Monday, October 5, 2009

the other side of motherhood

I realized yesterday that from many of my blog posts I sound like an overwhelmed, ungrateful, dissatisfied mom. Which is entirely untrue. Yes, there are moments and that's when posting really helps. Writing gets it out of me in the way talking to a good friend over coffee (or some decadent cake like they used to have in the Golden Girls) would, but at ridiculous hours of the morning, or in the middle of a heated battle, it's not easy to pick up the phone and chat. So, I come here and vent. And as with many people, it's far easier to share when the emotions are negative—perhaps it's because I need to process them and get them out of me.

But, I could never imagine not being a mother. Motherhood profoundly changed me, in ways I couldn't have imagined when I started out. I was anorexic for years and years before I had kids. My life was totally about control and denial, rigidly scheduled with no time or space (or desire) for relaxing, taking it easy having fun. I never, ever gave myself a break. But when you have a baby, control goes out the window. Someone else's every need is suddenly more important than mine. I actually grappled with that during pregnancy, but that's a story for another day. I had expected that I'd be a tightly wound, controlling, anxiety-ridden mom but somewhere at the beginning something in me let go and I learned to relax. Not right away. When Iz was just weeks old (and 5 weeks early so she didn't follow developmental milestones) I thought she was blind, my brother thought she was deaf. I'll never forget standing over her with a flashlight, trying to get her to track the beam while Dave dropped piles of books on the floor, trying to startle her. But, eventually, I got used to things like being peed on and having to give (and sometimes take) multiple baths a day. I met amazing women. the Mummies, and we shared the ridiculousness of it all. We'd get together every Friday, drink Bailey's Irish Cream and help each other through the confusing dark parts.

To celebrate Iz's first birthday I went all out and bought myself a flowered dress. Taupe, mauve and beige sprinkled with microscopic blossoms—perfect pattern for a grandmother's couch. But for me, this was huge. For years I only wore black, head to toe. Hadn't had on a skirt or dress in more years than I could remember. A flowered dress? Huge. Next birthday party was a pink and purple strappy sundress. And at this point I've built a collection of the most over-the-top in-your-face outrageously patterned BRIGHT vintage dresses and revel in the ridiculousness of what I wear. Black? Almost never. My evolving dress fashion is a direct reflection of the newfound comfort in my own skin, the ability to be silly, to laugh at myself, and be at ease in my life.

Aside from what motherhood has done for me, nothing can equal the joy that washes over me because of these kids. To feel joy and pride at someone else's accomplishments is almost indescribable. This past spring Iz starred in her school play. It was thrilling and nerve-wracking every time she was onstage. As the cast come out for their curtain call, Iz walked out, dripping in sequins, and the entire audience stood up to give her a standing ovation. I still get chills thinking about it. I don't know that I've ever seen such pure joy consume someone's face. She radiated as she stood there and my heart raced, thrilled beyond words for her.

A month earlier Jack, who had been struggling with reading, asked if we could stop at a bookstore on our way home from school. He picked up a copy of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and sat down on the floor, wondering if it would be ok to hang and check things out for awhile. A few minutes later he said he wanted to read me the first page and he did. I had tears in my eyes, watching his finger work its way across the page, seeing how proud he was that he could read it on his own. I offered to buy the book and when we got home he curled up under a blanket on the couch and read by himself until he finished. It was a much quieter moment than the play applause, but equally as important to me—sitting back and watching my child revel in a life-changing experience.

Yes motherhood is hard, exhausting, challenging . . . but those moments of bliss balance me.

(day 8!)


Jeremy said...

Beautiful story :) And Zachary loves "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" too.

Melinda said...

Absolutely beautiful. Every mother does go through times where negative emotions and feelings run through, but the times where positive and life-changing thoughts sparkle in our mind are the ones we hold on to.

My son suffers (better now) from anorexia nervosa, and I see that control in him. Hopefully, one day, he will also be more at ease and as free as a butterfly.

Wonderful post, and I'm so glad I found your blog.