The Wonder of Discovery

August 30, 2010

I finally put my finger on what is so special about being a mom. It's seeing my child discover his world and his abilities.

Every day I place my son on the floor, and he crawls toward the first thing that catches his interest. It may be something he played with the day before, but he wants to check it out again. He claws at it. He waves it. He puts it in his mouth. He pushes it across the carpet. The whole time, I can see his little mind working behind his eyes, trying to grasp the definition and purpose of said object. He pulls himself up to the bottom shelf of my bookcase, and he positively beams at his tiny accomplishment. I push new foods into his mouth, looking for his reaction to an unfamiliar taste. It's a wondrous time.

I believe it's the excitement of discovery that makes life full and worthwhile. It's the source of butterflies when a young couple falls in love. It's the rush I feel when traveling to a new destination. It's why parents take their children to zoos, amusement parks, and space camp. It's why people get such a thrill out of giving and receiving gifts. Experiencing something for the first time is special, but it is even more special to create a first experience for a child, spouse, or friend.

I imagine this is the main reason so many parents struggle with raising disabled children--for them, discovery is limited. Depending on their disability, they may never feel the sense of pride at learning to walk on their own, the thrill of competing with their peers, or the pleasure of falling in love. Having the burden of caring for an especially dependent child minus the reward of seeing him or her develop and discover in normal ways, I imagine, must be crippling for those parents. My heart goes out to them.

Yes, parenthood is still mundane at times. Scrubbing plum stains out of my baby's clothes isn't the most stimulating task. I'm still looking forward to going back to work full-time after I earn my teaching license. But at the moment, watching my little boy learn and grow in these little ways makes the days go by just fine. And I am thankful.

P.S. I hope you like the new blog design. Let me know what you think!


August 27, 2010

(This is going to get sticky.)

Two days ago, my best friend told me that she's in love with a woman. This wasn't completely out of the blue, so I can't say I was totally surprised. But when I read the words--so emphatically expressed--in black and white, I felt like I had been stabbed in the gut.

Part of me doesn't think she's really gay. I've known her for 10 years, and up until the past year or so, she's always been interested in men. She had at least two major crushes on guys when she was in college. I have no idea what to think now.

My friend is in the ministry. She wants to become ordained. She just graduated from seminary after spending three years there beyond college. But if she decides to publicly pursue a homosexual relationship, the church will never ordain her. She may even lose her current job. Everything she has worked for will be for nothing--not to mention that her mom will be crushed at the prospect of never having a grandchild. I would feel better about supporting my friend through this if I believed this was more than the result of social influence.

I feel like I'm in an awkward position now. First of all, my father has been a pentecostal minister for most of his adult life. You can imagine what his views on homosexuality are, and he considers my friend like a second daughter to him. I can just picture his disappointment, as well as my becoming at odds with my parents over my choice to support her.

The situation is made more awkward for me because of my personal feelings on the subject. I openly admit here that I'm not totally comfortable with the idea of homosexuality. That does not mean I'm homophobic. I gladly befriend gays, hug them, hang out with them, and genuinely listen when they talk about their lives and loves. If a gay person confessed that she found me attractive, I would not be offended or repulsed. I would even vote for their right to marry. But I'm not 100% convinced that homosexuality is a natural, inherent attraction. Maybe it is, but I can't convince myself.

I know admitting this is dangerous. I know that dozens of people will argue otherwise. They may even provide scientific evidence to suggest that it is. Trust me, I've heard all the arguments. But all that can do is change my mental understanding of what it means to be homosexual. It cannot change how I feel about it. Maybe that's because I live as a heterosexual woman and, therefore, will never truly understand what it means to be gay.

All I know is that I love my friend and will support her in whatever she chooses to do. I can only imagine what she is feeling right now--facing the possibility that she is different from what she always thought she was, that many of her friends and family may reject her, that she may have to choose between her convictions and her career. I just wish I knew for sure that this is the right thing for her. I'm also afraid that one day she'll ask me what my true feelings are, and that will be the end of our friendship. I'm willing to meet her halfway on this. I just hope she'll agree to meet me on the other side. I want to be there.

Thanks for reading...and understanding.

Murphy's Law

August 23, 2010

Sick, exhausted, heartbroken: those are the words that describe me today. The house hunt isn't going well. We made an offer on a charming little house on a quiet cul-de-sac just one street over from a city park. The way the sun streamed into the lush backyard was simply idyllic. But the owners refused to negotiate with us, so we had to take our money elsewhere.

A couple of days ago, we found another house: a historic home with large bedrooms and stunning wood floors. My husband fell in love, as did I. We also met the owner, who told us she was very motivated to sell and had just dropped the price by $12,000. So we made an offer. As we waited to hear from our agent, my husband insisted on celebrating with Chinese take-out. It seemed like a sure thing. Then our agent called: our offer was fair, but the owner had just revealed there was asbestos in the house that must be removed before the deal can go through. The cost and time to remove it may put our purchase out of reach. We were devastated.

What started as a fun and exciting process has turned into a demoralizing drudgery.

Now we may have to start searching for a home a third time, despite having looked at 30 houses in the past 3 weeks. The problem is that we're running out of options. And three days ago I submitted our "intent to vacate" to the apartment property manager. If our apartment sells in the next 57 days, we will have to move whether we have a house or not.

Furthermore, I've been dealing with all of this--including shopping for houses and signing contracts--while sick with a cold.

In a way, though, I'm not surprised. After everything I've experienced in the past three years, I've come to accept that nothing is ever simple. I'm actually shocked when any process goes smoothly. I'm convinced there will always be a snag, or a hidden concession, or a major hangup down the line. Every time we have moved, I've been sick. Every time we go on vacation to visit family, there's tension. Every time I think I have myself sorted out, another issue pops up. I'm 27 going on 80 at this point. I could use more effective ways of dealing with stress.

Under the Bus

August 16, 2010

I feel like I haven't slept in a week. Probably because I haven't...much.

The past two times my husband has been on duty, I've stayed up until one and two in the morning. Something about turning out the light in a big empty bedroom just isn't appealing. On top of that, William has woken up a few times in the night on more than one occasion, which has robbed me of sleep. Then on the one night I seemed set for uninterrupted rest, the fire alarm in our apartment malfunctioned, sending us outside at 3:30 a.m. to escape the deafening noise. Now we've just made an offer to buy a house, and I keep tossing with restless dreams about everything that could go wrong.

My husband and I appear to be reconnecting--probably because house hunting has put us back on the same page--but not all is entirely well with me. William is becoming increasingly more active and mobile. I recently spent an entire day removing every electrical cord in the living area from William's mouth four times over. (The drill has been as follows: remove child from problem area, place child in a central location near toys, sit down for five minutes, get up, remove child from another problem area, repeat ad nauseum.) Naps are getting shorter and feedings are becoming messier. Thank God he's happy and manageable most of the time, or I'd lose it. I love my son dearly and don't regret becoming a mother, but I realize now that I'm not meant to have a house full of children.

There are other things weighing on my mind that I'm not ready to share. But I will say that one of the reasons William's care has become a little troublesome is because of a physical strain I am experiencing. It has me very concerned. Hopefully, I'll be able to see a doctor soon...and maybe get some sleep, too.

Thanks for reading.


August 11, 2010

I don't know what's going on with my marriage.

I feel like I'm having a tough time connecting with my husband. We cuddle, we kiss, we say "I love you"--we talk about our days and what is happening with our son--but there seems to be an awkward silence between us.

We used to have so much in common. We could talk for hours about books, politics, our dreams and goals.... Now my husband could care less about politics. We stopped reading the same books well over a year ago. And we've rehashed our dreams and goals so much that discussing them yet again sometimes feels like a stab in the eye.

I sort of snapped at my husband a few days ago. He asked if I was ok for about the sixth time that day. I said yes. But the truth is, I don't really know.

My soul is empty but my mind is full. I have tons of mental energy and nowhere to put it, yet I move around the house as if I'm stuck in a bog. The simplest tasks seem to take forever to complete. I'm slow at everything these days. And it makes me crazy.

I want to talk to my husband, but what do I say? We've acknowledged before that we aren't quite on the same page like we were before marriage. So what is there to say? "Be present in mind as well as body?" Because it seems he's out to lunch as well.

To All the Young Ladies

August 5, 2010

On my recent vacation to Tennessee to visit family, I had the pleasure of visiting some long-time friends. This particular group of friends is a married couple with five teen-aged children, one of whom is completely smitten with her first boyfriend. (Boy, do I remember those days!) Of course, I had William in tow, so the conversation turned to perspectives on motherhood. The girls wanted to know the best and worst of raising a child from a new mother and an outsider, and I was happy to oblige.

Becoming a mother changes your lifestyle, your body, your perspective, your priorities, and your marriage. Any pre-child goals and ambitions are not necessarily put out of reach by having a child, but they become much harder to achieve. Your time is no longer your own to use as you please. Be prepared for interrupted phone calls, TV shows, and movies.

Not only is parenthood an adjustment for the mother, but for the father as well (when he's in the picture). So while you're dealing with fluctuating hormones, increased demands on your energy, intensifying emotions and an uncertain future, he's struggling to cope with your evolution and discover his role as a parent. On top of that, both of you will have different ideas of what childcare is. It takes a strong, committed couple to successfully negotiate the chaos.

Being a mother is a full-time job. There are no days or hours off. Even if you get a babysitter for a day, you're still on call in case something goes wrong. Even if you don't get a call, you're wondering whether your child is well, protected, and behaving. If your child wakes up crying in the middle of the night, you're getting up to comfort him or her.

Even when both parents are in the picture, babies are most dependent upon their mothers for their comfort and care. As a mother, you will be most intuitive to your baby's needs and, therefore, will most likely seize the responsibility for meeting them.

Motherhood, while rewarding, is dirty. Prepare to scrub runny poo out of carpet and puke out of your car's upholstery. When your baby begins teething, your most interesting accessories will end up wet and slimy with drool as everything goes into the baby's mouth. You'll end up canceling shopping trips because your child spit up on his, or your, last change of clean clothes.

There are no trophies or awards in parenthood. No one is going to hand you the "Patient Mother of the Year" award for enduring a three-hour scream fest. Your child will be years old before you hear a genuinely thoughtful "thank-you" for all the work you have done to care for him or her.

Having a child just to have someone to love you is a huge mistake. Young babies can't reciprocate love. They don't know what it is. For the first month of their lives, they can't even smile on purpose. Again, your child will be years old before he or she can say "I love you."

In short, motherhood is tough. All the magazines of celebrities toting around their offspring would have young women believe that motherhood is a glamorous situation. It is not. Babies are not accessories; they are completely helpless, totally dependent individuals who require constant care and attention. Nothing on earth can fully prepare you for the physical and emotional wringer of motherhood.

Why do I say this? Because young women need to see the whole picture. My advice: consider motherhood very carefully before taking that leap. Once you hear the words "You're pregnant", life changes forever, even if you choose abortion or adoption. If you have ambitions--like traveling or attending college--do some of those things first. I did, and I now have those memories to look back on and feel good about. They have made me a more well-rounded person, which has helped me to remain stable as a mother. They are memories I will share with my child when he is older.

Do I regret motherhood? Absolutely not. When my baby smiles, the sun shines in my world. But I'm thankful for every opportunity I took early in adulthood to pursue my dreams before William came along: time to work, to establish my marriage, to discover more about who I am.

And now, I'm looking to the future. I have more goals that I have yet to reach. That's why, for now, becoming a mother for a second time is on hold.