Saturday, May 8, 2010

Reflections on the eve of my first Mother's Day

I honestly haven't given much thought to what it's been like to be a mother. When I hear the word "mom," I think of those ladies in the commercials, mopping up spilled fruit punch with a smile because their paper towels are so absorbent, or shaking their heads at their silly children running off the plate of pizza rolls without a thank you. That's not me.

In all honesty, I don't know if I can tell what it's like to be a mother because I don't think of myself that way. I don't think of what I'm doing as being a mother. I just do my thing, and Jolie does hers. At this point, it's pretty straightforward. I change Jolie's diapers because I don't want poo and pee coming out all over the place. I feed her because I don't want her to die. I hug her and kiss her and play with her because... well, who wouldn't want to? She's beautiful and cute as buttons! I provide the input, she provides output, which is that, namely, she's strong and healthy and happy. And unlike other people's children, she seems to prefer me over someone else's mother. At this point, it's kind of like taking care of a pet. Only, I don't even have to walk her.

I jest, of course. I know it's not THAT simple. These first nine months haven't been all that simple. I've been working on a video and a baby book lately, to commemorate Jolie's first year (there's a lot to dig through), and having to go back through all my photos and memories of the early days has really reminded me how much I fretted and fussed and cried. How often we drove her to so many different doctor's appointments (as far as Oakland), because three different doctors needed to examine her hemangioma. How scared, humiliated, and wretched I felt the day she was born (until she was actually born). How the NICU made us go out of our way to prove to them that we weren't incompetent parents before they would release her. The preemie formula she had to have twice a day. The propranolol three times a day. Pumping every three hours, and crying that I was hooked up to a machine instead of being able to breastfeed my own child. The gestational diabetes. The blood tests and hormone tests because they couldn't see anything at my first ultrasound. The days of crying after more than one person expressed their wish for me to terminate my pregnancy.

This made me realize, of course, that life with this baby hasn't been simple at all. I remember for the longest time feeling like the odds were stacked against us, that we were doomed to experience as much complication and strife as possible, that we were never fated to have anything go smoothly, indeed.

And that's what makes Jolie so special. She is a beat-the-odds baby. She was born early (not Josie Duggar early, but still pretty early), but she was perfect (and the fact that she was small made her delivery extremely quick and easy). She never really went through the whole colicky, crying 24/7 phase - she only ever piped up when she needed to eat, be changed, or sleep. She completely caught up in her growth by 6 months. She had no problems with the hemangioma and it's fading so much. She does not shriek and cry at strangers; she just studies your face until she decides that she's okay with you. She loves all the solid food we've given her so far. And she's beautiful and sweet, but she's also extremely intelligent and quite feisty. In this sense, she's more than I could've ever asked for in a baby. She's somebody special, different from any other baby I've ever met.

The fact that everything I went through in being her mother could actually slip so far into the back of my mind really truly speaks to the fact that Jolie makes it extremely easy to be her mother. :) And the one thing I'm so glad about when it comes to that fact is that it allows me to retain "me."

And that goes back to what I said at the beginning. I'm not a typical mom, and it's because Jolie is such a wonderful baby that she can be my whole life without changing who I am as a person. I'm still me, only older and possibly wiser. And I think that that's the best of both worlds. When I say that having Jolie has changed my life, what I really mean is that she adds to my life; she does not take anything away. I didn't disappear down the Mother rabbit hole and end up in a weird warpy world full of Swiffer cloths and cartoon-printed bandaids and bake sales and PTA meetings. I still got to try out for roller derby. I'm still running. I still listen to Radiohead instead of Kidz Bop. I still knit. I still don't drink or smoke. I still don't go clubbing. My life lacks nothing that already wasn't there when I got pregnant, and in fact, it's much fuller. I can do all these things, and at the end of the day (and the beginning... and the middle... and pretty much all day), there is an amazing child who gets so excited to see me that she gets all gasp-y and giggly like school girls at an N Sync concert and whose cheeks need to be kissed and who needs to be picked up and held, and she knows that it's not the same if it's not me.

So, me, a mother? I don't even realize it. I don't think of what I do as being a mother. I'm just living. I'm existing, I'm breathing, and I'm doing. If you asked me to list words to describe myself, I'd probably first and foremost say "teacher," and then I'd say things like, "aspiring marathoner," "Jane Austen fan," "make-up addict," "literature nerd," etc, before I ever think to mention the word "mother." And yet, that's what I am, isn't it?

It's been a joyous ride. I love my daughter. And I love my own mother too. She must have done a great job raising me if my daughter is turning out so well.

Happy Mother's Day.

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