Five years ago, I was living in San Francisco, in a shared house, was single and had just adopted a cat.
I did not intend to get a cat originally. I felt that it was a lot of responsibility and it would limit my living situations. Then, my housemate brought home a little bundle of fur for me (somewhat unexpectedly) and I accepted my new role: cat owner. Ripley (as I began to call her) was afraid of me at first, but as time went on, we grew on each other. I took her to get her shots and to be spayed and tested for kitty AIDS and kitty leukemia. The test for kitty leukemia came back positive. My heart went to my throat and stayed that way until I got through the second round of tests. My little cat, who I had been so aloof about, was doomed to die. I realised how much I really loved her, and how without realising it, I had grown attached to that fluffy, scratchy, mewing beast. When I found out it was only a false positive, I was so relieved, I cried.
Several weeks ago, my son got sick for the first time. He’d had a cold before, but this was a real bug. A tummy bug. We were at my brother-in-law’s wedding reception when my son started bubbling bile up through his nose and mouth. For the following 16 hours, he couldn’t keep anything down. It was heart-breaking seeing him suffer and not being able to do a thing. At least he still had periods of alertness and he never got much of a fever. It was gone as quickly as it came, then it was Mom and Dad’s turn.
Five years ago, I thought I would never have children. Or at least, if I did have children, I’d probably adopt and that would be many, many years away. My mid thirties, perhaps, after I’d published my first play or while resting after a quick rise to fame and the second season of my hit sketch comedy show on Comedy Central finished shooting. Or whatever. I was single, I was in a few poly relationships and was happy like that. I had a different guy for every mood. Someone like me wasn’t meant to have kids or the typical suburban existence. And yet, here I am, living in the suburbs, no play, no hit show, with a husband and a baby. Five-years-ago Me would be so disappointed. And yet, there were things people told me, that I thought would never be true:
“You’ll feel different when you’re older” – I did.
“When you meet the right guy, that’ll change.” – It did.
“But you’d be such a great Mom, you’ll love it.” – I think I am, and I do.
That last one, I think, is the one that surprised me the most. I thought I had no maternal instincts, but that day when Ripley’s test came back positive, I felt that maternal part of me make itself known. I felt strongly bound to something outside of myself. Previously, I thought I would be incapable of loving something that much that was outside of myself. I was pretty honest with myself about my selfishness. I knew I was selfish. That’s why I avoided Relationships (with a big R) and stayed in only casual affairs. But Ripley changed that.
There were also a lot of petty things I thought I wouldn’t be able to get over:
“Pregnancy is weird, uncomfortable and unnatural. I don’t want to put my body through that hell.” – Did I mention that I was selfish? Yeah. This turned out to not be true. My pregnancy was super easy. No morning sickness, I didn’t get any stretch marks until I was at 36 weeks and it was only really uncomfortable at the very end.
“Childbirth terrifies me. It’s too close to being dismembered.” – Childbirth was easy. I had no problems and by the time it came around, I was so ready for that baby to come out, it was more like having a growth removed than a limb removed. Or like taking a big poo. Only better. But that’s a bit like saying an orgasm is like a sneeze. Doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s the closest thing I can think of.
“I don’t want to create something I’m going to love only to have it slam its bedroom door in my face thirteen years later.” – Well, that’s love. The overwhelming, unconditional love that I have for this little human is worth the risk that one day, for a couple of days a week, he’s going to get pissed off at me. I will always love him. Even if he grows up and becomes a priest, or a drug addict, or a telephone psychic. I didn’t know I was capable of unconditional love until the moment I held that little purple slippery thing that the midwife pulled out of me.
I thought that I would be grossed out by the stickiness of the childbirth goo. You know, the ‘cheesy’ vernix that covers the baby when it’s born? Also, they’re covered in blood when they come out. One of the reasons I went with a water birth was so that there was a chance he’d be cleaner when I held him. Not so. When I saw videos of childbirth I always recoiled when I saw the mother kiss their goo covered wrinkly little varmint. It looked so, so yucky. But sure enough, the first thing I did when the midwife handed me that fresh new person was kiss him all over his slimy little head. There was no controlling it, even though in the back of my mind I was thinking, “I can’t believe I’m putting my mouth on this thing! Eeeeewww!!” The loudest voice in my head was screaming HALLELUJAH!! so loud that I was totally overwhelmed with the urge to kiss, kiss, kiss.
I thought that the worst thing that could happen in childbirth was that my hoo-ha was going to stretch out, or worse, tear. This turned out to be not as bad as I thought it would be. Yes, I tore. Ouch. I got stitched up real nice and in the end, my hoo-ha ended up, well, less roomy as a result. Paradoxially, I’m, er, more snug after giving birth. Yay me!
So, I did it. I’m a mother. I don’t think women need to add motherhood to their resume to be a complete woman, but I also think the experience isn’t so bad should you choose to go through with it. I like it just fine. And I never anticipated that.