I remember the exact moment. Ignoring the fact that my urine was sitting on the counter in a cup, I nervously dropped a few drops of the liquid into the little window on the stick. And waited. I’d done this before. A half a dozen times actually. Each time the same result: no. I closed my eyes. I prayed. I knew the answer, but I had to wait. Time was up and I peeked. I started shaking. YES. YES! I calmly walked down the stairs and opened the door to the garage. The husband stood there working on packing for our upcoming move. I handed him the stick. “Guess what?” I just stood there and he stood there. Both in shock. He handed me the stick, gave me a hug and then turned back to packing. I stood there for another minute, bewildered, and went back stairs to finish packing. We just learned we’d be parents and we said exactly less than 2 sentences to one another.
A few days later I was at the bookstore purchasing the Bible of pregnancy: What to Expect When You are Expecting. I devoured the book. And as I read page after page I learned to worry about things I never thought of before. I peppered the husband with random questions like, “Should I opt to have an epidural?” or “Do you think we should have your parents at the birth?” The husband, who was still very much in shock, just listened to me. In those first few weeks as morning sickness set in with a vengeance and I worried about miscarriages and childbirth, this book was my guide. Is it normal that I can’t walk near milk in the grocery store? Oh, ya, that’s normal. Is my belly supposed to look like that? Oh ya, that’s normal. The book became the way to ease my anxiety. I didn’t recognize that it actually gave me MORE anxiety.
After the boy was born I moved to What to Expect the First Year. Of course I read it prior to his birth…cover to cover. I meticulously planned what his birth would be like and imagined the first weeks. And then, like most births, my plan went out the window. One crashing heart rate and extremely torn episiotomy later, my son laid on my chest while my doctor worked on putting me back together.
The first few weeks did not go as planned either. One day in complete frustration, I started crying. I told my momma I didn’t understand why my son was not doing what he was supposed to be doing and why I was so upset.
“Honey, babies never do what you think they will do.”
“But, I read the book. The book says he should be doing this by now.” (he was all of 8 days old…)
“Taunya, He didn’t read the book.”Momma
I looked at my momma. “Well, he should have read the book.” I’m sure my momma thought her daughter had lost every ounce of common sense. I laugh at it now, but in that moment I was very upset. I was told what to expect and that’s not what I got. It didn’t cover what to expect when a torn episiotomy and a resulting infection left me unable to walk or get out of bed. It didn’t cover how to deal with a sister-in-law who ignored me up until that point but was in my house every single day from the time my husband got home until he went to bed. It didn’t cover how to handle a father who simultaneously made me feel loved and crazy. It didn’t exactly tell me that giving birth would feel like having my insides ripped out and that postpartum would feel like the loneliest experience of my life. It didn’t tell me how I’d feel like the worst parent in the world and would consider ending my life almost daily for at least the first few weeks of my son’s life. I should have known that the book was not telling the whole truth. Because, after all, who wants to expect giving birth makes you feel crazy?
I survived my son’s first year and Toddlerhood arrived. I quit reading the expecting books because I discovered Dr. Sear’s and crunchy granola mommas. But the book didn’t tell me how to handle a husband who thought Dr. Sear’s was clueless and crunchy granola momma’s needed to get a life. So I quit reading books about parenting. Because all they told me was what not to expect.
Life was easier without the books. I learned to listen to older, wiser women, like my mother and mother-in-law. And I started listening to my children. I found they were the best teacher of how to parent them. But still, in the back of my mind, was the nagging question, “But am I doing this RIGHT?” Isn’t there a book that will tell me what to expect…what to do?
I’m honestly glad that I didn’t have mommy blogs during my early days of parenting. I’m not opposed to blogging anymore than I am the What to Expect books. After all, through blogging I met one of my best friends and I found my voice. However, the homeschool blogging community brought back my earlier issues. My life, my kids, our schooling became about what others were doing or what they said we should be doing. Once again, I was frustrated because we didn’t meet the expectations I set on us. And once again, my children became my guiding light to sanity: they refused to be homeschooled one day more.
You would think moving from a working-at-home mother to a working-outside-home mother would eliminate my dance with the expectations…right? WELL, now I have a WHOLE new set of issues. How do I balance work and kids? What am I missing out on (they are teens…honestly, I don’t miss out on much because they don’t want me involved!)? Are they scarred because we hardly have family dinners together, because there are 4 of us in 4 different directions? Shouldn’t I be the mom who is always there? Aren’t they going to say, “Our mom was great but she worked when she could have been sitting at home while we ignored her? Or told her how mean she was for making us clean the bathroom? And you know the worst thing about all of this?
THERE IS NOT A BOOK OR BLOG IN SIGHT TO TELL ME WHAT TO EXPECT!
I can’t walk down to the store and get a book that says what to expect when your teen rolls their eyes and you find yourself seriously considering smacking their face. There isn’t a blog sharing how they just spent 2 hours in a cell phone store trying to figure out cell plans with teens who make you feel like you are ancient. Why aren’t we telling the truth how parenting teens is like parenting 2 year-olds, only you can’t pick them up and put them in time out. They can, and will, talk back. And it’s not so cute when your 17-year-old says how much they hate you. And honestly, when is the last time a blog shared how bad a teenage boys room will stink. Seriously. We just don’t talk about these things.
My best friend and I now have 20 year old sons. How does this even happen? And where are the books for this stage of parenting? What to Expect When your 20 year old asks you what liquor is the best liquor and oh, can you help me get a tux for my wedding this summer? This parenting stage. Brutal. Sweet. Brutal. Sweet. UGH.
They don’t tell you, in that book, that those first few days last just a blink of an eye. That the sleepless nights end and the toddler tantrums cease. That hours snuggled together reading and bedtime prayers will be faint memories. That discussions about boundaries and showers will mercifully end. They don’t tell you that in the end, you are left with a full heart, a lot of memories and empty ache as the silence reminds you they have left home.
It occurred to me that we mommas still have expectations. We still have questions about what to do and how to do it and when to speak and when to not speak. We don’t cease being a momma just because they grew up. And so, maybe, what we need is to share what we know. Not so mommas behind will know what to expect. But so when they reach this stage, they will know it’s just another stage in parenting, another adventure. And realize, like all the other stages before, they will survive this one too. And as my friend says…there is always grandbabies to look forward to!
So there you have it. I’m just a momma parenting teen girls (you know what that is like. I see you.) and trying to embrace the reality that my son is an adult, getting married and I’m going to be a mother-in-law. I don’t have all the answers. I still have a bundle of questions. But I’m still a momma. And I always will be.