When I was in college, I dated a guy who talked incessantly about getting married and having kids. Actually, he was quite specific about it all. According to his plan we’d have two kids – a boy and a girl – and we’d name them Sam and Hannah. He’d be a successful architect and I’d be a high school English teacher. We’d live in a house that he designed in the suburbs.
We were eating lunch in the student union when described the future he’d carefully laid out. Leaning in as if to tell me something confidential, he said, “It’s a good thing you picked education as your major – you know, so you can have summers off to take care of our kids.”
Rather than jumping for joy, I wanted to slap him.
For one, I found it extremely odd for a 22 year-old guy have his future planned out with the same giddy excitement as a seven year-old girl. But mostly I was repulsed by the thought of moving to the suburbs and getting saddled with a couple of kids.
As I listened to him ramble, I envisioned my appearance morph – like in the Terminator movies – from a trim, tan co-ed into a sort of mom-monster. After the transformation was complete, I no longer resembled myself. Instead, I was a pudgy woman wearing a gingham dress with flower appliqués. My hair was pulled up into a bun and I was taking a piping hot loaf of bread from the oven. Around my feet, toddled a herd of young children.
Days later, I broke off the relationship and changed my major.
I felt empowered. I had a newfound sense of feminism. I would not be pigeonholed into a maternal role. No man or major could force me to become a soccer mom. Hell, I might not even have kids at all.
I envisioned a different future for myself. I’d have an exciting career, a killer condo and a sporty two-seater. The only kids in my future would be my nieces and nephews. I’d be a cool aunt, but frumpy minivan mom? Forget it.
Fast forward four years…
After college, I fell in love with a new guy – one who was way more laid back than the architecture major. He was less of a planner and more of a wait-and-see kind of guy. I loved his casual attitude, his go-with-the-flow style and his ability to let things roll off his back. He helped me reign in my type-A tendencies and, as he’d say, “just relax a little.”
After a few years, we got engaged. And, fully embracing his c'est la vie approach, when my birth control prescription ran out, I figured I’d just wait and see what’d happen.
About nine months after our wedding day, I gave birth to twin girls.
The shock of being pregnant – let alone with twins – was incredible. After missing a few periods – and yet testing negative on two preggo tests, I was stunned. But I’ll tell you what…the minute I laid eyes on my babies, something in me changed.
As I held them in my arms for the first time, I knew, deep down in my core, that I was put on earth for those girls. I was meant to be their mother. The love I felt – and still feel – can best be described as primal. It’s a fierce kind of love.
Mad Dog was born first. She’s adventurous and daring. She had most of her physical milestones first: from rolling over, to crawling, to riding a bike. She’s my free spirited one. She likes her hair “long, loose and crazy-looking”. In school, she challenges her teachers (“Why do I have to show my work if the answer’s right?”) and once got in trouble for doing the worm on the floor during research writing time. If I had to guess her future career, it’d be professional snowboarder.
Four minutes later came The Deuce. She’s the brains of the operation. From infancy on, she’s generally quieter and a little more reserved. An introspective child, she has exceptional attention to detail and is a top student. She’s a list maker and spends her time “managing” her siblings – a.k.a. bossing them around, then tattletales when they don’t comply. Nothing gets past The Deuce. Her favorite phrase is, “But Mom, you said…” I believe she’ll either practice law or live a life of intrigue ala Robert Langdon of The Da Vinci Code.
Five years after Mad Dog and The Deuce were born; we welcomed our son, Crowbar, into the world. As the only boy in the house, Crowbar has got the market on all things robots and airplanes. He’s been seen pushing an imaginary button on his arm, sprouting rocket boosters and lifting off. He’s a master of sound effects – from helicopters to missile launches to dinosaurs, the boy does it all. Despite being a little tough guy, he’s a cuddler and, frequently crawls into my bed in the middle of the night to fall back to sleep with his little hand in mine. I’m not quite sure what Crowbar will be when he grows up. At this point, I see him in a cockpit versus a cubicle – but it could just be the vrooming sounds I hear in the background right now.
Having children is definitely a life-changing experience. But my fear of negative change – losing my identity, my sense of humor, and my style – hasn’t happened. I don’t wear sack dresses and I don’t consider myself frumpy. I still tell off-color jokes and listen to the same types of music. My love of pop culture and dark sense of humor are still, securely intact.
The other day I found my old copy of What to Expect While You’re Expecting. Flipping through, I wondered why the authors didn’t add anything about change – specifically the changes you’ll experience when you become a parent. They cover the obvious physical stuff such as lactating breasts and post-baby bodies. But they don’t say anything about some of the most amazing changes.
With Mad Dog, Crowbar and The Deuce in my life, my heart has grown bigger allowing me to love each of them as deeply, completely and fiercely as the next. It’s a little like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch whose heart grew three sizes in one day.
You know, that’s a diagram they should add to the What to Expect… book. Ditch the diagram of the stages of dilation, and replace it with the Grinch’s X-ray of his heart growing. That's a change we can all be excited about.