They say that the key to enjoying motherhood is taking it one day at a time, living in the moment as best you can, as often as possible. But I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that this can be very hard to do. You get caught up in your to-do list, trying to keep the kids happy and fed and occupied, but not really ever plugging in fully. In fact, lately it feels like all I can do is count down the number of hours I have to get through until bedtime. Everything else is pushed by the wayside.
I haven’t had much to write about, either. What’s the value in writing a post about how much Maddie puked, or the way Reid refuses to let you feed him, knocking the spoon out of your hand and sending the food flying? Everyone knows that stuff, the day-to-day drudgery that makes people say things like, “motherhood is the hardest jobs in the world!”, or “I could NEVER be a stay-at-home-mom!”. We all know that taking care of children – your children who will one day be adults – is challenging, often thankless work. What I want is to spend more time thinking – and writing – about the other stuff, the little moments and flashes where I’m reminded that, wait, this is still a really awesome way to spend my time.
Madeleine and Reid are almost 15 months now, but at the end of the month they’ll reach one year corrected. Which means they will “really” be one, instead of just technically being one based on their birth date. As usual, these milestones are a time of major reflection – so much has happened to us in such a short time – but most often I find myself thinking about the sheer amount of ridiculous stuff that we’ve experienced. Cerclages and bed rest and false labour and real-honest-to-goodness labour. Three-and-a-half months in the NICU. Brain haemorrhages and shunts and our hearts that kept breaking over and over and over again. Discharge and newborns and diapers and bottles and rolling and crawling and babbling and standing. But today I had a different memory. Not of hospitals and motherhood, but of the year before the twins, when we’d just moved into our first house, a young married couple and their dogs, thinking that, hey, maybe someone might be missing from our family.
I’m not sure if this is a universal experience, but I went from being unsure about getting pregnant, to absolutely ready to be a mom almost in an instant. It was just time, and that was that. But it takes a bit of time from realizing you’re ready, to making a firm decision in your marriage that you’re going to make it a reality. We were lucky that we got pregnant easily, but I remember in the interim feeling the distinctly desperate feeling of having to wait and not knowing how it would all turn out. I saw pregnant women everywhere. I took my temperature each morning and felt phantom pregnancy symptoms far before they could have ever occurred. You just want it to happen, and then you want to hold your baby and be a mom forever. Your focus gets very, very narrow. And, of course, you need to spend the entire time trying to pretend that you aren’t a crazy lady counting down the minutes until she ovulates again (even though, uh, you totally are).
Today, in my messy kitchen, still in my pyjamas at three in the afternoon, stepping on squished raspberries dropped from Reid’s highchair tray, I thought back to those days. I thought back to the day I first took a pregnancy test – too early, though I didn’t know it at the time – and was surprised and disappointed to see that it was negative. I thought back to the five minutes I spent in the bathroom waiting for the results from a second pregnancy test later on – the one that would turn out to be positive – bargaining out loud with no one in particular that if this was it, if I really was pregnant this time, I would try so, so, so hard to be the best mother I could possibly be for this baby. And I thought about my first ultrasound at eight weeks, when I learned that not only did I really, truly have a baby in there, but that I had two. And when I looked back at my grumpy, teething babies sitting on the kitchen floor covered in spilled milk and bits of hard-boiled egg, I realized, you know what? I got everything I asked for.
Of course, I didn’t ask for the smushed fruit or dirty dishes or the rarity that showering or changing my clothes has now become. And I certainly didn’t ask for two babies at once. But what I got – two beautiful babies with big smiles who hate diaper changes and scream when they’re tired and throw their food and come in every now and then for a sweet, brief cuddle and a kiss – it’s everything I hoped for when I realized I needed to become a mom.
All of the stuff, the awful pregnancy and much-too-early delivery, the NICU and the health problems, the worries about disabilities and brain damage, and the continuing question mark that is our future? It kind of seems not so bad anymore, one proper year later. A year on from my due date, and things look awfully different from how I thought they’d look when that pregnancy test came back positive. All of the expectations I’d had about pregnancy and early motherhood then had been so, so wrong. But did my dream come true that day? Absolutely. And it’s actually even better than I ever thought it’d be.