Monday, August 22, 2011

The Story of Us

It is the night before Grace's first birthday and as I lie in bed writing and eating copious amounts of cottage cheese, I reflect back on my life prior to Mommyhood.  A year ago today, I was permanently reclined in our Lazy Boy, having accepted my immobile and rotund way of life.  But I'm talking about further back, prior to the unmistakable blue line and big belly.

Two years back, I was free.  With little direction or motivation, I was the definition of a 'free spirit'.  Don't get me wrong, I was good with directionless. Directionless meant never being tied down.  A proclaimed 'liberal arts' major, I jumped around from subject to subject, never settling into one spot for too long.  I liked a lot of things, but couldn't find that one thing I loved.  I spent most of my time with my friends, usually creative people who shared the same interests as myself.  It was my early twenties! I felt little pressure to make a decision and get serious. 

As the middle child of four, family has always been a given.  I knew that someday I wanted to have a good job (one that I enjoyed ideally), get married, and have a gaggle of children running around.  This elusive 'someday' came sooner than I thought - but only in one regard.  Still career less and unmarried, this 23 year old wanderer took the test that would change her life forever.

I remember my parents had gotten their new pick up truck that day.  My brother and sister weren't available to take my Dad to pick the truck up, so I reluctantly volunteered.  I'd been feeling pretty gross that day but figured it was just a Taco Bell hangover,  so I forced myself out of bed.  The feeling of nauseousness was overwhelming, but I knew I'd been back in bed soon enough.  After the drop off was done, I briefly saw my sister Amanda before heading home.  After some squabbling back and forth (I'm kind of a brat with I'm feeling sick), my sister said the words that would prompt my hasty trip to CVS  later that evening. 

"What are you PREGNANT or something?!?"
This wasn't the first time Amanda has been slightly clairvoyant.  Over the years, Amanda has been known to get "feelings" just before something happened. From car accidents to deaths, Amanda's sense of intuition was not something we took lightly.

I'm still hoping we can harness this gift and possibly use to win the lottery :)

Those famous words were too unusual to ignore.  After picking up a pizza for dinner that evening, I insisted that we pick up an accompanying pregnancy test.  While paying for the test, I was oddly at ease.  At the time, taking a pregnancy test was a joke.  No part of me actually thought I could be pregnant.  Upon arriving home, I was too anxious to eat.  I went straight to the bathroom and carefully read the instructions.  After doing your business you were to wait two minutes for clear and accurate results.  
Before I was even done peeing, the positive line was all but flashing like a neon bar sign. There should have been an amendment in those instructions reading:  "Need not wait two minutes when you're super pregnant!" I swung the door open and yelled frantically for Ryan.  Running around the house with a urine soaked stick in hand, I found Ryan at the kitchen table with a piece of pizza hanging out of his mouth.  Through the sounds of hyperventilation, Ryan quickly became aware of the results.
Ryan spent the next 45 minutes reading the instructions, insisting that I'd taken the test improperly.  We were THAT sure I wasn't pregnant. Reality set in and I knew what was next.

As I've mentioned before, I come from a very close family.  My mom and I often joke that we are telepathic, as we often call each other just as we were thinking of one another.  The first person I tell is Amanda, the predictor herself.  

Amanda is comforting, congratulatory, and positive; reassuring me that I was going to just fine and that this was good news.  Amanda was an excellent buffer.  Before breaking out the big guns to Mom and Dad, I'd have a practice round and beyond that, I'd have someone on my team at the big reveal. 

Not the secretive type, I decided that the sooner I told them, the better.  That night, after my Mom had finished a particularly grueling work week, I headed over to my parent's house.  My parents have always been extremely supportive, even when I wasn't making the best decisions.  I knew I wouldn't be shunned or anything horrific, but I felt an overwhelming sense of failure.  I had never planned to be an young mother, pregnant unexpectedly and unwed.  Without any such indication from my parents, I somehow felt like I'd let every body down - including myself. 

 As I sat in my parents living room, I spoke the words I always thought would come so easily. By the light of the Christmas tree, I had the first of many breakdowns that year but felt safe and secure in the love of my family. My parents accepted the news, assuring me that it was my life and my decision.  They would stand behind me 100% and knew that this was all part of some master plan - set in motion by something bigger than ourselves.  I left feeling slightly relieved but still incredibly weary.  I could see my entire future unravel before eyes, and yet felt completely blind to it all.  I was entirely unprepared for motherhood.  How would I ever get through this.

Those first few months were hard.  Between morning sickness, sharing the news, and my personal acceptance of this pregnancy and my new lot in life, I was in a constant state of exhaustion. There were many pensive nights filled with conversation of our new reality.  There were many times when I wasn't sure how I would get through, but I always had Ryan and my family waiting in the wings.  Between midnight peppermint runs from Ryan and frequent folic acid care packages from my Mom,  we finally made our way through the longest winter of our lives.  By spring time, I was well into my second trimester and was finally starting to feel like myself again.  I felt the first flutters of movement but it didn't really hit me until we saw her.  For our big ultrasound, I wanted my family there with me - just as they had been from the start.  The crowded room was filled with "ohhs" and "ahhs" as the ultrasound tech showed us her hands and feet.  After many measurements and several moments of silence, our lives changed forever.  
 "It's a Girl!"
From here, things sort of just fell into place.  We moved, had an awesome baby shower, and slowly but surely prepared ourselves for our impending arrival. Day after day I would pass the perfectly coordinated nursery and flip channels on the living room television where a cozy little swing was waiting patiently for our little girl.  I was definitely ready for this baby to be out of me, but still wasn't quite sure how I was going to fit into Motherhood.  

My due date came and went and we anxiously waited for any sign of labor.  After nine months of TLC birthing shows and 25 pregnancy and baby books, we felt ready. In the days before labor began - if I wasn't nesting, I was panicking.  I thought of all the things we hadn't yet prepared.  We didn't even have a name picked out!!  Labor was okay at first, but quickly became less and less tolerable.  My whole family was there, my mom flanking my bedside for all 28 hours.  Ryan held my hand and told me I was his hero (which still makes me feel warm and fuzzy) and my Mom told me how proud she was of me.  With a few complications and a posterior positioned baby, my labor dragged and at some points stalled.  After five hours of pushing, the nurse whispered in my ear that she was here and I felt relief like I didn't know possible.  After they swept Grace away to clean her up and suction her lungs, the nurse brought her to me.  She was absolutely perfect.  It was then that Ryan had said the name Grace and I followed with Violet - two of the names we had both discussed liking.  Grace Violet.  The perfect name for our perfect daughter. 

The first few weeks were a whirlwind.  Grace was a great baby, peaceful and sweet.  She was a good eater, a great sleeper, and perfectly content just looking at you.  I was a neurotic mess, as most new mothers are, constantly watching her sleep and analyzing her bodily fluids.  But as Grace grew, so did I.  Ryan was a natural and constantly supportive.  When I was hallucinating from sleep deprivation, he was there.  If I needed a shower or just a moment of 'me' time, he gladly took over.  As far a Daddys go, Grace and I hit the jackpot.  

It was still all very surreal. I was a Mom and  this little girl named Grace was all mine.  I was constantly second guessing myself.  Was I doing a good job? Did I love her enough? Was she eating enough? Was she sleeping enough?  I can't tell you how many times I called my own Mom throughout those first few months (who am I kidding - I still call her a ton).

By four months, things had really begun to seem real.  I was still constantly tired and a chronic second-guesser, but I began to feel myself changing - for the better.  Grace was smiling and rolling over; her personality developing more everyday.  As a stay at home mom, I spent all of my time with Grace, around for every bottle, every bath, and every dirty diaper.  At times the responsibility became daunting and I longed for a moment when I wasn't in charge.  But just when I thought I couldn't handle on more sleepless night or another explosive diaper (3 minutes after I gave her a bath), Grace changed.  She grew and matured, learning to smile, crawl and eventually sleep the night.  Spring came and our adventures began.  We went everywhere together, making new friends and experiencing new things.  We were a team and from now on, it was her and I against the world.

Lots of things have changed over the past two years.  After an unexpected pregnancy, multiple moves, and the birth of our little girl, often times I didn't recognize myself in the mirror.  The twenty three year old rambler, who refused to be tied down or make plans for the future -  was now a Mother. One of the major challenges was my lack of 'mom friends'.  As a young mother, many of my friends had yet to experience pregnancy or motherhood and were still busy living the life of 20-somethings.  Amazingly, the transformation happened naturally.  Bar nights didn't seem as appealing as they once were, and I found myself preferring afternoons in the park with my little girl, instead. 

Now Grace is walking and concluding the first year of her life.  I spend my days chasing a toddling girl, steadfastly trying to keep her happy and safe.   I spend ALL of my time thinking of her, even on my occasional hours of alone time.  Everything I see, eat, or experience becomes one of the "I bet Grace would love this..." thoughts.  Grace is my everything and I think she thinks I'm alright too! :) 

If someone had told me two years ago, that I'd be a Mother at twenty five, I'd have called them crazy.  Not this girl.  No way!  I was selfish and free, and in no hurry to settle down.  I've heard this quote before, but never did it quite hit home until recently. 

"Life is what happens, while you're busy making other plans." - John Lennon

Grace has enriched my life in so many ways.  Unexpected but certainly not unwelcome - Grace has made my life much more meaningful than I had expected.  The feeling I get when Grace runs to me when I walk in to her room in the morning, or how she smiles at me from the back seat while we drive, is unbelievable.  The job is demanding, much more than I'd expected prior to taking the leap into motherhood, but the rewards are often and amazing. 

Tomorrow is my daughter's first birthday.  Grace has given me purpose, structure, and above all love.  It has been a long and often times difficult couple of years, but with Grace by my side, I wouldn't have it any other way. :) 

Happy Birthday Grace!  

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