Next week my oldest, AJR, turns four. Two days later, his sister Olivia turns two. A lot of my time leading up to their birthdays has been spent looking up cake inspiration on Pinterest as I have a standing tradition where I make their birthday cakes each year. Driving to one Target and two Toys R Us stores in an effort to secure the coolest Disney Pixar Cars 3 diecast cars as possible. And of course looking back at pictures from a year ago and beyond while I tear up and thrust my phone at my husband saying “LOOK! LOOK HOW LITTLE THEY WERE!”
Then it hit me. AJR is going to be four and while that is crazy in and of itself, I realized that means I’ve been a mom for the last four years. Technically four years and 10 months if you factor in pregnancy where I was performing the miraculous task of growing life and giving up wine and soft cheeses. I’m no longer a new mom. I am a seasoned veteran of a mother. It’s gone by incredibly fast. Lightning McQueen fast. But at times it feels like four years has been forever. It’s hard to remember a time when my children were not the center of my life. Your life changes so drastically so quickly that you don’t even notice how it’s impacted every single facet of your life because you’re only trying to keep a baby alive and survive each day. I think back on my pre-mom self and it’s hard to remember who that woman even was. Or more so what that woman did with all of her free time and why she ever had the audacity to complain that she was tired.
I am getting older and worn down. I look in the mirror now and see the lines under my eyes getting deeper and deeper with each 2am wakeup to escort AJR to the bathroom. My under-eye circles darken each time I groggily carry their still-warm bodies down the stairs when they wake up before the sun is up. Yes, sweet sleep bandit, I can see for myself that it’s still pitch black out. Decent people wait for the sun to rise, but you and your love for Team Umizoomi will wait for no sun.
I’ve changed countless diapers. Vomit, feces, urine, blood, etc. no longer bother me. Sleep is something that I get upon occasion, but it’s never enough to leave me feeling well-rested. I’ve weathered hundreds of tantrums over irrational circumstances. Goldfish has become a dietary staple. Coffee has become my lifeline. I am beholden to nap and bedtime schedules that dictate when and where we can go. I find myself yelling at my children to stop doing things that I didn’t think you would have to tell a person not to do. I am the last to sit down to eat at the table every single time. It doesn’t even matter if we order pizza – there is fruit to cut as a side dish, there are milk cups to get, a fork, a napkin, an anything. Then when I do have the chance to sit down, each kid fights over who can sit in my lap and eat the food off my plate even though it’s the exact same thing that I carefully cut and laid out on their plate. My hair used to get blow dried on occasion and knew what a curling iron is. Now it’s an average of eight months between haircuts and ends up in a pony-tail 80% of the time.
My jeans are now mid to high rise. I cannot sneeze or do jumping jacks without peeing myself just a little bit. My stomach looks like a melting candle despite rigorous ab workouts. I wear clothes with food, snot, and/or spit-up stains on them because why create more laundry for myself? I now empathize with the very same things that used to frustrate my own mother while growing up. I’ve Googled, worried, and consulted over the smallest things having to do with my children. I worry for them always. I wonder if they are okay. If I’m doing okay as their mother. Worry and analysis fill in every single ounce of free space in my mind that isn’t occupied by what I need to do to get us to survive each day. I doubt myself. I have good days. I have bad days.I’m driven to the brink of my sanity. My patience is hanging on by an ever-fraying thread. I yell. Sometimes I use a patient voice. Sometimes all of these things occur within a single day, such is the roller coaster of motherhood.
The pre-mom me would not know who this new woman is. The Mom formerly known as Lynn. Perhaps it’s better that way because if she knew, she may not want to have kids and give all of her up to them. Maybe she would decide to go another route – travel to the places she always dreamed of, buy clothes, shoes and expensive makeup without have to worrying about whether the college fund was being contributed to. She would reject a life of having to find a night, a few hours even, where she could have dinner with her husband in peace eating a meal she didn’t have to prepare and clean up and force people to eat. Date nights in the city would be a regular occurrence. Weekends would be for leisure. She would be up to date on all the current events. Kids? No, thank you, she would say as she backed out of the house slowly witnessing the chaos that has become my new normal.
Wait, I would tell her. You didn’t get to hear all the good stuff that I have to tell you. How your days will be filled with so much laughter and silliness. That you won’t care how ridiculous you look or sound as long as you can hear those amazing little giggles and voices say “Again! Again!” That the best smell in the world is the top of a newborn’s baby head after a bath. How hearing their first words, watching them take their first steps, and achieve all of these other amazing milestones will make your heart swell with immeasurable pride.That when your toddler gives you an unprompted hug you will want to squeeze them back so tightly to try to make them physically feel how much you love them. How much your heart will break when you see them sick, hurt, and disappointed because all you want to do is to take that pain away from them and make it your own. And on the rare occasion you actually get some much needed time to yourself, you will miss them. You will want to FaceTime with them and receive updates and pictures. You’ll get home and swear that they grew overnight even though it’s ridiculous because it hasn’t even been that long. You’ll stare at pictures on your phone and probably talk more about them than you should given that you were the one who said you needed a break in the first place.
Then I would look her in the eye and tell her that it’s worth it. The smiles, the laughs, the hugs, the kisses, the sound of little voices saying “mommy” and “I love you”, and the antics that spawn from their budding personalities will make you forget that your hips have widened beyond measure, that you may not sleep well again until they’re in college, and you’re constantly trying to negotiate with the most irrational creatures on the planet. Just do it. Literally, with your husband, make those babies. That’s what I would say to her.
Four years ago I became a mom. My life was upended in so many ways. Ways that most definitely weren’t carefully outlined in What To Expect When You’re Expecting that I thoroughly read since I had all this time to myself to finish books. I grumble, I gripe, and I bemoan the burden that motherhood can be at times. But underneath the parts that suck, and there can be a lot given the day, the good ultimately shines through. I am thankful for this gift, the gift that AJR and Olivia gave to me. The gift of becoming a mother.