Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I read an e-mail today about a daughter who was giving her mother the news that she and her husband were expecting a baby. The e-mail was about how the mother wanted to express to her daughter the complicated emotions and changes that would happen to her once that child was born, but had trouble doing so. I found myself knowing exactly what she felt. I have often tried to express my own feelings surrounding my life as a mother.

The changes in my life after becoming a mother involve more than just me trying to hide the disgusting truth that is my new body, the inability to sleep in on weekends, or take spontaneous vacations. It's something that no childbirth class will ever be able to teach you (not like they taught me much to start with). The physical wounds of child bearing eventually heal, but becoming a mother has left an emotional wound inside me that is so raw, I fear I will be forever vulnerable, because I know that I will never again read a newspaper without asking, "What if that had been MY child?" News of every plane crash, and every house fire haunts me. When I see pictures of starving children, I now always wonder if anything could be worse than watching a child die. No matter how sophisticated I was (yeah right), becoming a mother has reduced me to the primitive level of a bear protecting it's cub. An urgent call of "Mom!" is enough to cause me to drop the good crystal without a moment's hesitation to rush over and make sure that no bones have been broken.

I remember thinking, while I was pregnant, that motherhood wouldn't affect my career. I would simply get a really good babysitter, and everything at work would carry on as it had before. But no matter how much time I invest in my career, I have been professionally derailed by motherhood. There are days when I have to use every ounce of my non-existent discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure my baby is safe with the strangers I have entrusted him to, no matter how much I have investigated their qualifications. However decisive I may be at the office, I second-guess myself constantly as a mother.

Eventually I did shed the pounds of pregnancy, but I have never felt the same about my body. I have slowly learned to recognize that my life, once so important, is of less value to me now that I have a child. I know that I would give myself up in a moment to save my offspring, but also hope to live longer, not to accomplish my own dreams, but to watch my child accomplish his.

I know that my husband understands how much more I love him now, as a father. He was always careful to powder the baby's bottom, and never hesitates to play endless games of hockey or watch countless episodes of-god forbid-Barney, with him. I have since fallen in love with him all over again, for reasons that others would find very unromantic. Just the fact that he holds my hand as we lie in bed, when I'm exhausted after a full day running around after our son, that he will hold out his arms for Derek who is running hell-bent-for-leather to jump on him when he walks in the door at the end of the day, or when my husband has taken the job of bathing him and putting him to bed all on his own, so that I may have a moment's rest before storytime, has now endeared my husband to me forever, with those new bonds being stronger than any vow of marriage, or declaration of love.

I offer a silent prayer for my husband and me, and for all those mere mortals called parents, who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings. May you always have in your arms the one who is in your heart.

Friday, December 02, 2005

All women are aware of the notion that, once you've given birth to a child, the joy and beauty of that little baby just makes the pain and agony of delivery sort of float away, and you won't really remember it afterward.

I'm here to tell you that's crap.

I remember every detail about my son's birth, from the tense, crampy pain of the beginning labour, to the full blown cut-this-thing-out-of-me-then-kill-me-promptly pain that comes later. I remember recovery, breastfeeding, sleepless nights, and the whole shebang.

My son is now 3, and we've been steadily potty training for about 3 months. Like I've said, while I will never forget the agony of childbirth, I think potty training will surpass it in the memory banks.

Potty training is one of those uncontrollable things, like getting your husband to put down the remote while you're watching "Lost" and he's trying to get updates on the hockey game during every commercial. You ask him to do it, you plead with him to do it, but ultimately, you have little control over whether or not he will do it. It's the same with potty training. No matter how much I cajole, plead, and bribe Derek to please, please, please go on the potty, it's not really up to me, as to whether he will, or invariably, won't.

I hate that.

I've spent evening after evening these last months, sitting on the bathroom floor getting hemmorhoids, while I read Derek book after book and waited for those precious drops to fall into the toilet. Finally now, we are at a point where Derek understands the concept, and can consistently hold his bladder long enough to get to the potty.

I have to admit though, that I've been playing it safe a little bit, by keeping his training pants on overnight, so that he (and I) can sleep well (I know that he isn't quite ready to go a whole night without an accident yet). Except that, whether psychologically, or purposefully, he refuses to go number 2 on the potty, so every morning his training pants are dirty.

We've hit a wall. He's training himself not to go number 2 during the day, which means he's always going at night, which means that I can't take the training pants off (I'm not so cruel a mother that I would purposely instigate nightly rituals that begin with his crying at 3:00 a.m. because he's dirty, then necessitate my having to put him into a bath, change the sheets, and get him dressed in new pajamas, all while I'm swearing and cursing under my breath because neither of us wants to be up for another 3 or 4 hours yet).

So what does a mother do? And when will the agonies end?