I don’t live in a trailer. Or even a trailer park. I just like the idea of a playdate in a trailer. The image pretty much sums up my experience of motherhood. Just a little off, all the time.
The first time I picked up “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” I knew I was fucked.
Allow me to elaborate:
When I found out I was pregnant with my first child I wanted to kill myself and the man who got me knocked up (who I had known for 3 months and is, incidentally, still my husband). I kept the baby because he threatened to leave me if I didn’t and I loved him, and in my gut it seemed like the right thing to do. I looked at having a baby as a sort of event, a passing occurrence, like going to Mexico or getting your teeth cleaned. When the permanence of it hit me- when my belly started growing – I was furious. My body became somebody else’s. My sexiness faded like the jeans I used to fit. I felt robbed. Conned. Tied down. It was a sort of death I cannot explain. My youth passed in an instant, my freedom expired, my free-wheeling, hot & young days ended – abruptly, at 21, many years before I was ready. I swung between moments of compliance with my new identity and vengeful, furious rejection of it.
This is how I entered motherhood. And the manual I encountered was “What to Expect.” Where was the chapter on “suicidal tendencies upon viewing positive pregnancy test?” Or: “how to remain 21 and hot while mothering.”
Lord have mercy.
Sadly I didn’t become June Cleaver the moment I laid eyes on my precious baby girl. Instead, I spent a few years making huge, tragic parenting errors, which is another story and another blog. In short, I’ve been “that mother.” I’ve been drunk, absent, uninterested, impatient, narcissistically self-centered and obscenely immature. I’ve wished I’d never become a mother. I’ve pretended I could just ignore my kids and they’d go away. In fact, I tried that once (didn’t work). I’ve done all these things and now I’m finally on my way home, but I still wonder: “Where do the bad mothers go?”
What about those of us who love our children as much as the well-adjusted knowledgeable stable enlightened types but just can’t seem to get it right? What about those of us who just aren’t cut out for this shit but are doing it anyway?
I am proof that not every woman enters motherhood in some gentle, planned, ribbon-and-ruffles way. Not every woman likes this crap. Not every woman fits neatly into the mold created and reinforced by mainstream books like “What to Expect.” Not everybody is a good mother, all the time, even when we try.
I usually look around the child-rearing world and see a bunch of crap I don’t need, hear a bunch of advice I can’t use – encounter a bunch of people I only partially understand. I go home and I see a thrashed house with kids everywhere and overgrown lawns, dirty cloth diapers and books I want to read but don’t and toys and dishes and sometimes I demand that my kids just sit down be quiet and watch Netflix because I can’t stand one more moment of noise or movement. And if one more person says “Mama” I am going to take a bat to the windows.
A few hours later I walk into her room after she’s gone to sleep and I see my firstborn baby, nine years old. I stroke her frizzy unkempt hair and listen to her soft snores. I touch her cheek and my eyes burn in palpable adoration. I feel it surge up my body from my toes into my fingers – thick, fierce infinite expanding mama love. And I beg the universe in that moment to give her everything she will ever need and please God keep her safe and how is it that I am so lucky to have this child, right here. The one who robbed me of my great ass and flat belly and turned me into the mother I wasn’t ready to become.
I lie down exhausted and think of all the ways I could be a better mom. Of the days I’ve missed through my own selfishness. Of the years racing by, teasing me with the illusion that this will never end, that they’ll always be little. And I wish I didn’t yell so much.
And so it goes on like this. Back and forth. All the time. Here’s to the trip.
Someday I shall write my own version entitled: “What to Expect When You’re [a jackass and] Expecting.” Until then, I’ll write this blog.