The things they don't tell you...
Yesterday the boys and I were driving home when I heard the words every mom in the front seat dreads "Mom, I feel sick..." I reached blindly into the back seat searching for something, anything that could serve as a vessel for the inevitable. Library books? No. A transformer? No. An umbrella ? Maybe! No. Something must be.....aha! A giant cup! This is perfect. He's a child, he can't possibly fill this up. Famous last words. He couldn't stop. And I couldn't stop the car. It was pouring down rain. Cars were behind us. We were only 5 minutes from home. As we pulled into the driveway the baby was crying, the 5 year old was screaming "the smell! the SMELLLLLL!" as if he were in a horror movie and the 7 year old said with all the dry wit he could muster after having destroyed the car, "Mom, I think we're going to need to get a new car door." After everyone was out of the car and cleaned up he declared "I feel much better mom!" and ran off with his brothers to watch T.V. I changed my clothes, grabbed the clorox spray and a roll of paper towels and went to work. You do a lot of thinking when you're cleaning vomit out from in between the seats. You wonder if your car will ever smell ok again (not that it did in the first place) and you become thankful that you don't have cloth interior, and you remember the last time this happened (and the 10 before that) but mostly you realize that this is one of those things that they don't tell you before you become a parent.
There's a lot of talk these days about women's rights. The right to choose. The logic, I suppose, Is that I should be able to decide if I want in on this parenting 'thing' or not. And never does that concept make more sense than when you're scooping regurgitated beef out from the cupholder of your Chevrolet. I will admit that in that moment I had the definite and sobering thought that I didn't sign up for this. There are so many things 'they' don't tell you before you become a parent. (Whoever 'they' are.)
They don't tell you that you'll be cleaning vomit out from the interior of your vehicle on numerous occasions, we've already covered that (no pun intended). But it's not just your car they'll ruin, it's your clothes and your furniture and your floors and your walls and on many occasions your heart. They don't tell you, that even if you are an easy-going, mild-mannered person they will bring out anger in you that you never knew possible. They don't tell you that you'll be too ashamed to admit that even though every other parent is going through the same thing. They don't tell you that late at night when they are 'finally' sleeping and your husband is snoring next to you that you will be up worrying, about their future, about their present, about what kind of person they are and will be. What kind of person they will marry? Will they marry? Will they become one of the people you read about in the news and everyone says "his poor mother". He did push that kid on the playground. Is it your fault? It's got to be your fault. You could have done so many things differently, you yelled, you hovered, you were impatient, and you can't. take. it. back. And when he needs therapy when he is older (because who doesn't) they'll say "Tell me about your mother." And he will. They don't tell you that when you kiss them goodbye and send them off to school that you will wonder if you will ever see them again and that you can't imagine a more horrible thought but you'll smile and wave and go on with your day. They don't tell you about the absolute frustration of having them look you in the eye and lie to you or just simply say "NO". They don't tell you that you will be responsible for everything in the beginning; feeding, burping, changing, making sure they are breathing, picking out clothes, bringing them to the doctor, brushing their teeth, wiping their butts, drying their eyes. Then after years of learning to give your whole self ,often at the expense of yourself, just as you finally conform your will to this perpetual vigil of care that you will have to let it go, bit by bit, piece by piece until finally you have to let them go.
They don't tell you about the joy. I mean they do, but not really. You can hear someone else speak about the joy of having children but the joy of having YOUR children will be something wholly other. They don't tell you that when you haven't slept for weeks and you feel like you're legitimately insane that they will smile for the first time and your whole world will change. They don't tell you that when you are with them sometimes you will wish that you weren't. That you will wish to get away, run away even. And then the minute you do get a moment away you will think of nothing else but them and you will miss them. They don't tell you that sometimes when you are playing in the yard with them and everyone is laughing and running and the sun is shining and you've forgotten about work and the house cleaning and the growing pile of laundry that you will think to yourself, "I hope this is what they remember." Because this is what you will remember. They don't tell you that the first time they read or spell or do multiplication or share with another child that you will feel as if you just won a nobel prize. They don't tell you that your children will cause an identity crisis in you because you will see yourself in them. In the good and especially the bad, and you will question everything you've ever known about yourself, everything you think you know about yourself and you will reevaluate it all. They don't tell you that sometimes you will look at their little hands and feet while you are rocking them to sleep or their growing feet and noses and ears and marvel at the wonders of God. They don't tell you that, in those moments you will be absolute certain that there IS a God. They don't tell you that these little people will make you lose your religion and yet restore your faith, everyday.
They don't tell you that all of this will begin long before you even see their face for the first time. That from the moment that first wave of nausea comes upon you and you get a positive test or start the adoption process that you will begin to wonder. Who will he be? What will he look like? Who could he be? Am I strong enough?
You are strong enough. You are strong enough to see this child's future and have hope in it, even if that future is not in your own home. You are strong enough to be selfless for this time and maybe for always. You will slip up, you will get back up. You will go on because a whole other unrepeatable, soul needs you to. So, it is a choice, in a way. A choice to live for another human person with a future full of joys and sorrows and laughing and vomit. A choice to give all of yourself for the rest of your life, or maybe even just for 9 months. And if only for 9 months, a choice to bless another family with the chance to learn all of these glorious, painful things that 'they don't tell you'. It's not just a choice you make once, it's a choice you make a hundred times a day, over and over, a choice that ultimately makes you. But that first one, thats not a choice, thats a miracle. A moment when life begins quite literally with a spark of light? That choice has already been made. Parenthood whether its biological, adoptive, spiritual, or other makes us better by trial and by fire.
“(Wo)Man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et Spes, 24)
We must give ourselves in some way in this life in order to make the most of this life, and the next. Motherhood is one of the most powerful ways to do so. This self-giving love of motherhood makes us healthier, happier, holier and more whole versions of ourselves. There is indeed a war on women, one that seeks to take this opportunity from us, even if in a moment of understandable fear we think we want to take it away from ourselves. The real war on women comes from those who wish to steal this gift from us, who tell us that it is a choice, that the inconvenience is not worth it. The real war on women robs us of the opportunity to struggle and overcome and be victorious. The real war on women says that we aren't strong enough or good enough or affluent enough. The real war on women takes away the possibility of the unearned and unexpected joys and sorrows of the things that 'they' don't tell you. We must not be afraid to defend ourselves in this war, to defend our friends, our fellow women, to stand up for ourselves against those who wish to destroy our daughters, even if they happen to be women themselves.
A life not lived for others is not a life.
― Mother Teresa