Posted in Jeanne Marie, Women Who Think to Much

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle…My college essay on motherhood, 1994

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Are you crazy? Not yet? Well, you can always try motherhood! It worked for me. Okay, so most women love babies. Women are attracted to babies due to a very basic, maternal instinct. Reason and logic are only slightly involved in this picture. The longing to have a baby is so strong in most women that those who can’t conceive are devastated. Babies are so precious, all soft and cuddly, and they’re even more adorable when they start to smile and coo.

Additionally, there’s no sweeter fragrance than the aroma a baby sends forth, fresh from his bath, swaddled in a Downy soft blanket. Combine that with the essence of Johnson’s baby powder and rare would be the woman whose hormones could resist the “maternal urge.” You visit your friend and her new baby one afternoon. When your husband comes through the door that evening you say, “Oh honey, I want to have a baby!”

Well, I’m here to set the story straight and reveal some well-kept secrets about motherhood. I’ll tell you secrets that will expose the reality behind the charming, family portraits from Wal-Mart, those costly, cheap pictures we love to hang on our living room walls. The things that women who are already caught never tell to the women who are still free. Misery loves company and we can’t bear to see the smug expression on your faces as you say, “My kids are going to be different.”

Let’s start with the pregnancy. One night, you and the man of your dreams make wild, passionate love and as a result you become pregnant. (Sometimes, this occurs even when you’re using three different types of birth control. What a miracle!)

Pregnancy. An awkward word, don’t you think? Rightly so, because in about eight months you will be as awkward as your worst nightmare. By the ninth month, you can’t sleep more than twenty minutes without waking up to go to the bathroom. You’ll forget what your feet looked like. Shaving your legs will be a fond memory. You’ll be praying for labor pains and once they start, you’ll be praying for the strength to get out of those stirrups and kill the man who did this to you. As you begin to scream swears in the labor room (swears your husband has never even heard before) little does he realize, you are saving the superlative curses. They will come out of your mouth, unbidden, in the delivery room.

You’ll think, thank God, as the nurse lays the baby on your stomach. The doctor lets your husband (if he hasn’t fainted or run away) cut the baby’s umbilical cord and you both count the ten, tiny fingers and toes. One nurse takes the baby off to be bathed and another nurse kneads and beats on your stomach. (I kid you not!) They wheel you back to your room and you fall asleep thinking, it’s over. (No, I’m afraid it’s just beginning.)

You’ll be so sick of maternity clothes (designed by men who have never carried forty extra pounds around their waist) that you’ll give them to the first pregnant woman you see. Even if it’s your husband’s old girlfriend. Your husband might gently ask, “Why don’t you keep them for the next time, sweetheart?” and that’s when he will learn about post-partum blues. I don’t think I’ll give all the secrets away; let’s save the “baby blues” for a surprise.

The baby is home. Your friends and your family have left. Your husband has gone back to work. At that moment, reality rears it’s ugly head. You are out of diapers (the baby has soiled twenty-four since yesterday), so you decide to get dressed and go to the store. “Whose jeans are these?” you ask. “Why can’t I get my jeans up over my hips?” You double check the closet to make sure these are your clothes. In tears, you pull on an old pair of stretch pants and one of your husband’s sweatshirts. Get used to them. It’s the uniform of motherhood, and will soon be as comfortable as an old friend.

The baby pooped his last diaper while you were rummaging in the closet, and as you pick him up, he regurgitates down the front of your sweatshirt. (That’s part of the uniform.) The fragrance that your friend’s baby radiated the day you held it, is lacking in your infant. She forgot to tell you that babies don’t stay clean. You sit down, crying, and you call your mother. She brings diapers and advice. “Save your tears for when he is a teenager,” she tells you. “This is easy, compared to that.” You don’t believe her. You think maybe she’s just being sarcastic. (However; years from now her words will haunt you, as your child goes to school, learns to drive and chooses his own friends.)

I think you’ve got the general picture concerning babies. Let’s move on to my personal favorite. The terrible two’s. This usually strikes when the child is between one and two years old and lasts until he moves out. At the onset of this natural childhood disaster, he learns to talk and how to say “NO!” He may forget how to poop on the potty, how to pick up his toys or how to eat with a spoon, but he will never forget how to say, “NO!”

He will get into your record collection, he will get into your books and he will get into your child-proof cabinets. He will climb into the refrigerator at 6:00 a.m., but he will never climb willingly into a warm bath! He will climb into your bed when he is sick and vomit on you as you sleep. “Momma, I’m sick,” will be his excuse. ( Just because the child is six years old and knows where the bathroom is, don’t expect him to use it.)

Young couples fall in love and get married, usually thinking that having children will be the ultimate expression of their love. Survival of the human race is ensured by our urge to reproduce and by our raging hormones. However; if given a choice, how many women would actually go back and do it all again? Ann Landers took a survey on that subject and was shocked at the response. The majority of people who answered the survey voted no, they would decide not to have children, if they had it to do over.

Somewhere, there is a perfect mother who has raised healthy, well-adjusted children. She has balanced the demands of motherhood and a part-time job. She has never had any major problems with her teenagers. She has no guilt or regrets, and she is happy that she gave up her life for her children. When you find her, let me know, because I’d like to meet her.

Each child you bring into this world will brand you. My body bears the scars of my children’s births. I had three cesarean sections and my scars cover the area my bathing suit used to bare. (I’m not even going to discuss stretch marks.) I’ve been doomed to a one-piece suit for all eternity.

My heart and soul bear their own scars. Years of toddler temper tantrums, hyperactive children, teenage mutiny, rebellion, hard rock and rap music, they have all taken their toll. Clothes borrowed and never returned. Disappearing makeup. Teenage pregnancies that made me a premature grandmother. School meetings with various principals and teachers, meetings where I was made to feel like an incompetent mother. (As the years passed, I began to have my husband go to these meetings. They never yelled at him.) Motherhood strips you of your dignity, your rights and eventually your vocabulary.

Some women manage to save their brain and can take it out of storage after the last teenager moves out. With a little dusting, it can be restored to an adult brain. Warning: attempting this restoration with even one teenager still living at home can cause further damage! For example, when I asked my teenage son to turn down his stereo so I could do my college assignments, he told me, “You don’t need to go to school; you’re too old.”

What was he really saying? “I want my mother’s attention. I want her to cook me a big meal. I want her to clean my room and entertain me. Unless one of my friends comes by and then I’m out of here!”

He was also thinking, “You’re not a student; you’re my mother!” I was thinking, “You’re not too old to slap!”

Motherhood drains you, uses you up and leaves a huge hole in your heart when your children leave home. If your child gets pregnant or decides to abuse drugs, it will be considered your fault. Even if it isn’t your fault, you will eventually accept society’s diagnosis, because mothers are supposed to be perfect, in complete control. This theory does not allow for the fact that children have their own personality, outside influences and other people in their life.

When will your child become mature enough to thank you for all you’ve given him, given up for him? Usually, that doesn’t happen until he has children of his own. However; with daughters, you can be almost sure it will happen right after the birth of her first child. Maybe even during the delivery.

Sometimes, your husband leaves, long before the kids are grown. He has a choice. You do not. Your time, your energy and all of your resources will go into raising your children. Did I mention the mounds of laundry, the piles of dirty dishes and the mountains of meals you will cook? Well, that’s another story in itself.

There is a positive side to motherhood, but when your children are teenagers it’s hard to remember that fact. I enjoyed having babies and I loved staying home with them when they were small. As I watched my first grandson come into this world, I was overwhelmed with an incredible rush of love and excitement! It was breathtaking to see the miracle of his birth. My grandchildren are precious and by far the best gift motherhood has given me.

As I read Parents magazine the other day, I noticed that most of the articles concerned problems that arise when raising children and how to solve them. The title of this article really caught my eye: “Survival Guide for New Moms.”
So, even Parent’s magazine concedes, it’s a question of survival!

When you’re thinking about that beautiful baby you’d like to have, remember this advice–babies are easy to have, labor included, compared to the strenuous task of raising them. Your career will be motherhood, trust me. Everything else in your life will come second. I’m sure many women would disagree with my views on motherhood. But don’t even let them approach me, unless they have already raised at least one child.

Do I love my children? Yes, enormously. Would I choose to become a mother if I had a chance to start over? I’m not sure. I can’t picture my life without them in it, but my children needed so much more and I had so much less than what they needed.

Motherhood has taught me numerous valuable lessons. We learn how to raise our children by rock, hard experience and by the time we’ve developed the necessary skills, our children are grown-up and they have children of their own.

On the plus side, the experience does prepare us for grand-parenting.

Update, 04-21-2015
I have fourteen grandkids and three great-grandbabies. Their ages span from twenty-five-years old to four-months.

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