This week, I'd like to introduce Maria.
Maria and I met almost 10 years ago working at the American Cancer Society. We quickly bonded over our potty mouths and thinking that the other was five years younger than we actually were.
We used to talk about how neither of us would ever have kids and how we didn't understand the "weird" maternal drive we didn't seem to have.
Then, about six years ago Maria called and told me she was pregnant. I think she was a bit nervous because our previous conversations had been about how it would NEVER happen but I was pretty darn excited.
And, after her daughter arrived we kind of fell in love... actually, more than kind of.
Watching Maria and her husband become parents was inspiring. The love and the emotional connection they had with their daughter totally changed my ideas of what being a parent could be. Watching them morph into the amazing parents they are was a turning point for Blake and me. It actually may have single-handedly changed my mind about becoming a mom.
I'm sure you'll love this mama as much as me by the time you're done reading.
1. When you were a younger did you dream about being a mother? What did you see for yourself?
Honestly? No. I actually had no plans to have a family. I was definitely more focused on carving out a career and didn’t see a family fitting into that plan.
2. How did your own upbringing reflect on that dream?
That’s a hard one to answer because my mom was really focused on her family and stayed home to take care of my sister and me. She read to us, played with us, went to field trips with us, was the mom who threw the most amazing birthday parties, and was always present. I don’t know if I saw that as the “mom standard” and didn’t think I could do that and have a career too, or that I just didn’t see myself as mom material. I’m just not sure. What I did know for sure is that kids didn’t factor into my long-term, short-term, or any-term plans.
3. What discussions did you have about starting a family? Do you remember telling your husband the first time you were pregnant? Was it a surprise or a long-planned event?
My husband and I were really happy just being a couple and our discussions around family were that we didn’t want a family – just the two of us was perfectly fine for us. Of course that didn’t mean there wasn’t plenty of pressure from our family to have kids (although they’d argue that they never pressured us!) and loads of questions from friends, acquaintances, people we just met, strangers on the street – you name it – about when we were going to have kids. Turns out that Mother Nature is a sneaky bitch. Eight years into our marriage we got the surprise of our lives in the form of one…okay two… wait a minute, are you sure, three… just to confirm one more time, four positive pregnancy tests. My first thought was, “holy shit…my life is fucking over.” Then I called my husband who was between shifts at San Jose Fire and visiting his grandparents in San Mateo (we lived in Carmichael, CA at the time). When he answered the phone, I blurted out, “I’m pregnant.” He was home in about 90 minutes – that drive typically takes two hours. After the shock wore off and we got used to the idea that our lives were now taking a new and unexpected turn, we both were beyond thrilled.
4. What did you love about pregnancy? Hate?
I loved being pregnant. Seriously. I loved it. It’s not to say that there weren’t any negatives (morning sickness that lasts seven months sucks. Gestational diabetes sucks. Feet that look like they have muffin tops after being shoved into work shoes for eight hours sucks.), but the feeling of carrying a child inside you is absolutely incredible. There’s nothing like hearing your child’s heartbeat, or feeling your baby move inside you, or the all-encompassing feeling of love that you have for your yet-to-be-born child. It’s incredible and I’d do it all over again (except that we’re done!).
5. Did you enjoy giving birth?
I did. I felt so empowered by the experience. I didn’t have a detailed birth plan or anything, but I did know two things: I want drugs and I want drugs fast. Well, that shit went out the door fast. I got the epidural but it didn’t work. I felt every. damned. thing. But you know what, I’m glad it worked out that way. I felt like I totally kicked ass and could take on anything after giving birth. It was an incredible experience and I had my husband by my side the entire time.
6. What was the transition like when you went from being someone’s child to someone’s parent? How long did it take you to really get used to the idea?
I remember thinking, “I’m responsible for this little nugget? Me?” I developed a profound appreciation for all my mom did for me and finally understood what she meant by, “there’s nothing like the love you have for your child.” There truly is nothing like it and you can’t explain it or understand it until you experience it. For me, transitioning from child to parent felt really natural… almost like it was something I was destined to be.
7. What has given you the most joy as a mother? Describe it.
In the beginning you give and give and give… and you do it without hesitation and with so much love in your heart, but your baby ain’t giving much back at this point. The first time they smile at you and are genuinely happy to see you is an incredible feeling. Now that my daughter is five she’s able to express love. When she tells me I’m the best mama in the world or that she wants to live with me forever… well, I just melt.
8. What advice do you have for:
a) A woman in her 1st trimester
Find a few mama friends whose parenting skills you admire and who tend to think like you do. Enlist them as your go-to sistas when you have questions – like what car seat do I buy? Which bottles did you use? What was nursing like? What’s your biggest piece of advice for me? Then trust your gut. You know what’s best for you and your baby.
b) 2nd trimester
Trust your gut. You know what’s best for you and your baby.
c) 3rd trimester
Trust your gut. You know what’s best for you and your baby.
d) Just gave birth
Give yourself a pat on the back (if you’re not too exhausted) for being one badass mama! You just brought a child into this world and you’re one super amazing strong woman. Then listen to your body and trust your gut. As I’ve said, you know what’s best for you and your baby.
e) 3 months, 6 months and 1 year postpartum (if you remember)
The best piece of advice I can give is to soak in every single moment. The first few weeks feel like the cycle of feeding, changing diapers, and barely sleeping a wink will never end. But it does. And things get a ton easier. You’ll get to know your baby and understand what their cries mean and what it takes to soothe them. All babies are different and all families are different. What works for you may not work for someone else. So….trust your gut. You know what’s best.
9. What is the most important thing you wish someone would have told you about being a new mom?
That you will feel so much more deeply. It’s hard to explain, but what I mean by this is that you are so deeply moved by things that would barely register before.
10. Have you changed since becoming a mom? How?
I have most definitely changed since becoming a mama. As my friend once said, “you’ve become soft, Maria”. Yep. I’ve become soft. I’m no longer a hardcore list-making, must-control-every-aspect-of-everything person. I’ve become much more laid-back, and while I still make the occasional list, I don’t tweak out when I don’t cross everything off. Also, I was never a “kid person”. Sure, kids were cute, but I didn’t necessarily want to hold one or play with one. Now my ovaries literally burn whenever I see a baby and getting on the ground and playing with little ones is really fun.
11. Emotionally, was there anything you were unprepared for going into motherhood?
Well, I was emotionally unprepared for motherhood period. I didn’t plan on having a child, so adjusting to the idea took some time – and some tears. I was also unprepared for how many people would have opinions – and strong ones – about how I should raise my daughter, or what I should feed her, or whether I should or should not give her a pacifier. I even had one person tell me I was doing irreparable harm to my daughter because I wasn’t putting her needs before mine. Are you effing kidding me? People can be awfully horrible when trying to be helpful and I certainly wasn’t prepared for that. But, fortunately, I had a phenomenal husband and a great support team who were my cheerleaders each step of the way.
12. Physically, has your body changed? If yes, how so?
I feel a little bad saying this, but honestly it hasn’t changed much. My body was totally awesome to me, and after the stiches and bruising (totally wasn’t prepared for that hot mess) and dislocated tailbone (yes, that happens) healed, I bounced back to where I was before I got pregnant rather quickly.
13. If I was giving birth tomorrow, what would you say to me?
You’re a badass and you’re going to be one amazing mama. Trust yourself. You’ll know what to do. Oh – and that first number two is going to suck. Like…hold on to the side of the toilet and brace yourself… kind of suck.
14. In what way do you think you are great as a mother?
This is a hard one for me, and the fact that it’s hard is a great example of not cutting ourselves much slack as mothers. I’d say it’s that I let my daughter be who she wants to be, which can sometimes be really hard because we all have ideas of what we want our children to be or do. She wants to wear unicorn leggings with a polka dot skirt and a floral hair bow? Go for it (although the everything-must-match person in me cringes every time). You want to try ballet? Do it. Want to dig in the dirt and collect every single leaf you see? Sure. But eat your vegetables…there’s no negotiation there.
15. What do you feel most proud of in life?
That little girl who looks at me and says, “I love you, mama”. And the close-knit family my husband and I have created.
16. If I asked you what the most amazing thing about you was, what would you say?
Another hard one for me, because, as I said earlier, we don’t cut ourselves much slack. I would say that it’s that I put my family first and everything else falls into line after that.
See, I told you you'd love her!
Next month we'll have a very special Mother's day edition.
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