It’s interesting to note that you can journey into motherhood, but you can’t journey out. Even if your child dies, God forbid, or if you give her up for adoption (especially then), you can’t stop being a mother.
My journey into motherhood begins with utter parenting cluelessness. I started life as a tomboy, never even babysitting. In fact, when I married Andrew James Bailey, he had to raise me. At 23, I’d only driven a car once, and the only food I could make was frozen burritos in the microwave. I didn’t want kids; I barely wanted me.
Then Jake came along on Sept. 8, 2000. Soon after that blissful introduction, I fell asleep, and the nurse woke me three hours later with a hatefully perky “Time for the first feeding!” I was so clueless, my first thought was, “How insensitive can you be, woman? Can’t you see I’ve just given birth here? I need my sleep!”
People always comment what a terrible adjustment having twins must be; my answer invariably is that going from zero to one child is far more traumatic than going from two to four. As a perfectionist, with Jake, I was the epitome of the helicopter parent, feeding him every 90 minutes then wondering why he spat up so much. I played classical music during night feedings, hoping to develop his intellect during my every moment with him, then wondering why I had so much trouble getting him back to sleep.
Because I can’t see you to be embarrassed at this next disclosure, my experience should warn anybody who thinks they should go without protection. Lightning struck me not once, but three times. Each child was conceived on the first try–and the third time, twins were conceived. At 17 pounds collectively, they were the biggest twins ever born on record in Lake County. So on Dec. 10, 2004, we had four children aged four and younger.
By now, Andrew and I were an assembly line Henry Ford would’ve envied, diapering one, two, three, four. Feeding one, two, three, four. I didn’t and still don’t consider myself an expert, just a woman deep in the trenches of parenting–so deep, I feel a simmering fury at the editors who develop Family Fun magazine. They presume two parents; they presume money and transportation to buy papier-mache and fancy ice-cream molds, because I know what it is to make minimum wage and be five dollars short of rent for the month, let alone buy materials kids will destroy in a minute.
And I’m angry at the cluelessness of What to Expect When You’re Expecting, when the author tells pregnant moms to put their feet up and pamper themselves. Right. The author is presuming I’ve got a husband, helpful in-laws, personal chef and housecleaners, and I don’t work a fifty-hour week. That’s the only way a woman with no kids could do everything books like that advocate. To tell a single mom working two jobs in public housing to be that uber-mom is plain cruel and insensitive.
Imagine my shock when I wrote my opinions to the upscale Cookie magazine and was touted as an expert. I realized I knew more about parenting than I thought–and I realized every mom is an alpha mom in her unique situation. Any parent who is thoughtful, optimistic, and constructive about managing his or her life is an expert in training.
Ready to learn together? Let’s go.