I have a little confession to make. I’ve allowed myself to indulge in a bit of fantasy over the years, dreaming of the day when I’d have a family of my own. Becoming dependent on a man for everything never appealed to me so I wanted a career I could rely on if I ever needed to take care of myself, but I also wanted to get married and be a dedicated full-time mom to a house full of children. (Talk about conflicting ideas in one head!) I guess the only way I could get both things was to do what I did – focus on education and career, then get married and have babies later.
I couldn’t just want my family without having an idea of what I was getting into and how exactly I could be THE BEST mother and wife possible when the time came. Strange as it may seem, I began reading books on parenting and marriage while I was still in high school. I listened to radio programs that centered on healthy family dynamics. I watched other people – how they handled their marriages and children – and made mental notes: do this, do NOT do that, research that option further… I went to counseling and learned what family systems I had grown up with that were healthy and unhealthy. I worked hard to become someone who could have thriving relationships with others, free from insecurities and false notions of what normal family life is. By the time I was in my late-20s, I felt like I’d gathered enough information to do a pretty decent job and had come to the conclusion that every parent and spouse messes up in some way so I could pretty much count on that too.
I spent a lot of time taking care of other people’s children. I worked part-time as a nanny for an agency, meeting many different families. I babysat for the children of my friends, deciding to love the children God had put into my life and enjoy the love I received in return. And for about 18 months before Rick and I got married, I helped a dear friend take care of her six children and run her large household. I filled my empty heart with the love of these dear friends and it made the loneliness much more bearable.
Part of my indulgence in fantasy included pretending like the kids were mine when I was out with them in public – driving, shopping, playing at parks. For a little while, I’d allow myself to pretend like I was the mom, allow the strangers around me to believe what they wanted, and think about what my life would be like if it were true. Car seats, French fries ground into the carpet, toys everywhere, germy little fingers – all of it! I imagined they were my responsibility, not children I had borrowed for a few hours but ones I had nurtured from the beginning. And most of the time I was happy to give them back at the end of the day or the outing, allowing their parents to deal with the long nights without sleep and the difficult discipline issues.
Much of the joy and wonder of this pregnancy has been eclipsed by the way my body has rebelled against it’s intruder. All the love I have for this unborn child has somehow not been picked up by my digestive system, which has fought us every step of the way. Surviving the next day has become a bigger concern than dreaming about what’s to come and there have been very few fantasies about my life after the baby arrives. Instead, I’ve faced a lot of fears. Why was I so confident that I’d be good at bringing children into the world? I’m not nearly as tough as I thought I was. What if this baby is as difficult to manage as this pregnancy has been? Can I ever handle another pregnancy again? What if I lose this baby after everything I’ve gone through?
As the end of the pregnancy has neared, my fears have calmed significantly. It’s easier not to be afraid when constant vomiting and nausea aren’t your daily companions. Much of my energy has returned and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the baby were to come at this point, the pregnancy is viable and the baby appears to be thriving in my womb. We have nearly everything done to our home in preparation, and the joy of this long-awaited Christmas season is starting to sink in.
Yesterday I was able to drive myself into the nearby town to drop something at the Post Office – a pretty exciting outing for this bed rest mommy. As I got out of the car, I noticed the infant car seat strapped securely into the back, just waiting for it’s occupant, and I had to stop to catch my breath. Tears sprung to my eyes as I realized that anyone passing by would assume – and rightfully so – that the baby seat is for MY baby. It isn’t pretend any more. I don’t have to give this child, this car seat, back to the woman whose been blessed to call this child her own. I am the one who has been blessed! Never again will I face that awkward moment when the child calls out to me by a name other than “Mommy” and those around us realize that I’m the aunt or the babysitter.
I remember once when my nephew was just a tiny baby, someone confused him as my child in front of my sister. She was thoroughly annoyed and quick to correct the offender. I was a little taken aback by her reaction until she explained. She said after everything she went through to bring him into the world, all the pregnancy discomforts, plus the sleepless nights and countless dirty diapers, she wanted all the credit for him. She did not want to share it with anyone else. I get it now.
I’m grateful to God and to Rick for giving me the opportunity to be a mother. I’m also grateful for all the research I did in a time when I had the energy and focus to do it. The day that Rick and I actually put our new baby into his or her car seat for the first time and drive home will probably be one of the best days of my life. I’m so excited about this new little person who I will have the privilege of calling my own.