No one really tells you that when you become a mom, you know the heartbeat of your kid. Which means you know what they’re going to say sometimes before they do. Their smallest expression change is pregnant with meaning and it’s the most surreal and humbling thing to see yourself in your child. You don’t think they’ll ever get too big to hold and while you used to think the Mom in that Love You Forever book was psychotic, all of a sudden you feel sympathetic to her. No one explained that even if you’re doing five other things, something deep inside is relieved to subconsciously hear that they’ve stopped crying and let themselves fall asleep at nap time. Like something was ticking in your core, attuned to the crib upstairs without any clock or monitor to remind you. No one can prepare you for the level of empathy your own kids stimulate in your heart, towards them and towards others you never understood before.
No one really tells you what it feels like to carry bulky bags and children wherever you go and to notice those women without drool on their sleeves and who have a slender, cute purse as their only companion to Target. Furthermore, no one tells you when you ARE that solitary woman in Target that the drooly Mom with the brats feels just like she did when she was in your shoes. Only much more tired. (But not too tired to miss that look you threw her.) No one really tells you what it’s like to be perceived first and foremost as a wife and mom, oftentimes a 2-dimensional summation, when you spent most of your life achieving, proving, competing on your own, not defined by a human relationship, toe to toe with the other gender, becoming very self-sufficient and independent. No one warns you that you may be treated, even by yourself sometimes, that you traded in your intellectualism and seminary spirituality in exchange for a ring or cradle. But at some point, it will be important to know and argue that your mind and heart are the ones you’ve carried all your life; they are still active and deep and wanting. It’s not to say that wife and mom is a demotion or a disappointment as it’s the hardest, most complex setting I’ve even found myself in. It’s just that these are marathons with very few mile markers, cheerers, and route maps. And all your formal training was for another race, at least you thought it was.
No one tells you that, if you become a mom through pregnancy, losing control over your body can be painful and disorienting. Eventually freeing, but, in my experience, long after babies are weened. I have heard accounts of the mental trauma that mastectomies have on their survivors and while pregnancy and nursing are not so threatening and long-term by any means, I do have a little more understanding of how difficult it must be to lose a part of your body. Who we are or know ourselves to be is not so separate from the physical forms in which we live.
No one really tells you what it’s like for an entire day’s plans to be hijacked by a person who does not know any words. How within moments your babies will ruin and then make your day. Days take on properties of vapor, while the to-do list remains a heavy marsh. Some mornings I’m just left panting, upset at the clock, confused and disheveled but still terribly responsible for wee ones and our day. Then there are those days that Mercy sprinkles in where you do get to do the things you hoped for, feel like you know how to be a Mom, cook, do your hair (wonders!), have a good vibe with the husband, and basically you should write a book or something. And then the night hits. 8 hours of blurry crying, patting, potty trips, “It’s YOUR turn! I promise I’ve been up…like…ALL night!” and then at dawn, you “wake up” for the next day, properly humbled and reminded of this season’s limitations.
No one can tell you what it’s like to know the responsibility of shaping a little heart and world. How can I guide a soul when my own seems saggy? To feel so invested and so connected and yet so human and young at the same time. And then to negotiate how to do such a crazy thing in tandem with another person, who also has needs and who you expect things of. The ordinary comedy.
No one really told me any of this but I was not a good student previous to this test. I know I wouldn’t have read this post seven years ago. Maybe I was told, or shown, but perhaps all the foreshadowing was lost on me or in Greek. And along with “when to call the pediatrician,” I didn’t study Greek in college. I admire others who are different, more open earlier than I, a little more gracious, a little less set, a little more reasonable.
I am learning to see differently. To cherish the uncertainty, to make peace with the mundane instead of allowing it to be so insulting. I am hoping to be a treasurer. Though sometimes I have wanted it different, I am surrounded by gifts and more gifts. I am sorry that I have struggled to accept them at times, distracted by other stories.
For what it’s worth, this is part of my race. I am learning to focus less on the aching knees, and faster runners. I am growing in wonder over the miracle of the run itself, of air coursing through the body, a working heart and the grace of stride.