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Before and After — A Mother's Day Reflection

May 13, 2013 - Betsy Bethel
This day after Mother's Day, I am reflecting on what has changed in my life since becoming a mom. There are some obvious ones — namely, the disappearance of privacy and free time, which, naturally, led to the demise of such luxuries as long baths and whimsical road trips and spontaneous intimacy.

My body has changed, too, although not so a passerby would notice. I know some women whose feet grew during pregnancy or whose hips will never again see the inside of a pair of size 2 jeans. Didn't happen to me, maybe because my feet already are large and I haven't worn a size 2 since fifth grade! No, the changes in my body are mostly to do with plumbing and wiring — things you don't notice unless you live in the "house." Great curb appeal but leaky pipes and an overburdened electrical system. I'm a fixer-upper.

Other changes:

— Planning ahead for social gatherings involves shooting a text to a friend or another couple a couple hours beforehand (a day at the most) and hoping against hope that the stars align so they can get together with you. It's kind of like trying to hit the bullseye of a target strapped to the Tasmanian Devil.

— When I feel the inevitable and irresistible tug to buy clothes or shoes, I spend what little money I have on my child instead of on me. It's guilt-free retail therapy that also earns me accolades from my daughter. Of course, I'M wearing wide-legged capris and scuffed shoes with holey soles, but then, no one is looking at me!

— My live entertainment no longer involves rock concerts but consists mainly of impromptu piano serenades and arias, and really bad knock-knock jokes.

— Despite my misguided vows that "I will NEVER do that when I have a kid," I have done — and still do — many of those things.

— I thought parents who had one child weren't "real" parents. Seriously? Wow.

But mostly, when I consider my life now compared to my life P.E. (pre-Emma), I am awed by how my world has expanded and all she has taught me.

Before Emma, I didn't know I was capable of devoting myself so completely to the welfare of another. I never experienced such a willingness to lay down my life, such a raw and dizzying love that left me breathless — scared at times, exhilarated at others.

Before Emma, I didn't know how much I needed other people. I've always liked people and needed that connection. But the support network I have woven together of other moms with kids of all ages literally has held me up, kept me from plunging into error or despair. I have learned from them, learned with them, laughed and cried with them, prayed for them, and been uplifted by them.

Before Emma, I didn't know how sweet the breath of a newborn is, how delightful a baby's babbling sounds are, or how much she would make me laugh.

Before Emma, I didn't know what it was like to be the mom trying to wrangle a screaming, dead-weight toddler in the store. Now when I see that mom, I do what I wish everyone had done for me: completely ignore her. Even the people who gave me reassuring smiles or commiserating shakes of the head were — augh! — paying attention to me when all I wanted was to disappear.

Before Emma, I would touch a baby's hands and bare feet. Now I refrain, knowing that I could be carrying germs that will go right into that baby's mouth (or even if I'm not germy, I know the mom thinks I am).

Before Emma, I thought I needed 9 hours of sleep to function properly. (That might be true, but she sure taught me to survive on much less!)

Before Emma, I didn't fully understand how responsible a mom feels for everything a child says or does. Now that I'm a mom and have been through plenty of embarrassing moments, I take the things kids say with a pound of salt. And I don't think less of the mom because of it.

Before Emma, I didn't know that you could study and research and plan and fret and try your hardest to be the best parent you can be and still screw it up. And I didn't know — and still have a hard time believing sometimes — that 99 percent of parents struggle with the same things. And that it's OK. Tomorrow is another day, and all you have to do is show up.

In the minutes after I delivered Emma — naturally, with no drugs or interventions — I remember feeling like I ruled the world, like I was Superwoman! If I could do this, I could do anything! While I clearly am not Superwoman and my sovereignty over my own house is at times questionable, I still feel like because of Emma I can do much more than I ever thought possible. I lean on God, my husband, my mom and my friends when I need to. But Emma is my inspiration to keep learning and growing, to keep trying to be the best I can be. I am eternally grateful to be her mother.


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