Expectations

My young friend is expecting her first child. She pats the hard bump, already missing her flat stomach.

I say, “Remember how A. stayed her usual tall and slim, with just a basketball sized baby bump?”

She does.

“Everyone is different. I played golf when I was pregnant and the only shorts I had with pockets were two pairs of bib overalls, one red, one blue. I had big babies in my short body. I looked like Tweedledum or Tweedledee.”

She laughs.

I stop myself from going on. She’ll hear enough about all the changes her body will go through. Her nausea and fatigue are lessening. Her bump won’t be the only thing growing bigger. Soon she’ll feel the fluttering of life inside.

Right now, her heart is beating stronger and harder, with increased blood flow. But nothing will prepare her heart for the intensity of the love she’ll feel when she meets her newborn. No love at first sight could be as strong.

Nothing will prepare her for her physical need for her baby, to inhale his scent and kiss his soft cheek. No one tells you that sensuality and intimacy need not be sexual.

Nothing will prepare her for the dread she’ll feel when she’s scheduled to go back to work at a job she once loved. Driving to her first day back she will cry, wracked with grief and guilt for not being with her child, unprepared for the physical loss she will feel at not holding him in her arms.

If she chooses, and is fortunate enough to choose, to stay home with her baby, nothing will prepare her for the mind-numbing isolation of spending your days with an infant. Sleep deprived, she may go all day without a shower, starting and stopping the household chores she was sure she would accomplish, at the mercy of a tiny wailing being that takes all her feelings of worth and accomplishment and rips them to shreds.

Whether at work or home, life will go on. As her infant grows and she finds a routine and gets a little more sleep, as her baby grows rounder and more alert, as he lights up at the sight of her when she comes in the room, nothing will prepare her for the unconditional love of her child. She will be the center of his world and he, hers.

Once living in a world of the mind, the schedule of importance will shift. Having laundry done and food in the house will be measures of success.

Once measuring her worth through work, nothing will prepare her for the delight she will feel at her son’s rolling over, sitting up, crawling. Nothing will prepare her for her joy at the sound of her baby’s laugh. When he takes his first steps, her arms will be open, her smile wide.

Nothing will prepare her for the emotions of her son’s first words. They may be dada or dog, but the day will come that he calls her mama. While she has several names in the world, in that moment, that will be her favorite name of all.

Nothing will prepare her for all the years to come. Nothing can. But so many mothers have been unprepared. Everything will be fine.


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Motherhood: An Adventure

I was raised on music and intellect. Five years of piano lessons didn’t take, followed by eight years of violin lessons that went much better, overlapping with four years of high school choir. This was in a time before Mozart and math ability, but my parents were believers.

High grades were a must and college was in the stars. On family vacations, we traveled to historic homes, battlegrounds and museums. I got my first library card as soon as I could write my name.

Once in high school, I told my parents, “I think I’ll try out for the volleyball team.”

I was met by such complete bewilderment that I never followed through.

So my early life left a lot of room to explore.

Then I married a man who was raised on sports and fishing. Together we raised girls who got to follow their interests by the season.

They took piano, violin, saxophone and voice lessons, but with no yearly requirements.

As a Girl Scout parent, I got another chance at horseback riding. A little saddle sore, I decided I wasn’t missing much.

When they wanted to learn to ice skate, I signed up too. At 37 I found out I didn’t have weak ankles after all.

When my older daughter was bitten by the acting bug, I learned about set design, blocking a scene, and making costumes. In just a few summers, I figured out how to fake grommets, sew on a collar, and make a top hat out of purple velvet.

One or the other tried T-ball (sheer comedy for six-year-olds), seasons of swim classes, the track team (world’s worst spectator sport), even boxing.

They both played soccer. I learned the difference between a striker and a sweeper. They both danced and I trailed behind with costume changes. In Junior High one dropped soccer and continued dance. The other dropped dance and joined a travel soccer team.

When my older daughter tried out for the dance team, I met mothers who were reliving their own dancing days. For me it was all new.

Who knew motherhood was so educational?

When it came to vacations, my husband favored locations with water. My kids favored the sand alongside. Thanks to my girls, I discovered motion-sickness applies to parasailing. I learned that I hate to breathe through a snorkeling mask. But I love to zipline from tree to tree.

My older daughter got me to finally take the trip to Europe I had always wanted.  We cruised the Mediterranean, stopping at ports in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Gibraltar. Three years later I got to go again with daughter number two, this time including Greece and Turkey.

You might say my daughters showed me the world.