I have carried eight children in my womb. Two of those babies lives in Heaven now. Six of them live in my house.
Baby number 3 sealed the deal on the stretch marks. Tiger stripes now adorn my midsection like scars from a fiercely fought battle. Coupled with a little poochy extra skin, and my belly is magnificent. It’s so incredible, you’ll never see the likes of it in a magazine or on television. Too much to handle. Men fall with lust when they see it. Out of respect for the male population, I keep my stomach under wraps lest I cause them to sin.
It wasn’t until baby number 4 that the hemorrhoids appeared. Now, usually, hemorrhoids are a taboo subject in our culture, but not today, friend, not today. I consider hemorrhoids a badge of honor. I earned every single round, supple, literal pain-in-the-ass that I have. Once, I had some surgically removed but ever the diligent things, they returned. And a hemorrhoidectomy is the worst pain I have EVER experienced, so the second string gets to stay.
Side note: I’m proud of you. You’re still reading after a paragraph that contained the word hemorrhoid four times.
Hemorrhoids and stretch marks are tangible signs that my body has created life. So much life, in fact, that my body freaked out and stretched beyond capacity, both belly and butt. If you’re a man, we like to celebrate your scars of battle. We consider scars (on men) sexy. Rough, hardened men carry the marks of their greatest victories and their worst moments.
Being the feminist that I am, I’ve decided we should flip that narrative on its head. I have great victories and tremendous heartbreaks as well. And just like men, fresh from battle, my physical body reflects the experiences of my life. My heart, my mind, AND my body are a record of historical significance. Human life was contained within me. It doesn’t get rougher and more hardened that that. Just sayin’.
Many folks would assume that four babies, stretch marks, and hemorrhoids would be enough to cause any sane person to have the entirety of their reproductive system cast into the bio-waste pile. But, if you’ve ever read my stuff before, then you know that sanity is not something I buy into. I never tow the sanity party-line. I’m doing my own thing over here. So, we kept making babies. Thank God we did, too, otherwise I wouldn’t have any daughters on Earth. And let me tell you, that’s a trip.
Here’s what I know: my babies have changed me for the better. Never have I understood that my body is a temple, quite like when it was incubating my children. Sometimes it was a temple of chicken nuggets and sweet tea, because cravings, but still a temple, nonetheless.
My children are gifts from Heaven. Unique, neurotic, gifts with boundless energy and sass, they keep me going, give me reason to fight the good fight. They make me better. I’ve learned to be patient, nurturing, disciplined, and gracious, all because of these small people. I’ve learned to slow down, to take stock, and to embrace the messiness of life, because of these alarmingly cute people. I’ve learned to get up early, eat better, and work harder than I ever have, because of these relentlessly persistent people.
Because of two forever babies, I learned to grieve and mourn and move forward with hope. They taught me that the connection between mother and child starts at peeing on a stick and never ends, even if that mother never holds that child.
Motherhood isn’t for everyone and I understand that. You have the right to choose what path your life will take, just be warned, life doesn’t always agree.
At first, I didn’t think I wanted children at all. My childhood was lonely and terrifying. Unsure that I’d be able to provide anything better for my own children, I thought it best to stay as far away from motherhood as possible. But then I met my sweet Nathan. I knew he’d be an incredible father and I started to believe, secretly, that his stability and strength might make up for how unsuited I was. The more I trusted my own life to this special man, the more I thought I could trust other little lives to him as well.
A Warning About First Dates
There was a time when online dating wasn’t cool. It was desperate and sad.
Gradually, as I matured, I learned to trust myself too. I learned that moms come in all shapes and sizes and levels of insanity. Children with moms who are a little off their rocker can have a gloriously adventurous life. Love and snuggles and encouragement are in abundant supply over here. Sometimes, my instability is frustrating to my children, and my husband for that matter.
But no one in this house doubts that they are loved and that I would fiercely protect them with my life. Husband included. I don’t, however, drive stupid to the ER. But that’s a story for another day. Also, I don’t do the man flu. I have an incredible lack of sympathy for my beloved when he is sick. It’s really incredible. I mean, award-winning incredible. Just ask my Nathan.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean that you are a perfect person. Pinterest and Instagram have nothing to do with your value as a parent. The yoga-pants mafia and their judgment don’t accurately reflect where you rank as a mom. God, in His infinite wisdom, chose you to love these babies. If you never question the intrinsic value of your kiddo, then stop doubting the intrinsic truth that you are meant to be their mama.
You won’t always have all the answers. Lately, I feel like I don’t have any of the answers. You’ll question decisions you’ve made. The mom-guilt you’ll feel will start with your birthing practices and continue through to watching your children destroy their financial independence in their 20s. Doubt will creep in when they go astray, making decisions that harm them, and you. Drugs, bad relationships, dropping out of college, and any number of other destructive choices will cause you to doubt every moment of your parenting.
You will make mistakes. You’ll yell too loud. You’ll throw away a favorite toy by accident. You’ll miss an important event, leaving your child feeling abandoned. For a time, you’ll question whether you’ve gotten anything right.
But listen to me, friend. You are meant to be that baby’s mother. His journey, no matter how fraught with obstacles, is your journey too. Enjoy the ride, mama. Even with all it’s highs and lows, there is no more exhilarating experience in this life than walking alongside this person who calls you Mom.
Take a deep breath, snuggle your kid (even if she’s 40), and lean in because the cost is worth it. Even if the cost includes hemorrhoids and stretch marks.