Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Monday, April 10, 2006

In the Words of Gomer Pyle: Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

What is your most surprising discovery about motherhood? This question was posed to me recently and it got me thinking. Actually, it first made me ask in response: What isn’t surprising about motherhood? This journey we’re on begins the moment that we fall madly in love with these tiny beings that have been kicking around inside of us or someone else. In what other scenario, would you instantly be willing to give your life for someone you just met? We’re thrust into this overwhelming relationship and no matter how well-prepared we are, it’s just one bag of surprises after another.

We live in an age of information-overload. When I was pregnant the first time, my mother said to me: “I wouldn’t want to have babies today. There’s too much to worry about.” I instantly understood what she went. She came from an era of benign neglect where carts filled with beer were wheeled into the maternity ward to help stimulate your milk. Many of our mothers smoked and drank while pregnant and although we wouldn’t dream of doing the same, we’re here and living to tell about it.

Today we know “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “What to Expect The First Year” but we definitely don’t know “What to Expect When It’s Two in the Morning and My Kid’s Problem is Not Listed in the Glossary of the Parenting Book.” Face it, most of life’s nagging questions can’t be answered by Dr. Spock, Dr. Phil or Dr. Brazelton. Even after all of the training, classes, books, magazines, TV shows and advice from your mother, you’re still, for the most part, jumping without a net. And that, in and of itself, is surprising - the idea that generally clueless, albeit intelligent, women are held responsible for a human life. I still remember bringing my newborn son home from the hospital. My husband, my mom and I brought him in the house, placed him lovingly in his crib and all stood around and watched him sleep. In my mind, I was screaming: “What the hell am I supposed to do when he wakes up?!” Somehow, I managed, but not without a few mishaps along the way. Basically, I subscribed to the notion that I’d make it up as I went along. Whoa.

Another surprising discovery about motherhood is, to borrow a poker term, that I’m still in...all in. After nearly 20 years of diapers, drama, ear infections, pediatricians, time-outs, temper tantrums, sleep deprivation, teen attitude, adolescent angst, puberty, curfews, teething, 2:00 am feedings, colic, influenza, chicken pox, carpools, teacher conferences, piano recitals, driving lessons, prom and college care packages, I’m still hanging around. And to answer your next question, yes, I did think about running away or throwing in the towel many times. But for every daunting challenge, there was a hug, a giggle or a look of pure joy that imprinted itself upon me forever. I was a whipped puppy the minute these kids popped out. Don’t let them know that I’m such a pushover.

What might be most surprising is that even after all of the ups and downs, I’m actually looking forward to going through it all again when my kids have their own children. I guess I think of motherhood like a race. It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon that you can train years for and still not be completely ready. Sometimes feels like it never ends and, of course, you never really want it to. But don’t tell my kids that either or they’ll never move out!


At 6:01 PM , Anonymous Anne Glamore said...

I'm pretty suprprised that I can handle barf and blood so well.

I never knew I had it in me before.

At 7:11 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My daughter just turned 11 and every day continues to be filled with pleasant surprises and hairpulling challenges. Some days I am okay with that, some days I am not....yet every day I am thankful to have this opportunity to be a mom. Thanks for the inspiration.

At 11:42 PM , Blogger Erin said...

Beautifully said. When another mother asks me my opinion, or how I handled a situation, I always say I followed my gut. There is no book or video or training out there that can guide you the way that 'maternal instinct' can.

At 6:25 AM , Blogger kenju said...

An excellent post, Karen and one that all mothers can relate to. I love this line:
“What the hell am I supposed to do when he wakes up?!” because that is EXACTLY what I was thinking when we brought our firstborn son home. I had NO clue how to care for a baby, but he is 40 now, and has 2 of his own, and they all turned out well! Michele sent me this time.

At 11:15 AM , Blogger Linda said...

I knew I was cut out for motherhood when I could catch my daughter's vomit while riding backwards in my van hurtling 75 mph down the highway at 6:00 a.m. in the morning. AND had the mental fortitude to YELL at my husband who wanted to continue to drive to the NEXT rest area.

No...motherhood doesn't come with instructions, we do make it up as we go, but man oh man, it's a heck of a ride.

you put it quite succinctly, which is why I read your blog all the time!

At 6:35 AM , Blogger Sandy said...

What a fabulous post and a great reminder.

I learned that even when it seems like I don't quite know what to do, my gut does.

At 9:08 AM , Blogger Marisa said...

Even though I'm not a mom, I just LOVE your blog. And I listen to your advice all the time.

This post reminds me of what my own mom constantly says, that she'd hate to be pregnant now b/c it's not fun -- like in her day with the cigarettes and martinis!

At 10:20 AM , Blogger Leslie Shelor said...

I'm not a mother, either, but blogs like yours remind me of the great things I missed!

Thanks for visiting via Michele!

At 10:41 AM , Blogger Bluepaintred said...

you really should post alink to your blog to a publisher i am sure you would be offered a contract to write a book on your experiances as a mom, you write so well, with such passion and ... i dunno we can all relate to it , even those without kids! you should be more exposed to the public cus they would love youre writing as much as all of us, ////// seriously consider it!

At 2:51 AM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

I am suprised that I am managing it.
I can't believe the things I have to argue about:
whether or not they should HAVE to brush their hair.
what they are going to eat.
where they are going to sit while eating.
the list goes on.


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