This past Tuesday, I was a less-than-stellar mom. My "no, no Harriet" came out a little firmer than intended and I made my daughter cry a sad, confused, hurt feelings cry. It broke my heart. And for a really lame half hour, the poor girl had to share my attention with Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. I distractedly drove Harriet and I across town, and I'm ashamed to say I even checked my email once on the freeway. I bickered with my husband while we gave her a bath, and even though we tried to disguise our harsh remarks with happy, playful voices, Harriet knew something wasn't right. A major low happened late in the afternoon when Andrew asked me what was all over my face.
It was cake mix.
Not because I was baking some cupcakes for a charity bake sale or mixing up a yummy treat for our new neighbors. The cake mix was covering my face and shirt because I was eating it...straight from the box. With a spoon. I ate so much dry cake mix that I had to get myself a glass of water to wash it down. It was a rough day and the cake mix was my way of getting through it. Plus, it tasted really good.
Harriet had woken up seven times in nine hours the night before, so I was tired. And my husband is recovering from knee surgery, making me his primary nurse in addition to caring for our daughter and our dog, so I was frustrated and feeling sorry for myself. Was Tuesday my best day? Nope. But if I put it in perspective, it probably wasn't so bad. Some day I will hate myself for reading my daughter's journal or saying "well, you're the one who has to wear it" when she chooses a prom dress I don't especially like. Some day I will criticize her boyfriend, show up late for her swim meet, or mistake her wedding for my own. I will do my very best to be a great mom, but I'm human and these things are bound to happen because parenting is not easy. Parenting is done by flawed people with baggage.
I try to offer myself grace, but we previously infertile moms tend to be pretty hard on ourselves. We wait so long to have a child. We work really hard to get pregnant. We skip our vacation, avoid the mall, or take out a second mortgage to pay for treatments. And throughout our journey to motherhood, people are constantly telling us that we will make excellent mamas. The long road that leads to our babies offers us plenty of time to notice the mistakes that other moms are making and solemnly vow that if God will just give us a child, we will parent...perfectly.
But - big surprise - we don't.
The thing is - motherhood after infertility is still motherhood, and it's hard. It's exhausting. And sometimes, we need a break. And sometimes we get lazy. And sometimes we wish we would have enjoyed those childless years a little more.
But we keep all of that inside because the very, very, very, very, very last thing you want to do after infertility is complain. In our old lives, before children, we nearly exploded when other women complained about having toys everywhere, sagging breasts, and a child who wouldn't sleep in his own bed. We shut down our Facebook accounts because we couldn't bear reading flippant comments about stretch marks, baby weight, and being up all night.
But now we are on the other side, and we realize that sometimes those things are tough. And if you don't say it out loud, your exhaustion and frustration will come out sideways...usually at your husband, but that's another post.
Being real about motherhood can also be challenging because many of us have become part of an infertility community. We are surrounded by women who haven't yet become mothers, women whose babies are sick, and women whose babies are in heaven. I know because I was (and still am) one of them. We do our very best to remember what it is like or to imagine what it is like. We strive to be gentle with their hearts. We try to find other people to confide in, but sometimes we slip up. I know I do, and I hate that. I'm so sorry for that.
Motherhood isn't an easy road, and being real about motherhood isn't always easy either. But it is important. Because our kids need to see us at our best and at our worst. They need to know that we are human. They need to hear us apologize. They need to learn that it is okay to be less than perfect and to talk about it.
So on Wednesday, the day after the bad one, I finished the box of cake mix before lunch. Not out of self deprecation or as a way of artificially improving a bad day but rather in the true spirit of cake...celebration.
The celebration of a new day...and a fresh start.