By Surprise

Some time back, after shaking the last bit out of a salt canister, I had a brainstorm. I looked at that big cardboard tube and thought, planetarium! We got right to it, poking star holes with the pointy end of a candy thermometer, removing the metal spout to make a peep hole and lastly painting the whole thing night sky blue.

I finally stood back with pride while my girl squinted up one eye and gazed into her private galaxy. And then it hit me.

Holy fuck. I am a mom.

I looked at a salt can and saw a galaxy tube. My brain thinks in scissors and paint, my house is littered with toys in every room, the walls are plastered with children’s drawings, I stroller my kids to library story-time every Tuesday morning, and I almost always remember to pack a variety of wholesome snacks.

I wasn’t exactly terrified. It just…. caught me by surprise. It always does.

Back when I was a mere three months pregnant with the first and our kind-hearted neighbors started bringing by boxes of second hand kid stuff, I freaked out. I was not going to be one of Those Parents. Whose house is overrun by kids’ toys, whose lives are overrun by kids’ activities. Babies don’t need stuff, I told myself. This pre-stockpiling is completely absurd.

There was one moment in particular– A woman I vaguely knew had called to see if I wanted a baby bassinet. “What’s a bassinet?” I asked. She explained and said she’s bring it by for me to look at. I must have missed her knock at the door, because two hours later when I opened it to go out for a walk, there was an enormous monstrosity of white lace blocking my exit. I gasped. I felt dizzy. I considered taking it straight to the trash, but I am too pragmatic for that. As quickly as I could I stripped off the white lace, hauled the bassinet upstairs and exiled it to a dark closet. Similarly the four huge boxes of cloth diapers. I think I might have even made the woman who brought them by feel bad for dumping them on me.

Lo and behold, a few months later that bassinet became critical to my every day. I would lay the babe in it in the kitchen while I did the few necessaries (a really few).  And the diapers, jesus what an ingrate. I didn’t realize I was being gifted hundreds of dollars worth of extremely nice cloth diapers.

But, they just…. caught me by surprise. I hadn’t thought about diapers and bassinets yet. I was still coming to grips with the fact that I could hardly breathe enough to walk up the mountain trail by our house.

Things have continued at such a pace. I am perpetually several steps behind in the ‘gracious acceptance’ department, always suffering from the arrogant expectation that I would be ‘different.’ Having a second helped drive the point in. I had been adamantly against strollers, but come 6 months pregnant, carrying an almost 2yo up the hill in the Ergo with 20 pounds of groceries strapped on back, my resolve began to melt.

These days I look more or less like any mom. Like a real mom. Kids in the stroller, diaper bag bulging, unwashed hair flying everywhere. Life more or less completely folded around my littles.

I do sometimes long for those footloose days when I imagined what kind of mama I would be, imagined how I would be ‘different.’ Everything is possible in one’s imagination.

But I am becoming more and more comfortable with my place down here amongst the human people. Being a mom with a diaper bag. Thinking in scissors and paint. Finding delight in an old salt can. Being overrun by kids.

In fact on the days that I manage to surrender to my role, I sometimes find myself blissfully happy about the entirety of my mom-ness. Like some earthy Madonna, I feel full with motherhood. Peace descends from above. And it’s good.

Which above all is what catches me by surprise. I am mom. I am okay.

9 thoughts on “By Surprise

  1. CJ, have I mentioned that I am completely in love with this blog?

    I think I have. It makes me greatful. It makes me happy. It makes me feel like I’m part of some cyber community where there are a heap of sisters out there, both in communication with me and not speaking yet, who know the honesty and love and complete-ness of what being a mama is. It’s not having a blog that has prize-worthy photos in large green fields and professing a love for motherhood that knows no boundaries (although maple-sweet optimism is nice too!).

    I love waking up every morning to Alice saying my name, then just being ready for Ethan’s ‘snuggles’ when he gate crashes our little breakfast. I love knowing that he can read all of our names, and I love hearing her say a new word or ten each day. Most of the time it leads me in to confusion, this mama game, but it’s a happy confusion full of answers and analysing and re-assessing (cos the buggers just keep growing).

    I also love it when the kindanearlysomainstreamwemakeourselvessick mama’s that are just like me, who are on my f*cebook, tell me that they owe me one for pointing this blog out to them. You, my dear, are a meeting point, a topic for everyone I know (just about, no shit) each day to discuss and agree, that yeah, I realised I was a real mama the day that I found myself deliberately shopping for a ceramic teapot and cups so that my son and I could have tea parties together with ‘special stuff’ that was all his, or the day we laid Alice out in the front yard and made fairy circles outta coloured popsticks and fuzzy glitterballs, just because we could.

    Without you, I would have continued thinking everyone out there was sitting on a pink mushroom and had too much zoloft in their system. With you, I have managed to find my inner voice and an open dialogue to discuss, laugh and cry, about all the mama-ness in us and how much we all love, and loathe it, at the same time.

  2. Your post makes me think of 5 years ago (before kids) when my husband and I viewed our current home for the first time. The owners had two small kids and a child’s train table was the centre of the living room, an art easel and a few baskets of toys took up one wall of the kitchen. At the time, I thought how horrible that looked and that the owners were so lazy not to tidy up before we came. Ha! The universe showed me. I now have so much lego spilled over my living room floor that I practically have to hopscotch to the kitchen.
    By the way, I really enjoy your blog.

  3. Wow, somehow I missed this post for a couple days. When you posted about cooking a chook, or feeding them eggshells, I thought, yep, that’s what I need to read- good stuff.
    Now I think this is what I needed to read. I am Mummy, and I am going to be okay, too. How did you know? And thanks.

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