DIARIO DI MAMMA
What makes me a mother? Certainly, the obvious – my 4-year-old son who is literally jumping off the walls as I write this – gave me the title when he was born. Some would argue the child I lost due to miscarriage at 8 weeks of pregnancy before I had my son had already made me a mother. But I’m well aware that biology isn’t qualification enough. In fact, DNA isn’t even a necessity.
Most of the time, I still feel like I’m interviewing for the job, the most important of my life. What’s crazier is that the great decider needs me to wipe his bottom. Often, I think my son might just be taking other applications when I’m not looking. It definitely does not help matters that he says, “I wanna new mamma,” whenever he is overtired and I prevent him from doing things like jumping on the bed, jumping on his cousins Wrestlemania style, or going to school wearing nothing but underwear, Spider-Man sneakers, and a smile.
In fairness, he does have cute dimples on both sides of his body. Oops, that last line might get me fired 10 years from now should I ever actually win the job. Better cut it out.
Getting pregnant after a miscarriage is like what I imagine it to be like walking on a high wire. Once you’re up there, you get this amazing rush, a thrill like no other. But you want that feeling to go away because you know what it’s like to fall and fall hard. You can’t bear the thought of experiencing that kind of crash again because your heart just can’t take it. You have no choice but to walk ever so gingerly until you make it across to the other side. Until you are there, you hide your belly. You publicly avoid all baby talk. You wait as long as humanly possible to tell people and say out loud to them that you’re expecting. In secret, you tell the growing seed inside you that you cannot wait for his or her arrival and that you already are in love. But you won’t allow yourself to think of yourself as a mother. Not yet.
That kind of thinking spills into the days and years after your baby – the one you managed to carry to the end – arrives. Somehow, you’re still on the tight rope, unsure if you’re ever getting off. In the darkest of night, while I’m alone with my thoughts and my son is rhythmically breathing like a song as he dreams nearby, I wonder if God was right the first time. Did He take my first baby away because He thought my job application to be mother would be rejected and that this second baby was mistakenly sent to me, someone destined to fail? After all, I needed help from his teacher to get him potty trained, I let him play with a plastic spatula when he was 10 months old and he broke it and cut his hand, which meant he needed stitches that he ate through within 24 hours, and I still haven’t convinced him to eat kale or really anything that is green. Of course, I don’t abuse him and manage to bathe him, feed him, nurse him when he’s ill, and all the basics.
And I’ve tried to get him the help he needs at every turn. But still I don’t feel like I’m doing so great on this now lifelong job interview to which I’ve consented. He had delayed speech, and we don’t know why. He doesn’t have a disorder or previous trauma that could explain it. In the pitch black of my bedroom on one of those nights, I can easily convince myself that his difficulty communicating is all. my. fault. Finally, I’m a frigging freelance writer. I frigging majored in journalism and minored in women’s studies. Who does that? Someone who doesn’t give a sh.. about ever earning a living. I was going to be an activist writer forging forward to change the world. Oh that makes for a terrible mom! If only I had known.
Yes, my husband has a job and contributes, but what kind of financial support am I providing? I find myself telling all the soon-to-be college kids in the family to abandon their dreams and seek out degrees in surefire money makers. Sell your soul and go to Wall Street. Ok, maybe that’s taking it too far. But at least avoid a dying industry, such as publishing. After all, you’re going to want kids, who are going to have to eat, sleep in a house with a roof (preferably one that doesn’t leak), and maybe even go to college. Dare they need braces or an SAT tutor! No activist writer can afford all that. I only wish I had abandoned my dreams and sold out sooner. Maybe I’d be doing better with the checklist that I imagine my son holds in his 4-year-old brain while assessing my qualifications for the job.
Then again, maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. One night after suggesting he would prefer a robot mommy to me, he called me over to him. He asked for a cup of milk, which I brought to him. “I like you, Mommy,” he said. “I wanna play your hair.” And he gently stroked my hair as he slowly drank. We were both silent. For a moment, I thought, maybe he’s giving me the job once and for all. Maybe I’m more qualified than I think. Maybe he just needs my attention.
When he put down the cup of milk and curled up into my arms and I carried all 40 pounds of him upstairs as if he was a newborn, he asked me to read him a book, one of his favorites from the Pete the Cat series. We got cozy in his big boy bed, and we laughed about the size of Pete’s ginormous sandwich, and I reminded Enzo how important it is to share toys, food, ourselves with others. “Okay, Mommy,” he said. Then, he asked for “Spooky C’mon,” which means he wants to shut off all the lights and drift to sleep while tugging at my shirt. Asleep like an angel, I looked at him and realized I have the one qualification that guarantees I earn the title of mom: Love.
I love him from the deepest depths of my soul. It is like no other love I have ever known. My love is so strong and so overwhelming that I can almost feel it spilling out of me, especially whenever he decides – unprompted – to hug me or say, “I love you, Mommy.” Every single decision I have made since the day I knew I was expecting him has been to help his life, to do better for him.
In reality, I am the boss in this relationship. After all, if he truly ruled, we’d be living on chicken nuggets and Nutella, clothes would become optional (unless Buzz Lightyear appeared anywhere on the fabric in which case you’d be legally obligated to wear them), and I’d never get paid anything other than kisses. The point is, however, that I know I am still earning the title of mother. I’m sure that I’m going to screw up once in a while. In fact, the greatest challenges lie ahead. I plan on putting off the teenage years as long as possible. But this overflow of adoration will help me ride the waves and do right by my boy, for it is love that is making me a mother. It is love that wins.