The What and The Why (and the But)

Here’s the thing:

I love being a mother.

But.

And that’s exactly it.

The “but”.

The big ole “but” bouncing out of the mini-skirt of motherhood, making it all feel wildly inappropriate for the situation at hand. Because motherhood is appropriateness. Motherhood is example-setting. Motherhood is flowy and flora and fauna, an Anthropologie catalog steeped in breast milk and sipped with scones. Motherhood is the pulse of life surging purposefully through my veins. Or, rather, it should be. But.

There was a reason I wanted to Carrie Bradshaw my experience, and it had everything to do with my but.

I think part of it is that I feel too young to be a mother. Age is all in your mind, right? I’m 12. 12 going on 36. After years of convincing and being convinced that I had an old soul, that I was born 56 and aged from there, I birthed a child and took a good long look at the Peanut in my arms and reassessed. While I hurt and store regrets and slights and keep yarn hobbies and ramble off sage wisdom to my younger, impressionable friends like an old person, my lifestyle was that of a freewheelin’, borderline-alcoholic Peter Pan. I owned nothing of worth. My student debt was so high that I simply stopped acknowledging it as any sort of financial position and assumed it as me, as me as my pointy chin and weak nails. I didn’t have health insurance until very recently, and not through any real effort on my part – I said “I do”, and voilà! Lower car insurance rate and health insurance. Most importantly, I kept odd hours. Odd, dilly-dally hours. Hours littered with procrastination and self-exploration through books and poetry and middle-of-the-night dance parties with the cat. Hours where I wrote. Hours where I got my best work done. I was a writer, and I embraced the fact that I was writing and learning and flailing and making mistakes, because that was part of the process. I was dedicated to the craft even when I wasn’t writing, because every experience fed the Beast of Creativity. To keep myself clothed and sheltered and fed, I freelanced as a producer. Most freelancers freelance because they are motivated self-starters who can make more on their own (and typically do). I freelanced because I didn’t want to be told when and for how long I could vacation. (Sadly, I never took a vacation as a freelancer. But I digress.) The buzz was just wearing off after being a single lady on the town, then a coupled lady out-and-about, then a frisky fiancée, then a cutie-patootie newlywed. Lots of celebrating, lots of laughs. One day, not long after my wedding, my handsome husband (OOOOOOOH, titles!) looked at me the wrong way, and I was pregnant.

And we were surprised.

And then I miscarried.

And we were heartbroken.

And we decided not to dilly-dally.

And I was pregnant again.

And 37 weeks later, I was sliced open and out tumbled the most adorable creature I’d ever seen. She was perfect. Perfect. So fucking perfect I couldn’t stand it. How did I make that? How did that cherubic doll of a baby grow and develop in my womb? She was so pretty I felt self-conscious, like a fraud. Pretty babies come from pretty people, and while I have some cute bits about me, I’ve never been “pretty”. This baby was pretty. She continues to be pretty. We’ll see what Junior High brings, but until then, it’s me and my pretty pretty Peanut.

Once the anesthesia wore off, I held my living doll and looked into her eyes and felt my breasts swell and leak uncontrollably and tried not to move for fear of waking her or popping a stitch and … reassessed. I reflected on the year: my husband and I had married, become pregnant, rescued an abused dog, and bought a house. Now I was a mother. The year still had two-and-a-half months to go. It was a lot in a short amount of time. I thought about the time I spent in New York, 13+ years, and the years spent in relationships where the only progress made in the coupling was scuba certification or the purchase of a fancy espresso machine. But now I was a wife and a mother and a homeowner. For the first time in my life, the stakes had been raised.

“Raise the stakes.” “But what are the stakes?” “What’s at stake?” (“Ummm, what do you mean by ‘stakes’?”) “Okay, what is the protagonist at risk of LOSING?” Questions I ask ad nauseum to my screenwriting students, the answer always being blank, empty stares. My answer was a no-brainer. What were my stakes? What did I have to lose? Everything. What brought me immense joy and had surreptitiously usurped my freewheelin’ caution-to-the-wind persona. What had the potential to kill me should it ever die or wander off or abandon me. As I looked at the babe, hours old, I realized that in absolutely no time, she had become the most important thing in my life. I wasn’t quite sure if I loved her yet or not, that certainty would come later, but I felt a ferocity stirring within. And that ferocity called into question everything I’d done up until that point.

Six months later, here we are as I search for the answer. My big but.

In the last six months I worked for others. I cared for a babe. I wrote for hire. I taught my students the art and craft of writing. This blog, this web address, this is for me as I continue to reassess and realign and reconfigure and figure out what this glorious, messy miracle is that just occurred: the birth of not just a babe, but a mother.