Like many women, I have wanted to be a Mommy since I was a tiny little child. I had a baby doll, Baby Lisa, that I would coddle and hold and pretend feed and clothe and soothe. I played house constantly. To a certain extent, I played Mommy to my little sister from the time she was born (much to my sister’s dismay). I felt that “Mommy” was born into me.
Mormonism reinforced my conviction, because in Mormonland, there is no greater calling than to being a mother. Well, for women anyway. I babysat constantly, I took all the Red Cross courses, I listened attentively every Sunday and Tuesday as we young women were carefully taught how to care for our husbands and children (and never ourselves, obviously). The few times women are mentioned in the LDS’ scriptures canon, it is often as mothers. I took motherhood very seriously. I looked forward to having my own little tow-headed children, just like me, and I often thought of them.
I was married at nineteen, but unlike many Mormon couples, we resisted the urge to have a child immediately. I have great respect for the young families that choose this, I can’t imagine how hard it would have been. We simply decided it wasn’t for us – yet. We knew we wanted to have kids.
At the tail end of my University studies, I stopped taking daily birth control for medical reasons. And we just never really replaced it. We “sort of” attempted other methods, but we weren’t consistent.
So of course, I got pregnant.
I was nervous as hell and thrilled and excited and worried. Most of my worries were financial in nature. I found out I was pregnant during student teaching, which meant that I would have the baby halfway through my first year as a teacher. I worried about the finances, I worried about my doctor, I worried about baby supplies and labor and daycare.
In short, I worried about trivialities. I know that now.
What I didn’t know was how much motherhood would thoroughly and completely change me.
And not in the way I anticipated.
And not always in a good way.
Yeah, my body is different. My hips are wider, there’s a paunch in my midsection that doesn’t seem to go away, my old jeans don’t fit right. And my boobs sag. I hate that. But that’s the kind of stuff I had anticipated.
Society tells mothers that their lives totally change. And mothers-to-be anticipate that, we really do. But there’s no way to describe it, no way to fully expect the life-altering and permanent shift in all aspects of your life.
How do I put it… My identity has forever been adjusted.
When I made “big” choices before, I could undo the choice. My major in college, where I lived, even my marriage. I could back out of those things (not that I wanted to) but I could.
There’s no backing out of being a mom. There’s no “control-alt-delete.” He’s here. My baby boy is here. He is mine, but more importantly I am his.
He doesn’t have another Mommy. Yes, he has plenty of people who love him and take care of him. But I am his Mommy. I cannot be replaced. I can barely be substituted for the brief periods of time.
Do you know how much pressure that is? If you have kids, nod your head. If you don’t, you have no clue. I say that with love and a tad of jealousy. I thought I knew what it would be like. I am “on call” always. There is no clocking out. There is no unplugging. He is always, always, always in the back of my mind, even if I am not with him. This tiny human, who I desperately love, is almost entirely dependent on me to provide the right experiences and nutrition and safety and education and… everything.
Let me say that again.
I can’t escape it. I can’t undo it. And it will never end.
Yes, one day he will grow up enough to leave me. And that day will break my heart, but it will not be the end. Because I will always worry about him and fret over him. Even if he is not in my house, he is still my son and I still will feel (reasonably) responsible for him.
And sometimes, I hate that.
I am forever destroyed. I am not the person I was before I had him. I never will be. And you know what? I sometimes miss that person, the pre-baby Molly. Setting aside my post-partum depression, and the hell my marriage went through, I cannot go back to carefree living. My hobbies are not the same. I struggle to find time for me. The things I love, yoga and reading and writing and lately slack-lining, have to take a backseat to motherhood. Even when I do have time for those things, or for a night out, the mom guilt is real and palpable.
It’s a new and daily struggle and one I do not often appreciate.
When I was a little girl, I could put Baby Lisa down and go do something else. Not something to better my fake parenting skills, just something else. When I was babysitting, I went home to my own bed with little more responsibility than tomorrow’s math homework. Motherhood destroyed the person that I knew. Sometimes I like this new person. If I am being honest though, I am just getting to know her, and like most early relationships, it’s still a little touch-and-go.