Friday, June 15, 2012


"Ohhh, those things are not accurate!  You are not.  Don't worry!  I'm sure it's a mistake." 

I still grin when I think of my dear friend, Adam, doing what best friends do when you are scared shitless: deny the obvious, laugh mockingly at the truth, and completely dismiss the situation at hand as fluff.  

If we can replay scenes from our life and apply any cinematic filter we want - and I delight in the fact that we can - I picture him as a caricature of, say, British actor David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins).  Add a bowler hat and a pipe, and he is throwing out reiterations of feigned disbelief at what I was telling him, between puffs:

I'm -

But I -


But seriously, Adam!

       "Balderdash…rot…moonshine…jive…tripe…drivel…bilge…bull…guff…bunk… bosh…eyewash…piffle…hooey…malarkey…hokum…"


      "….twaddle, gobbledygook, codswallop, and pardon my French, but that is nothing but a bunch of flapdoodle!"     

……………………..You done? I took two tests.  I'm definitely pregnant.  

So began the strange and gorgeous trip that has been motherhood, from which I have learned, so far…What exists as a monumental question on that first day of knowing you are carrying (or awaiting) the pea-sized start of a somebody, remains the same for all of your existence as a parent.  It is simultaneously the coolest and most nerve-racking thing about it all:  Who is this somebody going to be?  And not Who's Who "who", but what are the one billion and one things that will make up their personality, appearance, burdens, and victories?    

As a parent, you get answers to some of those questions incrementally, and some of them change along the way.  You are unwrapping a gift over and over, thousands of times throughout your child's life and always finding out more about them.  In fact, I often think that we get several versions of our children.  A collection.  I might have a brief thought of who my daughter was at a certain age and then suddenly realize that that particular girl slipped out one night while I was sleeping, visitable now only in pictures and videos; the newest edition taking her place.  I miss the other "ones" at times but I get excited for who is being revealed.  And now, love?  Who are you now?  

Early on, I realized that becoming a parent is not something that you accomplish, like memorizing a sonata or passing the bar exam.  It is a wild, wild rodeo and the ultimate act of faith in your own ability to stay on the bull, so to speak.  Scratch that.  To RIDE the bull.  Your hands will bleed, your spine will whip in ways it was not meant to, and you WILL eat dirt - often with an audience present.  Some days, you will be almost certain you have been gored in the keister by situations that arise.  I can tell you - without looking - you have.  And it does not necessarily have anything to do with succeeding or failing.  Luck of the draw, mostly.  You do your best and keep your chin up, but for heaven's sake, don't get cocky!  This is not a sport you ever truly master.

We have some say in the outline of who our children will become, but not as much as some people think, which is why I always laugh when parents try to narcissistically strong-arm their kids into being a copy of themselves, the person they wish they had become, or who they believe the world would approve of.  To the extent I am able, I say: Surprise me.  I am still working on me, little girl, so you might want to be you.  Within reason of course.  Please; nobody wants to raise a cute little future Charles Manson.

One Monday night, fifteen years ago (or 5 minutes ago, it seems), I had my daughter.   After some minor complications, they whisked her down the hall to clean up her lungs.  Thirty minutes of delirious waiting later, I watched her eyes shine and look around as her smiling father carried her into the room to put her in my arms.  I studied her face and hands in complete awe, then unwrapped her feet to see five toes dot the top of both.  It's you; you're finally here.  Who are you going to be?  What is our story going to look like?

The answers that have come so far have been both astoundingly beautiful and surprisingly painful, and that was perhaps the biggest shock about being a mom.  They don't tell you that in the books. Let's see: mucous plug, amniocentesis, cramping….ah yes, Chapter 8: Hang On To Your Heart.  Nope.  You have no way of knowing how very much it can ache to love someone in this way.  Side by side, it can make the pangs of romantic love feel like a cordial tip of the hat.  Lucky for the species, they are different varieties of love, neither less beautiful than the other.  Peonies and roses, Thailand and Tahiti.  

The greatest miracle of it all is that there is not one instance of parental heartbreak that could make me wish I had not become a mother.  To be honest, there are moments of  "You have got to be kidding me. I cannot believe I have to do this by myself!  This is not how it is supposed to be!"  And yet, I bet no one pictures their parenthood story accurately.  Whether it is a frightening illness or those uptight mommies in playgroup competing with you through their toddlers, you just have no way of knowing what lies ahead as the plot of your story is written, day by mysterious day.  

Still, I should have known my girl would have the tenacity to get through ours, and this is something I have to remind myself about.  Even the terrifying days on which we are not sure we will win against her sometimes paralyzing depression, there is a golden crumb of hope I cling to that goes back to the first day of her life.  The morning after she was born, she was sleeping on my chest when the doctor came to check on me.  She woke up, lifted her head, and turned in the direction of his voice.  (Oh shit, mama.  Look who is determined.)  The doctor blurted out, "Geez! I'm waiting for her to say 'hello!'".

Queue the black & white filter...

"Why, that's balderdash!  She's just a baby, doctor.  She can't possibly speak!"

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