**note – I posted this a couple of years ago on a now-deleted blog, so some of you may have read this before. The sentiments are the same, though I have more grey hair and wrinkles this time around – J
I calculated it yesterday, I have been a mother since I was 4 years old.
It started with my first baby doll, “My Baby Brother”, an anatomically-correct Fisher Price baby doll who drank real water from a bottle and peed real water from a tiny, fascinating, male appendage. He required diapers that really got wet, had a sweet little baby face and I loved that baby brother with all my 4-year old heart.
My second child was Mandy. A Fisher Price gem who became my best friend and companion. My nan knit Mandy a beautiful wardrobe and I think she may have even knitted us matching jackets. Mandy doll looked about 6 -8 years old, she wasn’t a baby. I read to her, fed her and took her on sleep overs to play with my friends’ dolls. In our neighbourhood, when we weren’t playing Star Wars until the sun went down and the street lights came on, my girlfriends and I were the Original Real Housewives of Suburban Edmonton. I even organized a babysitting service where my friends could leave their dolls with me over the weekend (tired, haggard moms that they were) just so I would have more dolls to play with.
I would take Mandy to “work” with me. I would dress her before I left for school, made her breakfast, put on her little knit jacket, popped her in my back pack and away we went. When I got to school, out she would come. I would take off her jacket, sit her in my cubby hole, kiss her and admonish her to be good at “daycare”. I would then sit at my desk, pretending to smoke my pencil before it was time to pick Mandy up to take her home. In 1978 I was a single mom already.
From my earliest memories, all I ever wanted to be was a mom. As I made my way through school I honestly had no burning career plans. While all my friends were driven to become pilots, nurses, teachers, librarians, scientists…I really just wanted to have a family. For a while, I wanted to write children’s novels, probably because I thought I could do that from home with kids. I also flirted with journalism, urged by my high school English teacher, but ultimately didn’t trust my writing enough. I wasn’t so naive as to think I would find a sugar daddy to keep me and let me breed or anything. I wanted to do something with my life. So I chose elementary school teacher. The one thing that would let me mother ALL THE CHILDREN until I had my own.
Then wouldn’t you know. My plans to be mother to ALL were put aside as I unexpectedly became mother to 2.
I certainly did NOT plan to become a mom at 20 years old. As much as my little maternal heart wanted babies, babies and more babies, my intentions were to have them according to the societal formula: school, career, fall in love, marry, babies. Precautions were taken. Precautions failed. And next thing you know I am lying on an ultrasound table with a doctor saying: “What we have here are 2 heartbeats”. “Mine and the baby’s, right?”, “No. It looks like we have 2 babies in there.”
I was 19. I was terrified. I was ecstatic.
Having a congenital heart defect, I was told I probably would never have children, my heart wouldn’t hold out. Being me, if you tell me “no”, I respond with “here, hold my beer.”
I was given the option to terminate my pregnancy immediately. My answer was pretty much “F you”. These babies and I, we were going to see this thing to the end one way or another. And the three of us, well, we got through it without a hitch. I was a high-risk pregnancy, expected to deliver preemies, probably by c-section, expect bed rest for 3 months….blah, blah, blah. Nope. Perfect pregnancy. No issues. Delivered naturally, assisted by a lovely, lovely epidural, 4 weeks early, 8 hours labour, gained only 16 pounds which, after 25 years, I am still trying to lose. It was 4 days after my 20th birthday.
I was raised by a pretty amazing mother. She set the bar high on how to be a good one. I always felt loved. Cherished. Safe. Protected. My mom was my biggest fan, I always knew that. To me, she was perfect. I don’t know that she feels she was or not but mom…you were perfect.
I was a far from perfect mother in the early years. I was a child when I had my girls and we grew up together. You know shit at 20. But, like all moms, I did my best, I really did. And if love covers all mistakes, I loved, and do love, those 2 babies more than I have ever loved anything in my whole life. Sorry Mandy. To say they were a gift doesn’t do justice to gifts.
I had my tubes tied 2 months after they were born. The doctor wrestled with my request. I was so, so young. But in a moment of clarity and wisdom, I knew that if I had accidentally gotten pregnant once, I could do it again. I had my 2 baby girls who were never meant to be. Next time could kill me, was it worth making my children orphans? Let’s not be greedy. Snip.
I don’t want to say I regret doing it, because I don’t. But would I have liked to be pregnant one more time? Oh yes. I really would have liked it. I really would have liked to hold a little baby (babies?) once more. But the Universe is perfect in it’s provision and in knowing the desires of your heart. I have been sent children to mother throughout my life and I have loved all of them as though I carried them myself. As any mother knows, more children does not mean less of your heart to go around, it only gets bigger to accommodate all the love. I have my beautiful girls. I love and helped raise 2 amazing step-children. I recently have had 2 more incredible little girls enter my life. Before you know it, there will be grand-babies to mother (oh my God, I am going to be so out of control as a grandma).
At 44 I have started to see my friends lose their moms. My mom, a bright, vibrant, vivacious, spit fire of a woman, will not be with me always. I will not be with my girls forever either. We leave what we love behind and hope the love we shared was enough. When I am gone, I honestly have no idea how I will be remembered. I don’t know what they will say about me after the theme from Star Wars has played me in and my ashes are sitting there for everyone to say nice things about.
But if they say I was a good mom and her children knew that she loved them. That will be enough.