Lots of stories of becoming a mother start with a pee-stick celebration. Mine started with a handful of drug store tests, a case of beer, multiple packs of Marlboro Lights and this mantra: “You have got to be kidding me.”
It was July 1993. I was 20. My 18 year-old boyfriend was at a keg party. There were no cell phones, so I couldn’t text him, but I couldn’t wait. So, I chased him.
He ran away.
But then I caught him and quickly decided to run in a different direction. To dreams of writing and living in Greenwich Village, tackling the big city with my baby. He didn’t chase me. He never chased me. He knew my dreams would give way to reality and patiently waited for my return.
So…a baby. I love, love, love babies. One of the happiest days of my life was when my sister announced her pregnancy. I was 9, and I couldn’t wait to have a little baby to hold and play with. My nephew was like a real live doll. But my own baby? Mmmmmm.
After the initial shock wore off, I fell hard and fast for the tiny mass of cells growing and multiplying in my abdomen. I would lie on my back for hours watching itty bitty limbs move inside me. “Watch!” I would tell her dad, as we gently poked back at miniature knees and elbows, feet and hands.
I was certain our baby was a boy. When it was finally time for an ultrasound, my boyfriend didn’t want to know the sex. He wanted to be surprised. What’s the big surprise, my girlfriend once mused; it’s gonna be a boy or girl. It’s not like the doctor is going to proclaim, “Congratulations! It’s puppies!” So I told the ultrasound tech I wanted to know what the sex was before he came in the room. It was the 90's. It’s a girl.
A girl? Seriously? I had 5 brothers and 4 nephews, and I tearfully begged her to tell me she was sure. Show me! The technician laughed at my elation, “Did you really want a girl?” she asked. I was caught off guard as I didn’t realize how much I wanted a girl until that moment.
As the weeks passed, I fell more in love with the idea of motherhood. I was never sick or uncomfortable—the perks of being pregnant when you’re young and fit. I gained a mere 19 pounds and looked like the picture I carry around in my head of my ideal body about 5 minutes after I gave birth.
Giving birth. All the waiting. All the anticipation. Childbirth classes. A planned c-section and boom, there she was. “Here’s your baby!” they said putting her tiny face next to mine before quickly whisking her away. This was before the days of kangaroo care and bonding with the baby right after birth.
Wait. Where are you taking her? “We have to bathe her and check her vitals. We’ll bring her back.” What seemed like days passed as they stapled my body back together, and I sobbed “I want my baby.”
No one had warned me about the postpartum emptiness...the sense of loss I felt at my baby being on the outside instead of inside. When she was in my body, she was all mine. Once she was out I had to share her with the world. Before we had been inseparable…two souls but one body. Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That’s it.
It’s been 21 years since my baby girl entered the world. She came with no instructions, but she taught me so much. She had no agenda, but she gave me a purpose. Before I had her, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to make a big impact. I wanted to do something great.
Over the last 21 years, those dreams shifted. My perspective changed. I no longer seek accolades, accomplishments and applause because being a mom is more amazing than anything I could have imagined doing. It is the greatest thing I've ever done. And she has accomplished more than I'd ever dreamed possible.
In one week, this child will graduate from college. Her peers nominated her to speak at commencement. I honestly don't know if I will make it. Thinking about it makes my heart feel as if it might explode with love and pride. She has grown up to be such an amazing person. Kind, loving, compassionate, driven, bright, inspiring...a better person than I'd ever hoped or dreamed or imagined she would be. One of the most wonderful people I know. She is my best friend. My most trusted confidante and adviser. She makes me want to be a better person. She reminds me to cherish each fleeting moment with the other loves of my life because the days may be long but the years are short as the saying goes.
In one week, my beebee will graduate from college. I'm wrapping my head around that.
I wrote part of this some time ago for another site, but in working through my feelings about Chloe graduating, I felt like revisiting it. Thanks for indulging me. Also, some people still wonder and are too polite to ask: Brad was and still is my boyfriend. Yes, our kids are 21, 15, and 9. No, we've never been much good at planning.