she continued to look at him as if she is speaking to him and said "mom, you really need to keep a blanket and socks on him at all times, its cold in here." I felt like someone had just punched me in my gut. Did she really just say that? I am sure these strangers are well meaning and only trying to help but having a complete stranger offer you mommy advice, especially with your first baby is hard to accept graciously. I am sure she did not mean her comment to come off as rudely as it did .  Fair warning though, you will occasionally run into that stranger who is just down right rude with the things they say but we won't go there now.  That's a topic best left to its own blog.

Another thing every mom I knew seemed to forget to mention was the fact that all forms of privacy would be lost. I rarely get to use the restroom, take a shower or get dressed with out at least one child in the room. One the rare occasions that you do try and do this on your own crazy and bizarre things occur like one of your kids may decide to try to give herself a bath in the toilet. What? Sound crazy, trust me it happens.

No one told me about all the things you would "give up". Maybe give up is not the best way to describe this, perhaps what you would "trade in" is a better way to put it. They didn't tell me that my go to hairstyle would become a messy ponytail or that make up was reserved for special occasions and even then would consist of some light powder, chap stick and maybe some mascara on those really special days. I never knew my clothing would become nothing more than spit up rags and a place to wipe a runny nose or messy hands. Or that I might walk around all day with my clothes on backwards or inside out and never know it. What? Again, it happens.

The biggest thing no one told me was how much everything was worth it. Before you become a mom (or a dad) you really have no idea what the words "love" or "sacrifice" mean, you think you do but you don't have a clue. I never knew I could so completely love one person until the day they placed that baby boy in my arms. I knew in that split second I would lay my life down for him without hesitation. Its a love on such a deep and primal level you can't even explain it, only other moms (and dads) will truly know what you are talking about. Its a love so deep and so pure that I remember experiencing anxiety with my second pregnancy because I thought there was no way I could feel this so completely for more than one person. I had nothing to worry about, a mothers love always has room. It can stretch and grow as needed. A mothers love does not have to be divided between her children, it simply grows and compounds with the birth of each child.  As a mother who has adopted I can also tell you that you do not have to go through a pregnancy or birth to feel this love.  I feel the exact same love for each my my children, it is not different in any way based on how they came to me.  

I feel so blessed to have each of my babies.  Although I do have to remind myself of this many times a day, another thing no one told me, but that's ok.  I know it is so worth it in the end.  I have learned not to rush things, not to pray for time to hurry by so that I can finally sleep or go pee in peace.  Sure, those are nice benefits of having older children but along with that comes a whole new set of trials I am sure no one has told me about.  At least I know I am armed with many mommy powers to help me navigate through the new trials as they come.

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