Archive for Sunday, May 12, 2002

The meaning of being a mother

Baby’s smile makes sacrifices seem insignificant

May 12, 2002


I used to pity them. Those bleary-eyed new mommy friends of mine whose lives were so engrossed in their drooling, demanding infants that they lost all sense of themselves. They used to be stylish, fascinating women. They read great books. They discussed politics fervently.

Then they gave birth, and poof their interesting selves seemed to be delivered with the placenta. They stopped reading anything not written by T. Berry Brazelton, Benjamin Spock or Dr. Seuss. They ditched their stylish duds for sweatpants and baggy cotton shirts that wouldn't show spitup.

Now, I'm one of them. I'm an unkempt, sleep-deprived new mom who permanently has baby on the brain. For four months now, since a 7-pound, 8-ounce whirlwind named Reece entered the world, my life has been absconded.

The unread newspapers are stacking up. The novel I was reading pre-baby is collecting dust. (Brazelton's "Touchpoints," on the other hand, has been read and reread in a desperate search for answers and solutions.)

And the clincher: I have started doing what I swore I wouldn't I talk about poop. The consistency, the frequency. My husband and I have a daily conversation about whether Reece had a regular two-wipe dirty "dipie" or a four-wipe, Spray 'n Wash blowout.

But I wouldn't trade my new life for the old one for a second. Really. A lifetime of sleep and pleasure reading is overrated anyway. Poop, well, we need to find something better to talk about.

On this, my first Mother's Day as a mom, I can now fully appreciate what the fuss is all about, and why moms should get at least one day of honor and praise. This mommy thang is hard work. It's round-the-clock, thankless, exhausting and the pay sucks. All that for a mushy card, brunch with your bickering brood and a macaroni necklace. Quite the trade off, huh?

I, for one, owe my mom a big fat "thank you." She made it look so easy.

Until now, I never fully appreciated the sacrifices she made, from the decade-old pants she wore so we could have the latest fashions, to the decade or so she postponed her career to stay home with us and referee fights over Chewbacca action figures.

I knew mothering would be hard, but not this hard and I've only been at it for four months!

Baby how-to books skip over the hard stuff. They boil motherhood down to clinical explanations of colic and constipation. None mentioned how much a little person changes your life for better and worse.

When I was pregnant, I dreamt of this baby-powder-scented cherubic being who would coo and look adoring into my eyes as he quietly slipped into a peaceful sleep. I never envisioned the frustration of nearly nightly body-contorting, piercing screaming fits. I never understood the pain that I would feel watching him wail from his first inoculations. And I didn't comprehend the monotony of the endless vat of laundry that this baby produces.

I expected some changes. Sure, we'd see fewer movies. Of course, our social life would be nil. But I never imagined I would go three-plus months without sleeping more than three hours in a row or that I would have to start planning and packing an hour or more before any trip out of the house. Spontaneity, like my waistline, is a distant memory.

But the payoffs of motherhood well, I didn't expect such bounty either.

I finally have found someone who enjoys my singing, particularly my off-key rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus." And most of the time Reece genuinely acts happy to see me. (Yeah, his "happiness" is exemplified by licking his lips and turning toward my shirt, but so what.)

The first few minutes when he wakes up makes all the screaming, all the rocking, all the sleepless nights worth it. Every morning, I watch in awe as Reece rubs his eyes with the back of his chubby little hands.

Then he catches a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye and breaks into a cheeky grin and again with the lip licking. There's no better way to begin a day.

And not a day has passed since he was born that I haven't thought the same thing: If I never do another thing in my life, I've made a person.

And the neat thing about that is that I've made a person that is part me and part someone I love endlessly. I just hope Reece gets the math skills part from my husband.

For new moms-to-be, I have one piece of advice. Forget Babies R Us and the baby-wipe warmers, Boppies, Diaper Genies, etc. It's all stuff that seems really important now, but it's not. What you really need isn't found on a registry: patience, selflessness, creativity, a sense of humor, a vast memory for silly songs, a soft lap and did I mention patience?

Amy Trollinger is the former special sections editor of the Lawrence Journal-World. She is now a stay-at-home mom in Shawnee.

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