You see, I had plans to visit Italy, and to finally take a moment to enjoy all the hard work , and the education I had absorbed (well.. mostly), since being in school from 5 to 21 years old. I was on the precipice of the life I had dreamed about sitting in Art History, History, English and Religious Studies lectures. I was going to see all the places I had studied, to color in the lines of the images and the places that had been sketched by inspired professors and idealist textbooks.
I would visit the tombs of the scholars whose words I had memorized, I would see the birthplace of the Renaissance with my own eyes, the architecture, the art, and the inspiration. I would see religion played out in the Vatican, I would relax in the south of France with red wine and the knowledge that my whole educational life had been directing me to this moment.
The last thing I was worried about was what in the world I would do with an arts degree. I mean, I had my LSAT study books, my Masters application in the works, and a sincere desire to further direct my life once I got back to reality.
This was my break from the life I knew was mandatory. I was raised to believe that this education was the minimum educational requirement. Sure, maybe my parents wouldn’t have picked the arts for their baby, but it never was lost on me that neither of my parents had the opportunity to go to University. To this day one of their proudest accomplishments is having three University graduates as children. Only second to the fact that we are all pretty decent human beings. And we own our own houses. That’s cool for them too I would assume. Probably grandkids too.
So 21, ready to rock the world, with my knowledge and my relief that I had a reprieve from midterms, finals, and the pressure that comes from a ‘reading’ week spent in the bar instead of the library.
In the meantime, my boyfriend had already convocated with a Kinesiology degree, and was off at RCMP Depot pursuing his future career. He assured me he could have plenty of vacation days to accommodate the travel bug that had taken over me.
Coming into the home stretch of school, I felt more self-assure and more ready for the life I had planned. After all, I had spent the summer before that last semester working moderately hard, laying around my friend’s pool, and sneaking visits with my boyfriend and his troop whenever we could.
It was a benign Wednesday, and the sage advice from a supervisor that led me to the pregnancy isle in the drugstore. It was her listening to me complain about how I was feeling, and off-handily remarking maybe I was pregnant that led to my shaking hands buying the test, and those same hands that shook as they drove all the way back to my apartment too.
It was not scary, I don’t remember any scary waiting part, I took it and instantly the result was obvious.
The next thing I remember were tears.
I cried, I cried and sobbed and hiccupped until my roommate came out of her room to see what was going on.
I showed her the test and fell into a pile of dirty laundry on my bed, as I sobbed and instantaneously grieved the life I thought I was about to live.
That immediately, from the first blue line to the second, I knew my life was going to be different.
Another girlfriend, a restaurant and two Dairy Queen blizzards later I had started to come to terms with my situation. I hadn’t even told my boyfriend yet. It was a few stolen hours of not dealing with anyone other than my own feelings, and a sugar rush.
Now, I want to stop and acknowledge that I know that some people dream about being pregnant and want to have babies so badly and can’t.
I sympathize with them, I think it’s impossible not to.
But I’m telling you there is another side of the coin, the one people sometimes like to judge. You know, the “how did could you let that happen unless you wanted it to” type people.
But, just stay with me for a moment.
I want you to know it is terrifying to sit in that moment alone, and wonder if there will be any one to stand by you.
Letting your boyfriend know, your parents too, his parents, and our families know there is a truth which I have decided will be born into fruition. Because for all the people around, it is me that has the finale, absolute decision on whether or not it is. And, rightfully so.
A 21 year old girl with an arts degree, one hand me down computer, one dingy double mattress and a TV to her name. A girl who had dreamed of one day having a family but no concept of how she was going to do so right now, at this moment of her life. And the unshakeable worry that acceptance and understanding might not come generously. I was terrified and vulnerable, and so unsure of what my future would look like.
So yes, I was devastated. And I own that feeling and I will never, ever feel sorry for it.
But as strong people do in difficult situations, I stood up, and was lucky enough to have a hand to hold as we told the world.. eventually. I mean we waited well past the 12 weeks, not generally reserved for married, ‘supposed-to’ couples.
It went over like when you serve fish at a big family dinner.
Some people, people you had no idea, they freaking LOVED it. There were the ones you knew loved it, because they had told you so before.
The ones you were pretty sure were faking it because they loved you and didn’t want to hurt your feelings.
And, well, the ones that didn’t.. maybe they just couldn’t, like it, because they were not prepared to try fish for a few years.
But, it was a freight train on a one-way track and before long.. he was born. And oh... he was beautiful. Truly. Beautiful.
Nine years ago today I became a mom.
And while we have long since settled into our roles of mom and dad, family of three, then four, then five, along the way I’ve thought of that girl who leaned against her apartment wall as she sobbed and thought her life was over. The girl who grew up and took a different path than she thought was hers to take.
And that in becoming a mom, much younger than my friends, the first of our siblings to enter parenthood, that maybe I gained all the experiences I longed for, just not in the way I saw it back then.
I travelled every nook and cranny on each and every one of my babies. I saw religion in a much different way than before, felt it in the purest sense, in the most divine form when I held my babies for the first time. When they looked to the sky and asked about God and our lost loved ones, and how a flower knows to bloom. Most importantly I had a confessor, a professor, an everything, guide me through life and love and all the stops in between.
And that well-travelled soul, that prophet in our lives..... Well, he turned 9 today. He's not my son. No, that seems too strange for what he's done. He's an equal. Maybe our sun. Maybe his own sun. But a wise teacher in a small child's body.
Because through him, I have enjoyed a glass of wine as the sun set on my children playing with their cousins, or our parents, as they laughed and we witnessed the beauty on the faces of our parents as they experienced they joy through a grandchild’s eyes.
He accelerated my life and made it come faster, and in a different way than I thought.
So, today I’m celebrating becoming a mom of three exceptional kids (yes.. I know, this is not unbiased) and especially, most especially my oldest.The little old soul who took this girl and turned her into a mom, even if she wasn’t expecting it.
Not without tears and breakdowns and enough insecurity to drown a continent.
Am I OK at this whole Mom thing . Do I laugh at his antics too much? Do I ask too much? Am I enough to look up to? Also who am I really? Wait… that can’t be part of being a parent. Shit. I suck. Am I a good parent?
But then I have a little (big) boy who has grown into an amazing student, a gifted athlete, the keeper of the rules, intense as they come, passionate and driven. He can be a jerk too. Let’s be honest. But as the sum of his parts he is set to be an incredible human being.
So tonight, tonight I toast the other women who sort of tripped into this whole ‘mom’ thing. Who didn’t know that’s what they wanted, or what would color in the lines of a picture they never knew they had.
To the moms who still have dreams and places to travel, without their kids. Who love their children fiercely and assuredly enough to admit that the sum of their parts isn’t entirely weighted in them, and that the very notion of this actually releases their children from conforming to their ideals instead of reaching their own potential.
I love being a mom. It’s not the entirety of who I am but it takes up a whole lot of it.
Tonight, tonight I pour a glass of wine, toast my husband and celebrate the anniversary of having shared nine years together as parents.
Holy shit. Nine mother f&&&ing years. And he’s great. Our kid. Same with the other two. NO time to stop and get complacent but let’s keep this momentum going.
So one day we can relax in the Tuscan sun. And I can rustily recall the lessons on Italian history. And we can stumble into the south of France.
And I can realize that maybe it’s not the destination, but the journey that will teach me the real lessons.