Sometimes, when I look at Katie I think about her becoming a mother someday. I marvel that her tiny two year-old frame already carries the seeds of life that will (hopefully) one day bloom into beautiful, sweet grandchildren. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Before I let my imagination get too far in the future I want to look back. To my own mother. To my own childhood.
Growing up I wanted to be a ballerina, a novelist, and a minister, but never a mother. It would be easy to get the wrong idea from this statement. It would be easy to think that I didn’t like my mom, but the exact opposite is true.
I adored her.
I remember how she used to fold me into her arms and sing “Love Lifted Me” when I was sad. She is a terrible singer, but I could feel with every ounce of my soul that she hurt with me, loved me, and would see me through all my troubles.
When I was a teen and the gulf between us felt larger (and scarier) than ever before she “found” me over and over again. No matter how lost I felt or how unsure things had become, I was never completely alone. One day after a huge fight she disappeared into the kitchen. I thought I had finally left alone to brood. Um, no. A few minutes later she stepped through the kitchen doorway with a large, naked, raw chicken shoved up her forearm. As she chased, screamed and clobbered me with that clammy pink chicken I tried to hold on to my teen angst. Really, my effort was heroic. In the end we both collapsed in hysterical laughter.
I could rattle off a thousand reasons I adore my mom. Reasons I didn’t want to become a mom? Just one.
It looked too hard.
Being raised by a single mom is a hard thing to watch from the inside. The sacrifice, loneliness and financial burdens are hard to put into words. Growing up in the age of feminism I thought “who needs that?” Why not seek a life of professional notoriety, luxury vacations and spa days? Sure, I wanted to get married. I was just terrified to have kids.
My first shock came when by then-boyfriend Daniel told me he didn’t believe in chemical birth control. That put a kink in things until I learned about natural family planning. However, his stance on the subject got me thinking about whether it is healthy for married couples to be able to artificially circumvent the natural progression of their union (i.e. children). I began to see my desires in the context of “Peter Pan Syndrome” and longed to feel differently. Miraculously, everything changed in one quick season.
After years of my husband asking me what I wanted to “be,” and receiving a frustrated “I don’t know!!!” I realized it. I had never found my calling because the one I was meant for was the only one I had refused to put on the table. I wanted to be a mother. It took awhile to resolve some health issues until I was able to act on my desire, but what can I say?
I am smitten. With my family. With tiny hands and feet groping for me in the night to snuggle close. The sacrifice is greater than I had even imagined, but I have no regrets.
In my house there are three mothers. One who has led the way, one who is groping her way through, and one who is watching.
The little one is watching. She is nursing her babies and kissing my belly goodnight. These are things I never did. I hope it means we are getting better with each generation.