Becoming Mothers: Ambushed By Motherhood (and bad maternity clothes)
posted by: gretchen
Motherhood ambushed me. Some women see it coming for miles, like a plodding camel on a desert horizon. Others hail it like a cab, smartly whistling and waving it to stop, ready for the ride. My experience was more ambush. It wasn’t violent, traumatic, or unwelcome. It was like when your dog greets you at the door after you’ve been gone all day. Your arms are loaded with bags, your hair is in your face, you’re thinking about dinner, and WHAM! The dog leaps like a smelly gazelle and tries to kill you with slobbery kisses and all you want to do is hit the bathroom and collapse.
I found out our first baby was on the way when my husband and I had been married for about a month. I knew the dog was there, but I guess I momentarily forgot under the crush of moving, a new job, and a new role as wife. When I smelled the Milk Bone breath and heard the yip yip yip yip, it was too late. Motherhood arrived.
My pregnancy was punctuated by night sickness and 1997’s most vigorously ugly maternity clothes. Every piece I wore was something I would have normally mocked, but maternity and fashion didn’t make eye contact until around 2003. In a strange way, I think being forced to wear a black and white polka dot tarp with a floppy bow helped prepare me for my new role. Often, I looked like a bloated carcass of a rainforest mammal who inexplicably wore white Keds with white bobby socks, too. I had to put myself aside during the larger months because I was carrying a daughter under all that chintz whimsy.
I wore bad clothes for her, I ate for her, I drank for her, I tried to sleep for her. I read books for her. I drove more carefully for her. Becoming a mother didn’t occur the moment I heard her gurgly newborn wail or the first time I pulled her to my chest with a deep breath, ready to feed.
Motherhood owns minutia. It’s noticing that your son’s fine baby hair is just brushing the top of his ears. It’s seeing a slightly crooked tooth in a five-year-old’s mouth and realizing it means, without even wiggling it, that it is loose. It’s seeing the way your boy exits school with his eyes cast down. It’s knowing there’s a fever without a thermometer, the strawberries are responsible for the contents of the diaper, the zit on the forehead means to stock up on embarrassing things with wings.
Anticipating a baby’s birth or adoption means hearing the clock tick so, so slowly. That minutia mothers embrace and perfect is honed in the sweet anticipation. It’s the gift of time that inspires a mom’s attention to preparation—while directing her gaze to the horizon.
Becoming a mother occurs the moment you squint into the distance, with your hand shielding your eyes from the sun, and you smile at what is coming.