I’m not sure what I imagined animals were thinking when they gave birth for the first time, but I’m pretty sure I had a vague thought that they must have an idea that they were pregnant and would just instinctively know what to do.
This was not the case with my childhood dog. When it was time for my labrador to birth her puppies she was twisting around and around in circles, absolutely freaked out by these fairly large objects coming out of her body. I’m sure it was painful. I can verify that it was gross. My mom was scrambling to get her settled or just catch the puppies as they slid out in a horrific, wet and bloody plop.
Kudos to my mom for handling the entire thing as my father and I were too busy racing to the bathroom to vomit.
Once the birth was over, the dog just stood and stared at the puppies and then at my mom like this was her fault. Getting her to nurse the puppies was next to impossible. She kept standing up to get away from the puppies. She had managed to get them out of her, why were we trying to attach them back to her body?
That image of the dog absolutely bewildered about what the heck was going on, twisting around and around in confusion while puppies just started emerging out of her body to fall to the floor, and then offended sensibilites as to why she was responsible for these alien things perfectly represents me being pregnant and having my first child.
My husband is horrified by this simile I insist on using, but I think it is accurate.
Never once in my life had I daydreamed about being a mom. I wasn’t opposed to being a mom as it seemed the logical course of events, I just never dreamed about it either. I moved away to California before my friends had children. I never babysat. I don’t remember ever holding a baby before I gave birth. To say that I was clueless was an understatement.
mommy gainsI read every book about pregnancy, birth, raising a baby I could find. I made my husband attend each and every class the hospital provided with me. They had a series of birthing classes, a very intense breast feeding class, a class that showed you how to change a diaper/take the babies temperature/swaddle/bath them, a baby CPR class that I attended THREE times just in case, and a class devoted entirely to the carseat. Blake did NOT enjoy the intense breast feeding class attended for women only.
All the information I was gathering was technical and logistical and practical advice. I had no clue how my entire heart and soul would change the moment I looked into my first born’s eyes. That was the moment I truly understood what it meant to love another being more than I loved myself.
Imagine a newly planted tree. It’s a great tree; healthy, strong, full of potential. It’s young so while the roots are deep enough to keep it healthy at its current size, the tree will never be able to grow to its potential without growing deeper roots.
Having Lainey pushed my roots from healthy and full of potential to deep, deep roots that opened my soul, burst opened the selfishness chaining my heart, and reached into the well of my being to begin the process of me growing into the person I needed to be. It’s a process that began with Lainey and continues to grow.
motherhoodI’m a better person because of my children. The need to be better for them pushes me in a way that I would never have been motivated towards without them.
And it all began with Lainey. My firstborn. My Lainey girl.
I had a friend ask me why I don’t seem to tell as many funny stories about Lainey to others in person or on Facebook as I seem to do with my other two children. That made me pause as I had to question if that was accurate.
I think it is and I think I know the reason why.
First I need to state that I love all of my children with the same amount of passion, the same depth, the same intensity. I love them each an equal amount, I just love them each differently. They are unique and they have different personalities and different needs.
But it was Lainey who first changed my entire life. She was my sole companion to rediscover my purpose.
soulWhen Lainey was 6 weeks old we moved from Texas to Maryland. I had a new baby I didn’t understand and was afraid of, my body was so different I didn’t understand it, my marriage was forever changed by the arrival of a baby, my husband didn’t get home until it was late each night, I no longer had a job, I was moving to a place where I knew no one and we had very little money. I went from unlimited freedom and constant companionship to zero freedom in any area of my life and marathon sessions of being alone.
To say those years were hard would be another epic understatement. But Lainey was with me every moment. Right by my side. It wasn’t just that I was her parent, it was that she was very much a part of me and a part of my entire identity. I wasn’t able to seperate that in a healthy way for years. I didn’t know how.
The feelings I have for my firstborn are less lighthearted and whimsical, and more flavored with intensity and a large part of myself. It’s not better or more than what I feel for my other children, it’s just vastly different.
Mom ArtWhen I have stories about Lainey, I usually hold back from sharing them with people other than family as the stories I have for her sound like bragging or extreme hubris. It’s not that she isn’t funny. The child is hysterical and she loves a good joke or a prank more than anyone. The problem is that I was never able to lighten up and relax into parenting until the second child came along.
I’m glad someone called my attention to the difference. Maybe I can attempt to lighten up a bit when it comes to my firstborn and inject a little of the whimsical attitude towards parenting I display for the other two children.
Lainey: just a few off the top of my head.
One night you drug your sister Lily out of the bathtub when she was 2 years old and shouted, “Run free, run free, run free!” Then Lily runs out of the room and around the house naked and screaming. I asked you why you did that and you replied, “I wanted the towel you were going to use on Lily.”
It took all my bargaining skills to keep you from wearing underwear outside your pants on Superhero day at school. You wanted to be Captain Underpants and would take no other suggestions. I almost had to keep you home from school because you wouldn’t change your mind.
You were 4 years old and I was scolding you for leaving your breakable toys within Lily’s reach. You promptly asked, “What’s dad’s punishment for losing his keys and wallet every morning before he goes to work?”
From the first time you were old enough to make decisions, you’ve made them quickly and you don’t change your mind. Ever. We would go into a toy store and you would pick a toy quickly. I would insist you look at every single option before making your final choice. Not once, not ONCE in your life, have you ever changed your mind once you’ve made a choice. Two days ago we went to choose two new pairs of glasses and I almost had to throw down with the assistant as she didn’t believe you could possibly have made up your mind over frames in less than a minute of our arrival.
All you wanted for your 4th birthday was a big tub of giant earthworms. You didn’t want to fish with them, you just wanted to dig your fingers in the dirt and feel the worms wiggle around.
Your father got out his tools to hang up a heavy piece of art on the walls when you were still an only child so you had to be about 3 years old. You watched him for a moment with all his tools and then asked,”Dad, are you going to screw that up?”
You smashed your finger in the closet door when you were small. Granny asked you if you were in pain. Your response was the following, “Pain and suffering Granny. Pain and suffering.”
You are my only child that knows how to behave in a bookstore because I had a Kindle by the time the other two were born. The phrase, ‘Act like we are in the bookstore’ has zero impact on your sisters while you immediately know that means to be quiet, stay right next to mommy, do NOT ask if we can leave yet.
parentingMy Lainey girl, you have been the test subject for every parenting mistake possible and the guinea pig for every unrealistic expectation a parent could have. You’ve risen up and surpassed all those expectations. You are a trailblazer that opened my soul. I’m a better person, wife, mother, friend, child of God, and daughter because your little spirit pointed out the path and provided the desire to grow.
I’ll try to lighten up and be a little more whimsical with you. Because I love you so much more than just to the moon and back.