When I was a teacher I thought it was tiring be a mom. Bedraggled parents at IEP meetings would show up and I would identify with dark circles under their eyes. "I know, I was up until one a.m. grading papers."
When I got my first dog, I thought I felt what it was like to be a mom.
Sadie needed to have her surgery so I stayed by the phone for three hours until the vet called to say she was okay. Three hours.
Then...I had a baby and understood the first second I was alone with this tiny little boobie sucker that I had no idea what the hell it was like to be a mom.
When you become a mom, your heart bursts open like the 4th of July and all the terrifying sh*t inside it comes careening out to the front screaming from every angle. "Do NOT screw up! Stay awake! Only you can do this! You can't do this. You call that a swaddle? Maybe it's colic. Call your mother! Are those mosquito bites? Go the ER. Fall asleep? ARE YOU CRAZY?! Can you believe your husband is snoring?"
Tough, terrifying, asinine, worthless nervous sh*t.
And it doesn't stop there.
Preschool rips you a new one. The little four year old face that tries so hard to be brave melts to the floor while tiny fingers scrunch deep into your jacket. Small shoulders sob below you and you cannot believe your job is to walk in the opposite direction.
Kindergarten slices you right down the middle. Your boy, who over enunciates now for some reason, asks if you can find his mag-ic crys-tal or his bell-ly pills because he is already nervous and searching for comfort before leaving the house.
1st grade is barreling down on me like a fighter jet with a full tank.
Today we are in the car, after school pickup. I am driving around and notice nobody's screaming. It's cold outside and warm in here so before long, I see two little heads bobbing around like they do right after eyelids give up their fight to stay awake. They are both cozy in thick jacket hoods and snuggling down like bunnies. I can see their faces in that weird double rear view mirror light that happens as the sun goes down, their actual mirror image and their see through counterparts right above them. It's like they are angels leaving their bodies. Out of nowhere, this sight undoes me so I drive and drive and drive...to Starbucks. Just to be with them in their quiet for a while longer. Tethered to their precious bodies like a little girl clinging on to her favorite balloons: yellow and pink.
Don't go. I plead but their half light continues to rise.
The tears make my chest ache and I desperately want to freeze these minutes, bottle these seconds, and hermetically seal our familiar proximity. I cleave to them the only way I know how, by ordering a vanilla spiced decaf latte. Venti, please. And sipping on that puppy to soothe myself as we drive around with no destination at all. Detouring down side streets, checking out that pretty house with the stained glass windows. Circling the neighborhood again and again. Just so I can hear them breath, have them within my reach, be together here for a few more minutes.
A blip on life's radar.
They are sound asleep now so I devour their sweet pulsating temples with my eyes. Their perky noses beg to be kissed. Then re-kissed. Their eyelashes come from a place made of snowflakes and baby deer as their soft eyebrows rise and fall with dreams of Show & Tell, cake pops, and scooters around the park.
Something happens when you become a mother.
Puppies. Make you cry.
Folding ladybug socks and Batman underwear. Makes you cry.
Your husband answering the phone, "Yeah." instead of "Hi Baby," makes you want to drive his truck through a closed barn door.
Another mother in pain or hurting because her baby is sick or worse, gone, makes us insane. It hurts us as moms when another one of us faces these demons. Because we have gone there in our minds millions of times, recovering but trembling and breathless. What every mom knows is how much your baby takes with them when they even go to school. And if they are gone forever... When you do the math to see there is nothing left over you shake again and want to hold that mama up with your bare hands until she grows whole again from love and effing miracles which might take awhile. Like forever. It's not right to lose a child. Every mama knows that.
When you become a mom, you love with your heart spilling out toward street lights, life is raw, extreme, divine, irreverent, dirty, noisier than hell and connected to the very thing that makes us human: empathy.
Being a mother is knowing nothing. And caring too much.
Something happens when you become a mother.
We haven't taken ourselves to the doctor's in years, yet we move the earth to take our kids in for five small pink welts. We stop wearing black so often because the 4 yo says it's ugly on our pale skin...and she's probably right. We stop doing the dishes and wipe our hands to listen, really listen, when our 6year old HAS to know when do the people who work in the grocery stores get to buy their own groceries like bananas? We take our kids to Chuck E. Cheese in the absolute peak of flu season because Daddy's on a hunting trip and you want home to be fun too. We lose ourselves in them. To them. Around them. For them.
I never thought I'd be the kind of mom who measures her worth on whether her kids say please and thank you, get 100% on their reading logs, and don't rub off her kisses at night. But I am.
Because something happens when you become a mom.
And I can't quite describe it.