But being a mother is my every day. My life. The major part of who I am right now.
It's funny, because I never specifically planned to have children. I expected to, was programmed from the time I was a little girl by my mother's constant refrain "when you grow up and have children...". But there's a difference between "expecting to have" and "planning to have", and I can tell you that because the day I realized I was pregnant I also realized I hadn't had a plan.
And so I had to wing it... but like everything I do I did it wholeheartedly and threw myself into motherhood, only pausing once to look back at my previous life--at least that I remember.
The Sun was about four months old and some friends of mine, a childless couple who have an amazing band, were playing somewhere in the city. Before the Sun, anytime I knew they were playing and I didn't have a previous commitment (which was rare), I was there. It never required thought. So I heard they were playing and began making plans to be there... and for the first time I had to factor in a four-month-old baby.
I don't remember why, specifically... but somehow TF wasn't in the picture at the moment and so he wasn't even an option... not to stay over with the baby, certainly not to take the baby to his house (since at the time his parents--who he still lived with, had no idea of the Sun's existence). I think my mom was willing to watch the Sun for me, but I was nursing, and so the plan all along was to pick the baby up when my friends finished playing, and come home.
I didn't want to force anyone to leave a night out on my behalf, and I don't drive, and I live far from the city and there was all this chain-planning I found myself doing. And I realized, with a start, that it was going to be impossible. I couldn't go. I had a child, and his welfare came first, before my needs, before my wants.
It was June or July; a sunny, breezy day. I had the windows open. And I sat at the kitchen table and cried. The Sun was in his swing hammock on the floor beside me, and as I cried selfish tears I happened to look over at him. He was looking at me in wonderment, studying my face. And I realized at that moment that my old life was gone. This was my new life. I picked him up and held him... and from that moment on I was Mom. (I wanted to be "Mama" by the way, but the Sun never called me Mama... only "Mommy" though now that's been shortened to "hey, Ma!")
Like snapshots, I have memory-pictures of times where I suddenly realized that I was in fact, Mom. I went back to work when the Sun was just about 4 months old... the unpaid Family Leave took a HUGE dent out of my single-parent budget. One night, I was sitting at the kitchen table in my new apartment, watching the news and folding baby clothes, piling them on the kitchen table. My little "Moopie" had been put to bed. And it hit me... "Oh, shit! I'm a mother!"
Another night, I sat at the kitchen table pumping milk for the next day, and I fell asleep sitting there. The bottle I was pumping into fell and spilled onto the kitchen floor... and I cried over those few ounces in a way that I would never have imagined. I marveled at what I had become... the year before I had no idea of the pain the term "spilled milk" could bring. I learned that with motherhood.
My friend Shoefly would tease me about being an "obsessive mommy" because I made all his food and never left him with other people, other friends (usually male) tease me about babying or spoiling the Sun and had conniptions over his long hair. But from the moment I first saw his bright little eyes looking at me that morning in early March, I knew that my job was to protect that brightness, that spark. I recognized in him a gentleness, and I wholeheartedly and unashamedly made it a point to protect that gentleness in him because I know that the world is not designed for gentle men. When he's strong enough to navigate the world on his own, and can keep his own gentleness, the world won't be able to take that from him. So I laugh when I'm teased... because already I see quiet strength building in him, and I know he's going to be able to stand on his own and won't need me to shield him one day. But until that time, I am the guardian of his flame.
I spoke to my Homegirl from the back in the day yesterday, the Iraqi War vet. She called ahead of the crush to wish me a happy mother's day. We talked about how hard it's been to be single parents in this day and age... how love and men come and go, but a few core girlfriends and your kids are always the constant in your life. And how, no matter what life throws your way; work, lack of child support, family court, bills, debt, scheduling conflicts, the phrase that most readily springs to your lips is "I'll figure it out. I'll make a way". We talked about knowing that something needs to get done or happen or a bill needs to be paid... and as scary as it may be we know we will figure out a way, because there is no other option. We talked about how very tired that can make you... deep-down, ass-dragging tired, but giving up and quitting is never an option. And how we wouldn't have it any other way.
Becoming a mother made me appreciate my own mom, my sister, my grandmother, even. It made me more sympathetic to other moms I have known, whether single or married. Some mothers are naturally good mothers... some aren't. Some grow into motherhood, and some don't. I find myself, in an odd way, generally being less judgmental than I have ever been, because having a child changes you and it's not up to any one of us to judge the outcome. There are certainly things I don't understand... I will never ever get passed the idea of women who kill their children--particularly ones who kill several or all of their children. Mental illness be damned.
But generally motherhood has softened my heart but at the same time has given me strength I never knew I had. I remember thinking that for my Sun, I would go anywhere, do anything, fight or kill to save him. Travel to the depths of hell to retrieve him from somewhere, if it was required of me to do so. Battle the devil himself--and win. Motherhood brought the Bear out the Maiden... and she's quite a formidable bear. But I like that strength because who knew? And it makes me smile...
*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*Happy Mother's day to all my mommyfriends.... may your life be blessed with muddy handprints on white jeans, chocolate-smeared kisses, sticky-jelly-kitchen tables, clutter, stubbed toes in the middle of the night, snot, barbecue sauce on sleeves, sleep deprivation, lots of screaming, a few temper tantrums, attitude, snide-teenage-girl remarks, hormones, fear-for-the-safety-and-sanity of your offspring, no personal life-whatsoever, lack of privacy... and lots and lots and lots of love and laughter.