I seem to have developed a reputation. I can’t decide if I should be flattered or alarmed. I’m thinking it’s probably the latter.
One of my friends had an experience with her son drinking half a bottle of cough syrup awhile back. She had to call Poison Control and the whole episode made her think of me. See what I mean? That can’t be a good sign, although I’m glad to aid in giving us both a sense of solidarity.
Then last week another friend had one of those “question your motherhood” experiences. You know, the kind that leaves you lying in the middle of the floor wondering how you ended up like this. There was a major lightning storm and her home lost power. In the midst of the outage, her son came out and threw up all over her floor and couch.
While she was on the floor, up to her elbows in puke, you’ll never guess what happened. That’s right. She thought of me.
This time the thought didn’t come because she remembered me cleaning up a similar mess, although I assure you that I have. Instead, she wondered what I’d say. She was certain that I could find the positive, or humorous, side of the situation.
That made me smile. It was a compliment. But it also made me giggle.
So I’m going to explain to you exactly what I explained to her.
When my kids throw up all over my furniture and my carpet, I react the same way that you do. I mumble all sorts of miserable things to myself and imagine that slamming my head in a car door would be far superior to what I’m currently experiencing. If I’m pregnant or hormonally imbalanced in any way, I skip my fit and go straight to crying.
We might as well all come to grips with it: motherhood is hard. I don’t find the silver linings or the cosmic jokes until my blood stops boiling and the nausea has passed. You and I are the same.
But my conversation with her got me thinking. And while I’m finding it tough to make up any sort of reason why vomit could be a good thing, there’s something I do know.
With motherhood comes increased capacity. And not just for one or two things, but for a mountain of them. Some of that increase comes automatically and instantaneously and some of it comes with practice and time. But the one thing you can count on as a mother is that your capacity to endure, to perform and to understand will not fail you, if you will just hold on.
I’m not saying that you’ll never feel exhausted to the point of breaking and I’m not saying that the problems that present themselves won’t seem grander than your ability to solve them. I’m not even saying that you currently possess all of the skills that you’ll someday find necessary. I am saying, however, that when all is said and done, you’ll still be standing on your feet and coherent enough to know you probably should be mentally incapacitated, yet aren’t.
Before I was a mom my ability to deal with the bodily functions of other people was nonexistent at best. I remember my mom teaching me to change my little sisters’ diapers. And they were cloth. I was certain that when she told me to rinse the poop out in the toilet before putting it in the diaper pail that she must be joking. How could anyone possibly do that without throwing up!? Gag. She looked at me like I was an idiot. Well, as much as she’s capable because my mom is the sweetest person alive.
I also had an aversion to needles. When my mom took me to get my shots before kindergarten, I tried to jump out of a moving vehicle. I wish I were lying. She probably wishes I were too. I made her life really hard.
But now I’m a mom myself. I can change a dirty diaper in about 10 seconds flat. And I do it without burying my face in my shirt and gagging like my husband does. I’ve been pooped on, peed on and thrown up on more times than I can count. It’s to the point where I’ll sniff my shirt and wonder if I can get away with not changing it. Because who wants to do more laundry? Not me.
I’m so hardcore now that I beg to have gigantic needles stuck into my spine before my monstrous babies make their entrance into the world. Don’t judge. We’re talking almost ten pounds here.
I also find wisdom where there was none and energy when my last is spent. I find that I can solve problems that 10 years ago would have left me with my jaw on the floor. When it comes to raising my children, my needs are always met.
I believe in miracles. And the miracle of motherhood is that with the calling comes the capacity to be successful. So while cleaning up puke by candlelight is just about the worst job ever, your ability to accomplish it stems from the fact that you have the best job ever.