|Me with PG as she takes her first breath|
It's a beautiful Sunday in May - Mother's Day. A day to take a mindful **pause** and honor mothers everywhere. While I honor my Mom, my kids honor me - I'm a gratitude sandwich today and it's nothing short of lovely. Today I want to reflect on the gratitude in all forms - not just sunny smiling days filled with hugs and kisses - I mean the good and the... ummm... crappy. (If you're thinking this is a dirty diaper reference, you're dead on.)
Mom, I am grateful that you toted a car load of 12 year olds to see George Michael in 1987. You understood that tweenagers don't want to hang with a Mom at a concert. You danced on the lawn at Great Woods by yourself while we kids jumped up and down screaming, "I WANT YOUR SEX!!!!!" I remember glancing back at you at one point during the show, seeing you there alone in the crowd. I felt bad but didn't know how to do anything different. So I turned back around and continued the worship-fest with my big-haired, blue-eyeliner-wearing girlfriends. (Come to think of it, maybe YOU were embarrassed to be seen with US.)
Thank you for letting us be 12. Thank you for understanding our insecurities and our self-centeredness. Thank you for not letting me buy that black t-shirt that read "I WANT YOUR SEX" across the chest. I know I was pissed at you at the time and I probably ignored you for the entire car ride home. Now that I'm a mother I understand how totally inappropriate it would have been to let your 7th grader wear that. Thank you for protecting me. I'll do the same for my kids. Promise.
Mom, I am grateful for all the years you worked as a nurse, supporting us three girls all by yourself. I can't imagine how scary, lonely and difficult that time must have been for you. And I'm sorry for all of the times I cried to you at the mall entrance of The Limited b/c I wanted another Forenza sweater when you couldn't afford one more stitch. I see now. I see that you were doing your best, maxing out your credit cards, burning at both ends trying to give us what we needed and sacrificing to keep us in our house. I get it. And I'm grateful for your hard work. And I'm grateful that you never threw Pop under the bus. I never knew he was a deadbeat-dad until I was an adult. You wanted us to believe that our father was good - and we were good. You waited until I was an adult before sharing the whole truth and I am grateful for the years of being blissfully unaware. Children do not need to know dirty details of divorce. It only hurts the children. And you knew this innately. Thank you for a relatively innocent childhood.
Mom, I am grateful for the life lessons - for filling our home with animals to love and gardens to explore, for marrying a step-dad who is the best dad a girl could ask for, for taking me in after I flunked out of Bentley, for being the first person in line at the delivery room door when I had each of my babies, for cooking gourmet dinners while I chased my kids around, for treating my husband like a son (even though he's practically your age - haha), for treating me like your little girl - even though I'm 36 years old.
CG, PG and SG, every day is Children's Day. I love you all so deeply and dearly that I cry when I think about the joy you have brought into my life. I left out your brother in this letter for a reason. There's no chance he'll ever be a mother. But in time, it is possible that you three will join the ranks. This being Mother's Day and all, I want to share the gratitude I feel toward you for making me a mommy.
CG, your light shines so bright. You were 8 when we met. You were turning cartwheels on a softball field and stopped long enough to greet me with a big smile. On the day I became your step-mother, we were about to walk to the ceremony and you started crying. I felt deflated, worried that you didn't want me to be in your life or maybe that you were sad to have to share your Dad with me. When I asked you what was wrong you said, "I really wanted my hair to be curly." I sighed relief and plugged in my hot rollers. We were 30 minutes late for the wedding, but your hair looked adorable and you bounced down that aisle with a beautiful smile on your face... and I did, too. I am grateful that I'm your step-mother, that you accept me and my crazies, that you forgive me for my mistakes, that you like the clothes I pick out for you at Christmas, that you let me be your friend. Step-mothering is a funny thing. You never quite know what your role is and you never quite know if you'll get in trouble for doing what you're doing. But, man, you've made it joyful. I have grown wiser through our relationship. I've learned so many lessons from you - the best of which is learning to love a child like she is your own.
PG & SG, my gratitude for you exists in giving and in sacrifice. Through giving, I have learned wonderful lessons in life and love. You each arrived on sunny Sundays, coincidently both in Room 14 at BI. I've loved you from your first breaths... actually even before that... from the first wave of nausea I felt in week 3 of pregnancy. Listen up, girls. Pregnancy is a trip. The things that will happen to your body over 10 months of incubation are nothing short of miraculous... and disgusting. If you are anything like me, you'll puke for the first three months. During this time food is the last thing you'll want, but eat. Please eat. B/c not eating will only make you sicker. Take your pre-natals. Put your feet up. Listen to Mozart. Get bikini waxes or don't - no one cares. Take long walks. Have sex. Play sports. Stay away from mean people. Use lotion but don't expect it to save you from stretch marks - let's hope you take after me in that department. Sleep all day. Take pictures of yourself. Let old ladies rub your belly in the grocery store. Enjoy your big perky boobs and your thick head of hair - b/c soon your boobs will be hard as rocks, leaking milk, and your hair will be falling out in clumps in the shower. Do all these things and try to feel grateful, even when you are totally uncomfortable, pelvis cracked in half, hobbling down the cookie aisle at 39 weeks.
When the contractions come you will not believe it's time. You'll say, "Oh, I just have a bit of diarrhea. Oh, it's another Braxton-Hicks. Oh, but the pain is in my back. Oh, this can't be the time - I'm not due until Tuesday." Listen to me. Get out that stop-watch. When you are five and one, get your ass to the hospital b/c your Momma went FAST. And you probably will, too. And girls. Have those babies naturally. No drugs. You don't need them. Our bodies are made to do this. Girls, believe me, you can do it. The pain is enormous, but so is the joy that results. When those contractions wash over you, remember it is just a sign that your baby is coming. And when you don't think you can take another nanosecond, have the nurse check you. I'd bet my boots it's time to push. Push through the pain. Be grateful for the pain. Sacrifice your comfort for the health of your children. You will evolve through the pain. You will grow strong through the pain. The pain will remind you that you are alive.
Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed for as long as you can. Aim for one year. When you know your milk is drying up, take your baby into a quiet room and watch her face as she's suckling for the last time. I remember doing this with all three of you and the memory is so precious to me. Then say goodbye to your boobs and hello to a pair of fried eggs with stiff nipples.
Invest in pantyliners in preparation of lifetime of piddling. You laugh, you sneeze, you jump, you dance, you cough... you pee. Yup. Some of the physical effects of childbearing are sucky. I'm not sure how to find gratitude in saggy tits and wet undies, but I'm sure it exists in there somewhere.
Spontaneous urination aside, there are so many other things I want to tell you about, things I want to encourage you to do and find gratitude in doing. Like take your babies to movies and restaurants when they're tiny. Travel with them - they're not too young to appreciate an adventure. Let them crawl in your bed when they have nightmares. Don't let them eat sugar. Teach them about God. Find a good babysitter - you shouldn't have to do this alone. Show them how to Love. Value their education. Punish them when they're naughty. Show them how to love this planet. Let them sit on your lap - even when they're too big to fit. Greet them with a smile, even if they're just coming out of the bathroom. Shower them with Love, not toys. Let them wear whatever they want to kindergarten, even if it hurts your eyes. Tell them their Energy is powerful. Kiss your husband in front of them. Tell them they're good. When you want to scream, whisper. Dance and sing with them. Create a community of adults they can trust. Laugh at their weird jokes. If they make their own bed, don't remake it after they leave for school. Don't match their emotion - stay cool, be the rock they need you to be. Teach them to meditate. Ask them what they think about and listen to what they say. Remember that they are souls - quite possibly more evolved than you. Respect their journeys. When in doubt, Breathe. Be thankful for the ride of a lifetime.
I hope that someday you girls will be grateful for these pearls of motherly wisdom. I hope you feel the gratitude I feel each day sharing my life's journey with you. I hope someday your kids feel gratitude for your sacrifices and your efforts like I do for my Mom's. We are all so very blessed.
Peace, love, and, of course, gratitude,
Vanessa / V / Mamma