As I’ve often said, the transition to motherhood was not an easy road for me. Whether it was because I had my head completely up my ass about what was coming down the pike or that I wasn’t hardwired to accept the challenges of motherhood readily, either way, the road that I’ve travelled to find happiness as a mother has been rough.
One of the biggest decisions I had to make as I found myself as a mom was whether or not to have a second child and I’m going on record: I did not want a second child. But I had one anyway.
Writing that sentence feels shameful now that my beautiful, spunky 8 year old fruit loop is a part of our lives. Yes, I’ve had that “I can’t believe we almost didn’t have her” conversation in my head. Yes, I’ve caught myself gazing at the two fruit loops under the Christmas tree and feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt that I might have deprived my 10 year old of the joy of being an oldest child. And yes, when I’ve looked into her eyes or listened to one of her sassy retorts, I’ve almost come to my knees that the world almost didn’t meet her because of her selfish mom.
In my defense, and quite possibly at the risk of making excuses, my pregnancy with the 10 year old was not picture perfect. Not by a long shot. I threw up daily for 36 weeks, survived on plain McDonald’s hamburgers and generally had every single pregnancy misery heaped on me. Pregnancy sucked. And then he got here. And it sucked a lot more. I had an unexpected, unwanted emergency C section, I battled post partum depression, and had the Worst Case Of Mastitis In The History of The World (complete with PICC line, hospitalization and IV antibiotics for 6 weeks….read about that delightful experience here). It was six months before I felt like a human again, much less ready to care for this tiny human that had wreaked complete and utter havoc on my body and my spirit. I’m not making excuses here so much as stating that my personal experience with pregnancy was not one that I ever wanted to relive. EV-ER.
Fast forward through sleepless nights, toddler (terrorist?) trials and epic tantrums (not just from the toddler, ahem) to just before our son was two and the discussion of a second child started to ramp up. I’d hear it from those around me (“When are you gonna make that boy a big brother?”). I’d hear it from my husband (“We really should have them close together”). I’d hear it from random strangers at the grocery store (“Is he your only?”). And, the voice loudest of all was the one in my head (“If you were less selfish, you’d jump in feet first and have another”).
Becoming a mother was the single most scary, life changing event I’ve ever experienced. I was caught so completely unaware by the intricacies of raising humans that I sincerely doubted my ability to shape and mold another. I was blown away by how much a tiny baby required, how unrecognizable my body had become and was devastated to realize that sometimes, I didn’t like being a mom. It was a very hard time for me and it took a lot to come to terms with my feelings. I was scared to death to bring another child into the world because being a mom is just plain hard. Like HARD, people, and I worried that I didn’t have what it took to love unselfishly. Again.
I wish that I could say that I had this beautiful, Mary Poppins epiphany one day where I magically realized that my selfishness was silly and that I embraced becoming pregnant for the second time like Mother Earth. Quite the contrary, actually, and if I’m being truthful, it took an extra glass of wine to get over my nerves the night that, uhm, well…..oh, please don’t make me say it. There’s an irony to the fact that it took a several months to conceive, too, but I took that as a sign that my body was letting me ease back into the scary waters of pregnancy rather than throwing me out to the big deep sea without a life preserver.
Not a day goes by that I don’t look at my fruit loops and count my blessings (and simultaneously attempt to pull out my hair). While I’m grateful for the long and rocky journey that has brought me to the place of happiness from which I type, motherhood still scares me every single day. The difference now, though, is that I am no longer listening to that voice in my head that makes me feel like a bad mom for being afraid.
(This post first ran on The Keeper of The Fruit Loops.)
Christine Burke is the Keeper of the Fruit Loops, Manager of the Fecal Roster and Driver of the People Mover. In other words, she’s a mom. An Erma Bombeck Martha Stewart with a Roseanne twist…and she has the mouth and organized cabinets to prove it. She is a coauthor of the recently released “I Just Want To Be Alone” and owner of the blog The Keeper of The Fruit Loops.