Last week I was filling out a new patient form in a doctor's office. In answer to the question, "Do You Have Children?" I automatically checked the box marked "No." It took me a second before I remembered, "Oh, shit! I have a baby!"
I lived my entire adult life -- 44 years and counting -- as someone who always checked the "No" box when it came to kids. Now I have a 7-month-old. And I still can't believe my good fortune. Or that I ever questioned whether or not I should take the parenthood plunge.
In some ways I slipped into motherhood very naturally. Changing diapers, dealing with feedings, schedules, bedtimes, naps, playing with and entertaining, dressing and decorating, choosing caretakers and schools, following up with pediatricians and medical issues ... between my husband and me, we seem to have it pretty well covered.
Yet somehow, sometimes, I still can't believe this amazing creature is ours. For keeps. On some level, I keep waiting for someone to take her from us and thank us for taking care of her during this period of time.
What's that about, I wonder?
It seems like we were just watching her kick and roll around inside my belly, and now we have this little girl with a big personality who can sit up on her own and hold her own bottle. Who drinks out of a sippy cup and a big girl glass and races around like a mini Danica Patrick (that's a female race car driver, right?) in her walker. Who squeals with joy when she sees us and giggles like crazy when we blow on the back of her neck. Who is going to school and making friends. And eating cereal and bananas. And teething. It's crazy how quickly the time passes. She changes every single day.
Pre-baby, the parenting tip we seemed to get most often was, "Don't blink or you'll miss it." They weren't kidding. This girl is going to be walking and talking before we know it and I still haven't fully wrapped my mind around the fact that I'm a mom.
Do you ever get used to being a mom, or am I just weird?
I'm embarrassed to say that there have been more than a few occasions when I've completely forgotten that I am responsible for a child (fortunately, not when she was with me). My husband and I recently planned a trip to the west coast to visit friends and family, and I bought tickets for us to see a couple of shows in West Hollywood during our stay. It took a couple of weeks for me to realize the flaw in our plans. Who was going to care for our child in California while we went out on the town? Whoops.
We've gotten really good at taking turns doing things, and sometimes this includes going to shows and doing other adult activities. Like eating.
But that's okay. I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.
And I guess that even though the vision of me as a mom hasn't yet made it into my dreams (I'm always running about a year behind in dreams. Strange, right? The Joanna of my dreams still has hair and hasn't yet had a baby. Go figure ...), I know I'm a mom at heart. If I had any doubts, they vanished after this past week.
My husband and I decided to take a short trip -- five days and five nights -- as sort of a post-chemo getaway. We went to a spa/wellness retreat type place, and my husband's parents flew in from Wisconsin to stay at our house and take care of the baby.
Now, Mark's parents successfully raised two children of their own and have already proven themselves to be excellent grandparents. They know all of the tricks and have taught us more than a few of them, as have my parents. Their capability and fitness notwithstanding, I found myself leaving a nine-page memorandum of instruction for them. Nine pages. Single-spaced. And that was with me restraining myself.
This is when I really felt like a mom. A worried, anxious, first-time mom. I had visions of our plane going down, and actually contemplated us taking separate planes so at least one of us would be spared and little Magnolia wouldn't be orphaned. I worried about every conceivable thing that might happen, from the big to the minute. It was insanity.
But I guess that's what parenthood is to an extent, huh? Total insanity and non-stop worry?
If so, color me a parent.
Fortunately, my in-laws were very patient and indulgent and weren't offended by my tome of a child-care instruction manual. (At least I hope they weren't.) And my husband and I had a very nice break from reality. We didn't even call to check in every day. As you can imagine, little Maggs was just fine when we got home.
Another parenting rite of passage survived, by all of us.
As for me, I'm glad to be home with my girl. I like this mom job. I think I'll keep it.
Image via Mark Montgomery